The Haute Wheels food truck festival returned this weekend with new entertainment, new trucks and a whole new day of edible festivities.
For the first time in its existence, the festival kicked off on Friday evening with a special "Truck or Treat" event for folks 21 and up featuring a DJ, a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, booze and, of course, some of Houston's favorite food trucks.
We headed out to the festival on Friday night to give you a sense of what to expect from the crowd, the venue and, of course, the delicious trucks.
First off, unless you get there right when the event opens, parking might be a challenge. The festival is held at the Houston Community College West Loop campus, which seems to have plenty of space, but it fills up fast. Carpool if you can, or ride the Wave shuttle from 1525 Silver Street.
Not all of the participating trucks were at the Friday evening event, but those that were provided more than enough food for hungry eaters, many of them dressed in Halloween finery for the costume contest. Beer and wine were also readily available, and I was pleased to see a strong showing from local Houston breweries. Also, the alcohol is not outrageously expensive. Woooo!
But if you still need more convincing, here are five scrumptious reasons to check out Haute Wheels:
5. Cupcakes on a Stick from Zeapod Cakery When I read the banner "Cupcakes on a Stick" flying above the Zeapod truck, I pictured something top-heavy and unruly, constantly at risk of toppling right off a spindly wooden dowel. I was way off. Zeapod utilizes unique plastic push-pop-type containers in which layers of cake and icing are stuffed like a parfait. Pop off the top, munch on some cake and icing, then use the little stick to push up more cakey goodness right into your mouth. It's far less messy and far less likely to fall on the ground than a regular cupcake impaled with a stick. I recommend the whiskey carrot cake and the orange creme.
4. Yucatan Bowl from Bare Bowls Kitchen Somehow Bare Bowls has managed to fly under my radar, but no longer. I officially have a new favorite lunchtime treat (if I can track down that rascally truck)! While all of the rice, meat and veggie bowls at Bare Bowls sound great, I instantly fell in love with the Yucatan Bowl, which features banana leaf-roasted pork, braised cabbage, pickled red onions, cotija cheese and fresh cilantro on top of locally sourced brown rice. The pork falls apart with a slight tug from a fork, and the combined flavors of the other ingredients are truly something you could imagine munching on on the Yucatan Peninsula. I also love that Bare Bowls emphasizes food from local farms that hasn't been tarnished by preservatives or other chemicals. Just fast, fresh and healthy.
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3. The Outdoorsman from Pi Pizza Pi Pizza has been a favorite of mine since I moved to Houston, but I don't think I've ever eaten the same slice there twice. At Haute Wheels, I finally got the opportunity to try The Outdoorsman, a deceptively simple slice featuring tomato sauce, mozzarella, venison sausage and cherries soaked in port wine sauce. Chef and owner Anthony Calleo says that The Outdoorsman is probably the pizza he's most proud of, and he's even considering taking it to a competition sometime next year. Though you might scoff at the notion of cherries on a pizza, just try it. The rich, gamey venison sausage needs that bite of cherry acid to mellow it out, and even the tomato sauce and mozz somehow still blend perfectly with the more gourmet toppings. Then, of course, there's Pi Pizza's perfect thin crust -- slightly chewy, slightly crispy and not something you toss aside once you finish the toppings.
2. Boudin Balls from The Lunch Bag I've rarely met a boudin ball I didn't like, but these were some of the best I've ever had. Boudin balls generally consist of ground meat (usually pork) of the type used for sausage filling. It will contain rice and sometimes pig blood, depending on the type of boudin. For the balls, a popular Cajun treat, the ground meat is rolled into meatball-size portions instead of being stuffed into a sausage casing, then deep-fried for a nice crunch on the outside. I tried a few varieties of boudin balls at the festival, and the modest Lunch Bag's blew all the others out of the water, even without fancy dipping sauces. They were the most flavorful, the most crunchy and the most like what you might find at an LSU tailgate.
1. Chocolate from Chocolat d'Arte "Saving the best for last" was not my intention when I started making my way through the festival without any sort of plan. But some of the best food I ate all night came from Chocolat d'Arte, a small food van (as opposed to food truck) selling confections pre-made by Nancy Burke, a schoolteacher by day and a chocolatier by night. Her dark chocolate, pistachio and cherry bark made me swoon as the rich Belgian chocolate melted in my mouth, leaving the crunchy pistachios and tart cherries behind. My dinner companion went nuts over the dark chocolate matcha almonds as well. Had I not already eaten at ... oh, ten other trucks, I could have parked by the chocolatier and munched there all night.
Check out Haute Wheels Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and get your fill of tasty truck treats all in one place!