I was thinking of making a list that included ALL loncheras, luxe and not, but it'd be a wash: loncheras in a landslide. That said, I've warmed up a bit to the idea of non-Mexis muscling into the food-truck business with gourmet, usually overpriced meals. The one wonderful positive out of this trend is seeing young guns (and some not-so-young) playing with food conventions and succeeding, and we can't wait until more of them open actual restaurants (same as Jason Quinn of Lime Truck fame) and REALLY go nuts.
In the meanwhile, 10 great luxe loncheras in OC. If you recognize some of them because we write about them like every other week . . . then you're a loyal reader, and we salute you!
SlapFish's contribution to the local lobster scene is its Lobsticle, which is exactly what it sounds like (a lobster sphere on a stick), but it also gets on this list for two reasons: a commitment to sustainable seafood, and its goofily named Major Crunchy Sandwich, which is truth in advertising thricefold -- big, crunchy and, um, a sandwich. Good fish tacos, too.
Follow on Twitter @slapfishtruck
9. The Burnt Truck
I must admit: I doubted their ability to make a business out of slider interpretations, but the guys (recently profiled by Anne Marie in On the Line) excel in mini-burgers, the more gut-busting, the better. That fried-chicken one? Crunch-tastic!
Follow on Twitter @theburnttruck
8. Crepes Bonaparte
One of the pioneers of the luxe lonchera scene, Crepes Bonaparte isn't particularly innovative--crepes? Can get those anywhere. But Crepes Bonaparte sneaks onto this list because its crepes are bueno, its Gallic gimmick not TOO annoying, and its fast service. Garçcon, coffee!
Follow on Twitter @crepesbonaparte
The gals did us proud during The Great Food Truck Race 2, but unfortunately lost midway through. No problem: that just means we get to enjoy the vegan sorcery more, like fried-avocado tacos and a jackfruit taco that just might be the most inventive dish in Orange County since the taco acorazado.
Follow on Twitter @seabirdstruck
6. Taco María
Yeah, this luxe lonchera is but months old, and Michelin-starred Carlos Salgado offers a limited menu from his shiny truck--just tacos, burritos, specials and dessert as Salgado learns the trade. But already, Taco María brings alta cocina techniques that marry the best of the lonchera and luxe lonchera scenes. The quesadilla de tuétano has quickly become a cult item among local foodies: bone marrow played against queso oaxaca, creaminess on creaminess for umami overflow. Salgado's take on esquites--the ancient meal of roasted corn, lime, chile and cheese--can please as easily at the Ritz-Carlton as it can from the cart of a Santa Ana peddler.
Follow on Twitter @tacomaria
5. Tropical Shave Ice
Epic Hawaii-style shave ice with syrup made from, you know, natural fruits? Yes, please.
Follow on Twitter @tropshaveice
4. Barcelona On the Go
I see these Argentines every other Wednesday at Cal State Fullerton and always curse myself for already having eaten beforehand, therefore depriving me of the paella, sandwiches and Iberian-inspired goodies. There's always next Wednesday . . .
Follow on Twitter at @brcelonaonthego
3. Piaggio On Wheels
Unlike some of the other entrants in the luxe-lonchera war, this Argentine truck has an impeccable pedigree: Owner/cook Jose Piaggio was the proprietor of a couple of steakhouses in Brea and Brazil before making his restaurant mobile. Expert meat-preparing is in the man's veins, and Piaggio On Wheels is a mini-testament to his country's obsession with beef: freshly made chorizo with a gentle snap, redolent of cinnamon; skirt steak grilled to an obsidian gleam on the outside, ruddy beauty inside, all enlivened with a chimmichurri heavier on the parsley than garlic; a lomito torta that makes any American steak hoagie seem as hefty as tissue. Piaggio plays around with those cuts in tacos, burritos, quesadillas -- any vessel he can get his meaty (pardon the pun; Piaggio is an Andes of a man) hands on.
Follow on Twitter @piaggioonwheels
2. Dos Chinos
Dos Chinos is a cuisine of OC love, like what happens when Vietnamese and Mexican teens combine the leftovers after their high school's International Day. Dos Chinos uses the humble tortilla to riff brilliantly on Asian traditions within the friendly confines of a taco or burrito: unctuous pork belly cut with a sharp green salsa; carne asada as beautifully burnt as anything off Bristol, enlivened with sweet-and-sour guacamole; curry chicken brightened by tamarind-spiked sour cream. Plus? TOTAL nerds, haha.
Follow on Twitter @doschinos
1. The Lime Truck
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Of course it's these guys -- gotta give respect to the guys who won The Great Food Truck Race 2! And the food does rock, even if I maintain it's a bit expensive -- but that's a battle for another day. . . .