POSTED ON MAY 1, 2013:
Nomadic food truck serves it up.
y dinner plans rarely entail seeking out a food truck, but on this particular night, street food was my destination. I was on the prowl for Lone Wolf Banh Mi. I discovered the best way to follow the path of this particular food truck (apart from word of mouth or smoke signals), is Facebook.
I just had to find the right night, the right place, and the right time. Keeping up with Lone Wolf means a regular read on Facebook --where comments, compliments and commentary lead a hungry person such as me to find the truck's current location. On this Friday night, I traced it to Cain's Ballroom.
I parked my car on Main Street and walked up to the truck. People were milling about, some in line at the truck, others standing or sitting in the area eating. Since I was unfamiliar with the food offerings, I just asked that they fix me up something spectacular. And they did.
The result was a fabulous dinner of banh mi and kimchi fries. Owner Philip Phillips and his wife Danielle named their truck after their favorite samurai series: Lone Wolf and Cub. This business enterprise also includes a third person, Jeff Crow. Together, they operate a thriving business out of a '82 Chevy P30. Phillips said "it was built in a factory in California to be a food truck from day one." He said he wishes he knew the history of the truck, because "I'm sure there are some good stories it could tell." Yes, many stories indeed. The stories continue to grow here in Tulsa, as it is not unusual for people to line up 20 deep for a meal from Lone Wolf.
It's a simple menu: banh mi, kimchi fries and beignets. Banh mi is a Vietnamese term for breads, especially the baguette. Phillips uses baguettes freshly baked by Antoinette Baking Co. On this sandwich are cucumber, fresh jalapeno, a choice of protein, Thai chili aioli, flash pickled carrot and daikon radish slaw and fresh cilantro. I also had a little candied bacon. I had all this on my sandwich, and pork was the protein of choice. The kimchi fries begin with freshly fried fries, jack and cheddar cheese, white onion, fresh jalapeno, caramelized cabbage kimchi, choice of aioli (I had the roasted jalapeno aioli), cucumber kimchi, fresh cilantro and a soy glaze. This was topped with a soy mustard portabella mushroom and a fried egg. "The easy egg has become as much a staple in our truck as the banh mi," Phillips said. "It would be crazy of us to run out of eggs in a shift. Very important most of our fans would say."
Both banh mi and kimchi fries were simply incredible. The multitudinous flavors and textures were culinary heaven. The bread held up well with the various cold and hot ingredients it contained. The cilantro added freshness, as did the carrots and radish slaw. It was a mouth-bursting experience with all the flavors. The kimchi fries were incredible. They were hot with the jalapeno and again, the cilantro was a perfect accent to the other flavors. All the flavors and textures blended well, yet at times individual flavors were detected. It was an amazing dinner -- and who would think: all this from a street vendor.
Eating in transit or from a street vendor has a rich history in America. Since the 1850s, train travelers enjoyed the dining car experience. In the mid-19th century, chuck wagons provided victuals to cattlemen. Since the 1950s, children have run to catch the ice-cream man as he slowly moves down their neighborhood streets, and in the '60s, "roach coaches" stopped around construction sites to feed the blue collar workers. King of the surf guitar Dick Dale and His Del-Tones even celebrated the local taco vendors along the southern California coast with his iconic tune, "Taco Wagon." And today, the tradition has seen a revival of the mobile kitchen or food truck.
What a great way to dine downtown in among the happening districts in downtown Tulsa. Going to a concert at Cain's, the Brady or the BOK Center? Why wait for a table when you can walk right up to a food truck and have a very fresh meal made for you on the spot? For lunch, dining al fresco in the fresh spring air on the Guthrie Green is the way to go.
Phillips said this is his first venture in the food truck business, but he is no stranger to the food industry. He trained at Kokoa Chocolatier and at Lava Noshery, he's cooked at Keo, been a sushi chef at Tsunami, and enjoyed a brief stint at Oliver's Twist as a sous chef.
"We chose banh mi because it was something else we have had outside of Oklahoma that blew our minds," Phillips said. "We have had plenty of cheap banh mi in Oklahoma, but had never experienced what it could be if thought of from a different perspective."
He said he experienced his first banh mi in San Francisco last summer. "It tore our taste buds apart. We were so excited about the flavors we were experiencing that we came straight home and started working on recipes." He said they worked for 10 months "crafting our product." He said the only thing they do not make from scratch the day it is eaten off the truck is the kimchi. They will make it once they have more storage space, Phillips said, but for now, they buy it from Nam-Hai here in Tulsa.
Phillips said the most popular banh mi is the "King Pao pork with an easy egg on top, or the soy mustard portabella mushroom with candied bacon. For the kimchi fries, you can add a fried easy egg, candied bacon, Kung Pao pork, soy mustard portabella mushrooms or honey lemongrass tofu."
And the beignets? "We have been told by some true Nola natives that our beignets would hold up in a competition with Café du Monde." All the more reason for me to get back on Facebook to follow the colorfully decorated sky-blue Lone Wolf truck to its next location--I missed them on my first truck visit.
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