Food Trucks

$7 Well-Spent at Monster PBJ

I was fully prepared to turn my nose up at Monster PBJ. A $7 peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Prepared with your choice of locally sourced breads, nut butters and jams? It sounded like a Portlandia episode. "We can pickle that!"

I love it when I'm wrong.

I'm officially here to tell you that if you have $7 and you want to spend that $7 on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you're going to receive the best dang peanut butter and jelly sandwich of your life at Monster PBJ. But be prepared: It truly is a monster.

The "monster" size is the largest that Monster PBJ sells, and features three slices of bread along with your choice of nut butter, jam, sliced fruit and sweetener (if you're more of a peanut butter-banana-honey or peanut butter-banana-Nutella) person. You can get it grilled, which I heartily suggest. I also suggest splitting it with a friend, because it's truly massive.

Far better for one person is the "classic" size, which is only two slices of bread and costs a reasonable $5. (Monster PBJ will even cut it into one of four different styles for you, crusts on or off.) For the kids, there's a "junior" size for $3 that's basically half a sandwich. And if those costs still seem high to you, given the number of PB&J sandwiches you could make at home for the same amount of money, consider the following.

Monster PBJ makes its own nut butters -- peanut, cashew and almond -- and uses bread baked here in Houston by Best Bread Around Bakery. The jams are locally made too, and feature no added sugar or preservatives. The blueberry, in particular, is the platonic ideal of how a good batch of preserves should taste: just like the ripe fruit itself, with no other interloping flavors present at all.

Like the array of nut butters, there are also three different breads to choose from: white, wheat or gluten-free (the truck offers other gluten-free goodies too, like baked lentil chips). For the sake of comparison, I ordered a gluten-free "classic" with cashew butter, strawberries and blueberry jam last week. My buddy ordered a "monster" with wheat bread, almond butter, Nutella and more blueberry jam.

His sandwich outclassed mine in nearly every way: Monster PBJ mixes the Nutella with whichever nut butter you choose, a touch I really enjoyed. He also got it grilled, which made the blueberry jam nearly melt into the Nutella-almond butter blend. Although my sandwich was perfectly serviceable, I kept stealing additional bites of his (easy to do, as he couldn't come close to finishing the beast).

The gluten-free bread is, of course, a terrific and welcome option for those who can't digest gluten. However, the texture of the bread is too dense for the toppings, which get lost amidst the thick slices. The bread itself also has no flavor of its own, which mutes anything you've got sandwiched between. My advice: Remove the top slice and eat your sandwich open-faced. You won't miss a thing.

For all its seeming trendiness, I wouldn't be surprised to see Monster PBJ outlast many of the other food trucks currently rolling down our streets. It's all electric, which means it can park places that propane-equipped trucks can't. It offers a lot of bang for the buck. It caters to vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free diners. And it's accessible for parents with kids or picky eaters, or simply anyone interested in a bite of comfort food.

Follow Monster PBJ on Twitter for its weekly schedule: @MonsterPBJ.

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Katharine Shilcutt