So. I recently discovered the burgeoning food truck scene in Chattanooga. My first thought was along the lines of: “Chattanooga has food trucks?! Since when…? This is unmitigated awesomeness.”
I’ve pined for food trucks in Chattanooga ever since I spent some time in Portland, OR living off its thriving food truck scene back in 2008. These mobile kitchens, serving creative, fresh food, add to the vibrancy & texture of a city. They make downtown positively tapestry like. Like memories of an ice cream truck’s lilting calliope & the hot salty sugar smell of carnivals and parades, food trucks are festive. The smells of donuts frying, slow cooked pork, burgers on a grill, spicy Korean BBQ, and Argentinian empanadas all permeated downtown on Friday as the food trucks congregated at Miller Plaza for the Fresh On Friday market, where you can also buy yourself a meticulous, technicolor bouquet for $10, get a cake pop, and an organic soda flavored with everything from jalapeño to hibiscus to lavender.
Snagged by the promise of a guilt free donut, I tried Monkey Town Donuts last summer at the Chattanooga Market. Wheat donuts cooked in soybean oil, they have only 180 calories and 2.5 grams of fat per half dozen serving. They tastes like this is an evil lie, but it isn’t. It’s true. They are revelatory donuts (in so far as a donut can be revelatory, which, you may not know, is quite far). I often lamented their seeming scarcity, ever craving more. As a matter of fact, I’m craving them right now. They are small, crispy on the outside & soft on the inside, tossed liberally with cinnamon sugar, and come to you in a white paper bag. Unless you get a bucket, in which case, they come in a bucket. Yes, a bucket. I actually find looking at the photos of them painful it makes me want a dozen a donut so badly. I hope it has the same effect on you, and that you, in turn, go buy some donuts. So that the donuts flourish forever and ever, wild and free.
The same hunger pang is felt when I look at the photos of that pork sandwich, strawberry jalapeño soda, and those Korean BBQ tacos pictured below too. I tried Famous Nater’s for the first time on Tuesday (Food Truck Tuesday at Warehouse Row from 11-2), and I really cannot state this strongly enough: one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. Seriously. I’m running around like a pork sandwich evangelical telling everyone I know that if they haven’t already, they have to try one post-haste. The 12 hour braised pork topped with crisp shaved carrots that tastes of soy, rice wine vinegar, chilies, and sesame on a soft Niedlov’s bun has a sense of urgency about it. Once you eat it, you must eat more. It is juicy and fall apart tender, like no other pork sandwich in the city, I assure you. It came with a side of lightly pickled vegetables. They kept perfect company with the sandwich, and I piled them on top, pairing even more crunch & acidic notes with the unctuous pork. As I dutifully snapped photos before eating, a man offered to show me what it looked like with a big bite taken out of it. I bet, buddy. Get your own.
I love donuts. I love pork. What else do I love? Tacos. Street tacos, specifically. I’m kind of a taco snob, I’ll admit. If one can be snobby about a thing such as tacos, which seems a bit of an oxymoron, tacos being the epitome of unpretentious food. I’ve had a long standing love affair with La Alteña & Taco Roc, but Taco Sherpa, offering Korean BBQ tacos, offers Chattanoogans a whole other realm of taco possibilities. Spicy, sweet, crispy, juicy, tender: all of these words suffice to describe their variety of tacos. Also, they have cookies. Made with local eggs! I think I’ve made it clear how I feel about local dairy. Like with all the other trucks, there is no one offering up this kind of food anywhere else in town. I, for one, am grateful that there’s a place to get it now.
Small and locally owned, often sourcing their products from local farms and artisans, they directly contribute to the local economy. A truck can be a way for people that lack the capital to open a full service restaurant to bring their talents and passion for food to the public in a financially viable way. But make no mistake, this isn’t some casual endeavor: these people, often with culinary training, are serious about food. They work hard. Really hard. Cooking food in a truck day after day isn’t easy, but it’s a labor of love. If you don’t believe me, go eat the food. Then you’ll believe me. Because it tastes like love, delicious oxytocin, dopamine rich love. Yeah.
That was all pretty effusive, I know. I get that way about food. It won’t be the last time. I haven’t had a chance to try all the trucks around, but do not doubt that I will eventually. And when I do, you’ll certainly hear about. A lot. Because I’m verbose. And excitable.
Wondering how to find the food trucks? Follow them on Twitter, and they’ll keep you posted about their whereabouts. Food trucks are decidedly urban. It’s a business model that thrives on population density, and Chattanooga isn’t the densest of cities. This means that it is up to us to enthusiastically support these small businesses that in turn feed us delectable street food previously unheard of around here. Keep it up Chattanooga. You’re getting super delicious.
My name is Beth, Elizabeth Evelyn to be exact. A native Tennessean, I was born in the South.
I am the author behind Local Milk Blog.
Local milk is a journal devoted to home cookery, travel, family, and slow living—to being present & finding sustenance of every kind.
It’s about nesting abroad & finding the exotic in the everyday.
Most of all it’s about the perfection of imperfections and seeing the beauty of everyday, mundane life.