Tag Archives: food truck

Doggin’ It

No tiny puppies were harmed in the writing of this post.


Hot dogs are one of those foods that really define a person, I think. People either think they are disgusting tubes of processed meat, or they love them with a nigh-religious fervor. Personally I, like all right-thinking people, fall into the latter camp.

I mean, what’s not to love? Sure, they’re not the healthiest dinner choice in the world, but what sausage is?

Here in Boston we are fortunate to have some world-renowned hot dogs. There are Fenway Franks, of course, and Spike’s Junkyard Dogs (yeah, they originated in Rhode Island, but we lay claim to more locations now.) These are good dogs, to be sure. Fenway Franks have the weight of history behind them, and Spike’s has a variety of toppings to test your hot dog imagination. But for my money, only one venue can claim the spot of top dog, and that’s Boston Speed Dog.

It sure as heck isn’t due to the atmosphere. Boston Speed Dog is a hot dog cart in Newmarket Square, literally sitting in the center of a parking lot for several meatpacking companies, fishmongers, and fruit wholesalers. The walk across this parking lot if you visit by T, as I did one day this summer with my intrepid co-workers, is nothing short of harrowing – giant trucks barreling in and out of the lot, giant drivers honking and leering aggressively out their windows. However, the slog is worth it, because these hot dogs are amazing.

Hot dog stand-off

To start with, they are huge, 8 inches and a half pound each. This is good, because you’ve traveled a long way for them.

Heaven on a bun

Add to that the magical process whereby they are cooked – simmered in apple cider and brown sugar, then grilled. These puppies are sweet, salty, and savory all at once, and they have a terrific snappy skin.

Finally, it’s all about the toppings.

Mustard, a house-made, cranberry-based relish, BBQ sauce, onions, and chili sauce – it sounds and looks like a big mess but it is so, so good.
All of that sweetness is balanced out by the spices and smoky taste of the dog and the tang of the onions. I can’t see getting it any way other than fully loaded.

There’s only one tiny table to sit at, but we cheerfully shared with two young men, one of whom was an enthusiastic proponent of the Speed Dog. He seemed to have been coming there since he was a wee tyke, since he knew current owner, Gregg Gale, and seemed to remember the original Ezra “Speed” Anderson. He’d clearly been several times over the summer, and expounded on his theory that you needed to embrace the messy nature of the dog. He chuckled wryly and said, “It’s not a great date place.” I disagreed, pointing out that you could learn a lot about a potential paramour if they were willing to sit in a meat-packing plant parking lot, eating the messiest hot dog known to man. That said, I’d save it for a fifth or sixth date – and bring lots and lots of napkins.

Special thanks to Karleigh Rose for the pictures on this post!


Grilled Cheesiness

Hello, my friends! Did you miss me? Apologies for the impromptu hiatus, but I’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately, a bad habit which zaps all of my brain power and leaves precious little leftover for writing.

On the plus side, I’ve been doing QUITE A BIT of cooking and eating, so I have a backlog of topics to write about! Huzzah! I also have two dear friends who are PROMISING me some guest posts – let us hope they get the chance to write these because both topics are pretty exciting. I’ll say no more for the moment.

Among the many wonderful things I’ve eaten since February, one sticks out in my mind as worth talking about here despite the fact that on its surface it is one of the LEAST adventurous foods you can imagine. On the face of it this food is simple, cheap, and made up of ingredients that everyone reading has eaten at least once, and I’d even go out on a limb and say that at least 98% of you enjoy, if not downright love, the results.
As you probably guessed from the title, we’re talking GRILLED CHEESE. The very icon of homey plainness, am I right?

But you see, this is no ordinary grilled cheese. This is a grilled cheese from Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese, the latest addition to Boston’s sudden upwelling of food trucks. For years, Boston was a roach-coach wasteland, with only a few stalwart’s like Speed’s and Sami’s flying the banner of quick food from a truck. In the past year or two, however, perhaps in response to the less than stellar economy, these suckers are popping up everywhere, with a bit of a twist. Rather than the straightforward hot dog trucks of New York and other major metropolises, Boston’s food trucks seem to be focused on taking one food or concept and trying to elevate it at the same time that they’re offering it on the side of road, wrapped in paper. I’ve written about Clover, of course, with its vegetarian focus, and in recent months we’ve gained a cupcake truck and one specializing in banh mi. So grilled cheese, why the heck not? In many ways it’s the perfect food to grab from a truck – minimal ingredients, minimal equipment, and it can be eaten while walking!

In addition, Roxy’s has chosen the perfect location to sell their sandwiches – Cleveland Circle, right in the heart of Boston College country. They’ve got perfect late-night post drinking fare, and they’re positioned to take advantage of that fact. They’re also positioned perfectly near my sister Kelly’s apartment, so I made plans to visit Roxy’s with her – TWO good reasons to go to a part of the city I never get to (though I did live there, once upon a time). We were joined by office-mate, fellow-Marathoner, and food-adventurer Jess, who lives not much farther away than Kelly.

SO HOW WERE THE SANDWICHES, you ask? Well, there are a few more things I think you need to know about Roxy’s approach to grilled-cheesecraft before I answer that.

Point 1: They use mayonnaise, not butter, to coat the outside of the bread before grilling.
Point 2: At the time we visited, there were three-four kinds of sandwiches to try, but we selected only two.
Point 3: Roxy’s griddles other things, like cheesecake. We forewent this in favor of frozen yogurt/ice cream from Mix Chill, so I can’t tell you how that is.
Point 4: They also fry a few things, including onion rings and pickles, and I can and I WILL tell you about those!

Jess and I elected the “Rookie” – Monterey Jack cheese and tomato with whole-grain mustard. All sandwiches are on Iggy’s white bread. We also both ordered fried pickles.

Kelly ordered the Green Muenster (ho ho) – Muenster cheese (duh), with guacamole (the green) and bacon (got nothin’.) She got a side of onion rings, which the gentlemen serving us mentioned were an experiment.

The verdict: The Rookie was great, though it will be even better with some decent tomatoes when summer hits. Jack isn’t the most exciting cheese in the world, but the mustard added much-needed zip. The mayo coating makes for a very good, less greasy crust than butter, though I’ll admit to missing the salt that it adds. (YES, I USE SALTED BUTTER ON MY GRILLED CHEESE. WHAT OF IT?)
The Green Muenster was tasty, but we all agreed we wanted more from it. Muenster is ALSO not a particularly tangy cheese, and the guacamole wasn’t tangy enough to make up for it. We all agreed that an addition of salsa, or even more onions in the guac, would be welcome.

The fried items, on the other hand, were like ambrosia, especially the pickles. Roxy’s uses Grillo’s Pickles, cut into coins, then battered and fried into the most amazing crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside salty and vinegary treasures I can imagine. There’s also a special sauce that is tasty but unnecessary to the greatness of these beauties. I would like to get Roxy’s batter recipe, and then stay at home for the rest of my life, frying things.

DSC03572The onions had the same knock-out coating, which held up to our walk home. I believe it’s a beer-batter, with Guinness as the beer, and I fully intend to retro-engineer it at my earliest convenience. Seriously, it’s like tempura and beer-batter had a baby – light, yet flavorful. Dang.

Ultimately, though the sandwiches were good, it’s those pickles that will bring me back to Roxy’s. At least until I discover their secrets for myself!

Eating Off The Truck

A few months ago I started hearing about a new place to eat, quite close to where I work. There are many great restaurants in Fort Point, but most of them are sit down affairs, with pretty expensive food – $8 sandwiches and $10 salads. This new place is different, with no items that cost over $5, and, far from encouraging a leisurely lunch, it doesn’t even have seats. That’s because it’s a truck.

Unlike most big cities, Boston doesn’t have that many roach coaches or food carts. There are a few lemonade stands in the Public Garden, some spots to get a pretzel or glazed nuts. And of course there are the standouts – M&M Ribs, Boston Speed Dogs, and the infamous Sausage Guy. But compared to New York, where you can grab a $2 hotdog or cheap falafel on nearly every corner, our trucks are few and far between. So I was quite excited to find one near to me, and even more so when I learned more about it.

Clover Food Labs, the truck that now parks right outside of South Station, is not your average roach coach. With 2 locations, in Dewey and Kendall Squares, Clover has a mission to bring locally sourced, seasonal, vegetarian food to the office workers of Boston. Eventually they’re hoping to bring a brick and mortar store to Harvard Square, but starting with the trucks has allowed them to earn both capital and word of mouth while getting that going.

The first time I visited I tried the barbeque seitan sandwich. For those of you who don’t know what seitan is, it’s just wheat gluten – the chewy proteins that give bread its resistance when you bite into it. Made by washing all of the starch out of wheat flour dough, seitan is commonly used as a meat substitute in Japan and China, particularly subbing in for duck. It makes a good stand-in for meat because its texture has the right springiness and resistance, and because it’s a protein (two, in fact). Here’s what Clover does with it:
BBQ Seitan
There’s no doubt about it – this is a really good sandwich. The barbecue sauce is slightly spicy and plays off of the Swiss cheese and fresh vegetables beautifully. To be fair, I really LIKE seitan – I don’t think of it as a meat substitute so much as enjoy it for what it is – a nutty, chewy protein – but I think even someone unused to chowing down on gluten could enjoy this sandwich. Besides, look how pretty it is!

After that first encounter with Clover I found out they had a Twitter feed and decided to follow it – mostly it keeps folks up to date with the specials they’re offering on any given day. This turned out to be a wise decision on my part because Clover offers a 3pm snack – some special that they start serving at three o’clock up until it runs out. This tends to be whatever they have in abundance – and a few weeks ago it was one of my favorite things in the world – fried plantains! I hurried on over and snagged them before they were gone:
Fried Plantains
Oh my lord these things are heaven. Deep fried to a beautiful bronze color, these bad boys are so sweet and tasty, lightly sprinkled with spiced salt and hopelessly addictive. Too bad they’re not a regular menu item!

Another snack, however, is – the rosemary french fries. These are fries the way I like them – thin to take advantage of as much crispy goodness as possible, and flavored with sea salt and a bit of rosemary.
Rosemary Fries
Mine were served as a little fry “bouquet,” a technique I heard the counter guy telling one of co-workers he’d made up that day. I hope he kept it up – it was very convenient and easy to travel with (as you can see by my T shot).

I’ve also tried the chick-pea fritter, which is what Clover calls falafel.
Chickpea Sandwich
As you can see, it was loaded with fresh vegetables and a tasty yogurt sauce, and overall tasted very herbal and cool, not at all greasy in the way that falafel can be.

In addition to the tasty lunches, the Clover staff has so far proven to be friendly and helpful, willing to explain menu items to the curious and always smiling when I’ve ordered. I’ve yet to try their breakfasts, and they’ve been serving a fried green tomato snack that I’m hoping to try before it’s gone…if you’re in the Boston area, be sure to check them out!