The food truck scene in Austin changes as quickly as the cable news cycle. One day locals are queuing up in droves before moving on to the next buzzy thing. Still, a few trailblazers have managed to transcend the town’s ever-changing whims, becoming a part of the fabric of the city instead of unraveling after only a few months. In our book, that makes these spots, most of which have been around for at least five years, bona fide classics.
With Texas’ close proximity to Louisiana, one would think that finding good Cajun and Creole food in the Capital City would not be so much of a chore. Luckily, chef Lynzy Moran has been doing Austin a solid since debuting in 2013. Although Baton Creole moved a few times before settling down on Shangri-La’s back patio, the elements have largely remained the same. The fried Jambalaya Baton still stirs up state fair memories and the gumbo is always as velvety as a royal cushion.
Luke’s Inside Out
Sandwich slingers in Austin are a dime a dozen, but Luke Bibby quietly ranks above them all. The namesake chef behind this Gibson Bar trailer somehow makes the most workaday of American foods seem as special as those carefully tweezed New American small plates. This is in no small part because his palate is never limited by notions of what a trailer "should" serve. The Pressed Pig, a toasted hoagie packed with jerk pork, mortadella, and Swiss, is a perennial favorite and serves as a lesson for newbies. If Bibby includes the word “love” in dish’s description, he dang well means it.
It’s a testament to the warmth of Patrizi’s that even after six years of glowing reviews, it still seems like a well-kept secret. In the opening weeks, it seemed improbable that a funky trailer would achieve such elegance in its cacio e pepe or that the Vortex Theater’s Burning Man-esque grounds could host such an intimate dining experience. Countless services later, it still feels like a pleasant surprise.
Rosita’s Al Pastor
Reversing the path from food truck to brick-and-mortar, this East Riverside Drive mainstay operated behind four walls before opening a trailer in 1986. The reason for its perseverance can be found in the name. Few al pastor tacos in town deliver as much harmony. From the robust corn punch of the tortillas to the simultaneously juicy and crisp pork, each element adding to a symphonic whole.
Few Austin restaurants, much less food trucks, have debuted with such a bang. Within a few months of opening, it became one of the nation’s most talked about eateries, landing on Bon Appétit’s 2014 Best New Restaurant list. Trend hunters may have moved on to shinier concepts, but the food has never lost its thrill. The waterfall pork and the simple grilled bread with peanut curry exhilarate even year after year.
Three Little Pigs
In a perfect world, chef Ray Tatum’s comfort food trailer would be at the top of everyone’s list, but it has never sought the hallelujah chorus as aggressively as some other joints. The focus instead has always been on cuisine. Curious in inspiration, accessible in form, and seemingly immune to price inflation, dishes like pork belly sliders with maple soy glaze and cracklin’ meatloaf are among the most satisfying creations in town — proof that a clear message does not have to be screamed.