For concrete, unassailable proof that Denverites have well and truly embraced the street-food phenomena, all you had to do was walk outside this weekend -- straight into food-truck utopia. As you all know by now, the Food Network's The Great Food Truck Race made an extended pit stop in the Mile High metropolis this weekend as part of a multi-city, cross-country tour that started in Las Vegas, swept through Salt Lake City and Denver and is now en route to Kansas City -- minus one truck, which was eliminated this morning (at Red Rocks, we hear) due to having the lowest sales. Judging from what I saw (and ate) this weekend, that truck is Cafe con Leche, the Cuban truck from Van Nuys, California.
But I digress.
All in all, it was a spectacular weekend full of camaraderie, spirited competition, pranks, speed bumps, theatrics, drama and, for the most part, chow-worthy grub that required six teams from here, there and everywhere to pump out as much food as they possibly could under a ton of pressure: the weight of time constraints, prep constraints, kitchen constraints, parking constraints (thanks to Denver's finest police officers in Wash Park for your leeway!), the strain of having to make enough money to move on, and long queues of crowds with rumbling guts.
The food-truck rivals posted up all over the city, many in collaboration with local mobile food vendors, in Washington Park, in the parking lot of Steuben's, in front of Atomic Cowboy, Marczyk Fine Foods and Cuba Cuba, at the Horseshoe Craft and Flea Market, and, last night, curbside at Great Divide Brewery, which was interesting, mainly because the crew manning the Cafe con Leche truck had hoped to protect its turf without the interference of its competitors.
But, no! The Korilla BBQ truck, hailing from New York, skunked the Cubans, pulling up around 7 p.m., and after a lengthy discussion (all of it caught on camera), the boys were allowed to stay -- with Cafe con Leche's permission. But the Cafe con Leche crew talked smack about the Lime Truck, which one member deemed "Lime slime," as well as the Hodge Podge truck " -- "Hodgey Podgey" -- the two of which stuck together for the duration of the weekend. Neither of those trucks crashed the Great Divide party, but Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese, from Boston, Massachusetts, which had spent the majority of its hours in Wash Park, was fashionably late, and while there was a bit of stomping and kvetching on the part of Frankie, the chef of Cafe con Leche, in the end the trucks managed to amicably co-exist.
We, of course, were there to catch it all on camera, the photos of which are below. Bring your appetite.
Truck: Roxy Gourmet Grilled Cheese Home turf: Boston, Massachusetts Denver board: French port salut, foie gras, candied walnut and cherry compote grilled cheese; Vermont goat cheese, Il Mondo Vecchio duck breast prosciutto and fig preserves grilled cheese; Vermont extra sharp cheddar, applewood smoked bacon and caramelized onions grilled cheese; rosemary hand-cut fries with garlic and herb cheddar; beer-battered pickles; Grandma's tomato soup Biggest hit: The crew running the truck were some of the friendliest boys you'll ever meet, and they sourced locally, from Il Mondo Vecchio; excellent grilled cheese sandwiches, to boot -- and, damn, those fried pickles! Biggest miss: The lines on Sunday inched along about as quickly as a worn-out worm. Grade: A- Prediction: The truck keeps rolling.
Truck: Hodge Podge Home turf: Cleveland, Ohio Denver board: Lobster roll with marinated heirloom tomatoes; Hodge Podge dawg; Southwest burger; truffled macaroni and cheese; confit of chicken wings with rosemary popcorn; truffled tater tots Biggest hit: The Hodge Podge Dawg was a brilliant flavor bomb of ingredients -- and a big bang for the buck; sexy chef, too, who knew how to work the crowds (and wield a sharp knife). Biggest miss: Lobster roll was way, way underseasoned, and, yo, where was the mayo? Grade: B+ Prediction: The truck keeps rolling.
Truck: Lime Food Truck Home turf: Irvine, California Denver board: Roasted corn on the cob; mussels floating in a Fat Tire beer broth with sambal; Denver "nuggets," aka beer-battered cauliflower; blistered shishito peppers; asparagus with truffled vinaigrette; crab cake burger; ahi tuna nachos with fresh chips; cheesesteak; and a spicy steak taco Biggest hit: Temperature-appropriate foodstuffs, including roasted corn on the cob and a soothing ceviche generously pumped up with scallops and crab; a charismatic team that handled the crowds with aplomb, especially on Sunday, when the truck crew was reduced to a one-man show; amazing lemonades; and a very cool, tricked-out truck that nearly glowed neon in the dark. Biggest miss: On Saturday, when the truck pulled up to Marczyk's, along with Hodge Podge, it took them a good hour to catch up to their competitor. Grade: A Prediction: The truck rolls all the way to the finish line and pockets the $100,000 prize.
Truck: Korilla BBQ Home turf: New York Denver board: Ribeye burritos and tacos with kimchi, barbecue sauce and cilantro and Berkshire "porkinator" tacos and burritos Greatest hit: Who doesn't love tacos, especially when they've been deemed the "porkinator?" Greatest miss: Very small menu and the tortillas were quick to fall apart. Grade: B Prediction: The truck keeps rolling.
Truck: Seabirds Home turf: Orange County, California Denver board: Jackfruit "crab cake" sandwich; barbecue jackfruit sliders with slaw; beer-battered avocado tacos; drunken home fries smothered in a creamy jalapeno cream sauce; barbecue jackfruit tacos Greatest hit: The fact that the girls made vegan food more than palatable. In fact, they probably succeeded in converting more than a few carnivores to the dark side -- with jackfruit, of all things. Kudos! Greatest miss: For quite a while on Sunday, the truck was only doling out one dish -- and no drinks, which sucked, given the toasty temperatures. And on Saturday, the line was stupid slow. Grade: B Prediction: The truck keeps rolling.
Truck: Cafe con Leche Home turf: Van Nuys, California Denver board: Cubano; ropa vieja curepa; Cuban plates with rice, plantains, pork and beef Greatest hit: A team with chutzpah -- lots of it! Greatest miss: A menu that pimped $15 sandwiches and plates with a mound of rice, a few plantains, black beans, and a knoll of pork or beef -- and on Sunday, some of the prices jumped to $20. Granted, the coinage included a mojito from Cuba Cuba on Saturday and a pint from Great Divide on Sunday, but the food was just too lethargic to justify the price tag. Grade: C- Prediction: The truck definitely stops here.
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That's a wrap.