UPDATED: Melange Creperie Wants to Come in From the Cold (and the Heat)

Categories: Food Trucks

Photo by Chuck Cook Photography
"Buffalo" Sean Carroll at the Melange Creperie stand

For more than five years, "Buffalo" Sean Carroll has delighted guests with his snappy patter and the frilly-edged, filled crepes from his cart, Melange Creperie. The cart has become such a fixture in the Mango's parking lot at the corner of Taft and Westheimer that people honk and yell hello as they drive by.

Melange Creperie was on the leading edge of the wave of mobile gourmet food in Houston. Many of the newer vendors opted for trucks with mobile kitchens, but Carroll resolutely stayed at his cart. He does good business there and has outlasted many who started after him. In time, he expanded to serving at the Urban Harvest Farmer's Market at City Hall. An attempt to serve The Heights via a second cart was scrapped after a short time.

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Austin-Based Chi'Lantro Food Truck Abandons Houston; May Return As a Brick-and-Mortar

Photo by Minh T Truong
Houstonians won't be seeing this food truck again--at least not for a long while.

On December 31, Mexican-Korean fusion Chi'Lantro food truck posted to its Twitter feed that it's leaving Houston in favor of running a storefront operation that opens this month in Austin. (The name is a portmanteau of "cilantro" and "kimchi," ingredients associated with Mexican and Korean food, respectively.)

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Papa John's Frito Chili Pizza Ain't Nothin' But Schwag

Photo by Nicholas L. Hall
Not a pizza for mid April.
A few weeks ago, Papa John's announced a new pizza and created a bit of an uproar. I won't weigh in on the espionage issue, but I will weigh in on the pizza. With apologies to Anthony Calleo. Or perhaps the opposite.

I've only had the Pi Pizza Truck 420 Slice once, and it was quite a while ago. That said, I remember it as surprisingly well balanced. I don't, however, remember it being all that much like a Frito chili pie. That's not a knock on the pizza.

The Papa John's Frito's Chili Pizza doesn't really taste like a Frito chili pie, either. Likewise, that's not necessarily a knock on the pie. This one does deserve its knocks, though.

Let's start with the chili. It's thin and acidic, like a can of Wolf Brand mixed with lemon juice. There's an overpowering taste of raw chili powder, like a bucket of the stuff was dumped in after cooking. This might not be entirely off the mark, judging by the slightly grainy texture.

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Chocolate Wasted Ice Cream & Treats Truck Hits the Houston Streets Friday

Photo courtesy Olivia Luisa Garcia
Chocolate Wasted Ice Cream & Treats will open for business Friday, August 22.
Remember when you were a kid and would hear the jingle of the ice cream truck coming down the street?

Nowadays, we tend to get our ice cream and popsicles from either the grocery store or one of the various ice cream shops around town. Yes, these are great, but what happened to the right to your neighborhood experience that traditional ice cream trucks provided? And again, that jingle?

A new updated version is about to hit the streets of Houston. Susan Sahwani-Garcia, owner of Chocolate Wasted Ice Cream & Treats, originally wanted to open a homemade ice cream mobile eatery, but as she began developing her project and realized how expensive that would be, she decided to start her business as a traditional ice cream truck selling all the classic treats and local products.

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Kimchi Koagie Is a Killer

Photo by Joanna O'Leary
Kimchi Koagie--is there an XL size?

In my continuing quest to sample Houston's cheesesteak options, I have been stalking Koagie Hots. Although the truck follows a fairly predictable schedule that regularly includes nearby (for me) Boondocks, finding it when it was open proved difficult in light of this writer's bedtime, which many octogenarians would consider "early."

So, I decided on a whim to hunt down Koagie Hots late during lunch hour at a location that shall go unnamed but involves driving on Westheimer in the Galleria area. According to the website, the truck would be open from 11am-2pm and at 1:45pm I was still crawling inch by inch in horrendous traffic. I called ahead with vague hopes of placing a pick-up order only to learn that the truck had closed at 1pm. Curses! Maybe I misread the website. Nevertheless, in a coup de customer service, employee "Matthew" apologized to me and offered me a free sandwich next time I made it to the truck.

And, I did, eventually.

This story continues on the next page.

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Sticky's Chicken Food Truck Easy to Find Outside the Marquis II

Categories: Food Trucks

It's funny--when I was young I was loath to try any food described as "sticky." I detested the feeling of edible stuff adhering to my body and can recall one particular time I majorly freaked out because I had lollipop juice all over my fingers and there's wasn't a sink in sight. ("Gee, Joanna, you sounded like sort of a neurotic child." You THINK?).

I don't know what my problem was because now "sticky" is the descriptor tethered to foods I absolutely adore: sticky toffee pudding, sticky rice, sticky buns. And now, I have a whole hosts of dishes to add to the list, thanks to Sticky Chicken food truck.

Okay, technically, it's Sticky's Chicken, but having misread and subsequently mispronounced the name about 50 times before I noticed the error, I now can't think of it as anything but Sticky Chicken. Even if not everything on the menu is self-adhesive.

This story continues on the next page.

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Ripe Cuisine Set to Launch Vegan Food Truck With Help From Kickstarter

Photo courtesy Ripe Cuisine
Stephanie Hoban wants to bring vegan food all over town with a new food truck.
When Stephanie Hoban moved back to Houston after living in New York for a few years, she was struck by the disappointingly small number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in town. Rather than complain about it, she got to work.

The registered dietician and graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute for the Health and Culinary Arts in New York City started a blog called Ripe: Healthy Seasonal Cuisine, where she tested recipes and wrote about her vegan lifestyle.

"I wanted to keep up with my passion, and I wanted the outlet," Hoban says. "I got positive feedback from it, but you don't know if people were actually cooking the food. I wanted people to actually taste the food that I made."

The best way to ensure that people are indeed enjoying your recipes? Make the food for them.

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Food With Soul at Soul Cat Cuisine

Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
Robert Stokes takes an order from inside his truck, The Mothership.
"It's the oldest food in Houston," Robert Stokes told me, without any hint of sarcasm in his voice.

I laughed anyway.

"She thinks I'm kidding," he said, seemingly flabbergasted. "This gumbo and red beans and rice got my people through slavery! You better believe me! It's the real deal."

Stokes, the chef and owner of Soul Cat Cuisine food truck, is more than happy to tell you about the authenticity of his food. He's proud of the recipes he learned from his mother and grandmother, and he's confident that you'll taste the history in his gumbo, croquettes and rémoulades.

"This is your ticket to flavortown," he says, handing loaded fries through the window. "You're gonna be looking for me with a flashlight in the daytime."

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Learn About Houston's Newest Food Trucks in This Week's Feature

Photo courtesy Sticky's Chicken
Sticky's Chicken is one of many new food trucks to hit the streets recently.
Yesterday, we told you about the trend of food trucks turning into brick and mortar restaurants. Perhaps trend isn't the right word, though. Some food truck owners will tell you it's a necessity or that it was the plan all along. Who wants to work on a food truck forever?

Judging by the number of trucks that have opened in the past year, plenty of people are perfectly content to sling food on a truck for the time being. Yes, a food truck can be a stepping stone to bigger things, but it's also a business and it provides a career for a chef/owner unsure of what to do next. Some people choose to get their starts on trucks, showing off their skills for the first time to hungry customers while parked outside a bar. Others are getting back into a kitchen through whatever means possible, even if said kitchen happens to be on wheels.

We asked the city for a list of all the trucks that have been granted permits in the past year to find out exactly how many new trucks have opened. What we got back was a 92-page list of all the permitted trucks in the city--every old truck, every taco truck, every snow cone stand and every random truck that seems to have no online presence. Still, we were able to identify more than 25 trucks that are relatively new to the Houston scene.

Check out this week's feature story for an in-depth look at five of the new trucks on the block, and peruse this list for the rest of the latest and greatest in mobile cuisine.

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As More Food Trucks Go Brick & Mortar, the Houston Scene Evolves

Photo by Troy Fields
Good Dog Houston parked the truck and in favor of a restaurant last year.
This week's cover story (online tomorrow and in this week's print edition) looks at five exciting new food trucks that have opened in Houston in the past year and at how the local food truck scene is evolving.

Three or four years ago, a new wave of gourmet food trucks were just starting to pop up around town. They didn't necessarily eclipse the classic taco trucks that still dominate areas like Long Point Road and East Downtown, but they did make a big impression on the Bayou City.

Now, several years after the initial influx, it seems a new truck is popping up every week. It's cheaper than starting a restaurant--that's the reasoning provided by most mobile chefs--and it allows the freedom to create something new every day or every few days. At restaurants, where a chef is generally serving a greater number of people and planning further in advance, the menu needs to needs to be more constant. On food trucks, where chefs are serving fewer people (most of the time) and working with less storage space, new specials can be created daily. And when they run out, they're out.

Many chefs will tell you a food truck isn't the ultimate goal, though. They want to open restaurants, and food trucks are merely stepping stones on the way to a full fledged eatery.

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