Bronx native Joseph Gerace has been running East Coast Joe's food truck with Alli Evans for the past three years, serving lobster rolls, crab cakes and other culinary favorites from the Atlantic seaboard. But when the couple decided to open a second food truck, they took their inspiration from another eastern coast — way east. Just back from the coastal city of Shanghai, China, where they researched the best in Chinese street food, Gerace and Evans are ready to launch Bao Chicka Bao Bao, a new truck featuring stuffed bao buns, Korean fried chicken and other Asian snacks.
While in China, the two took a cooking class to learn how to make bao buns from scratch, which will be the new truck's calling card. Fillings will include locally raised Duroc pork, beef short ribs, shrimp, wasabi-crusted tuna and Korean fried chicken made from the chicken oyster — the small, tender round taken from the bird's back.
Applying what they learned in Shanghai, they've come up with a gluten-free bao bun and will use gluten-free soy sauce in all of their recipes. Gerace also visited Japan three years ago, so sides and appetizers on the menu include street-food bites from more than just China, with several meatless offerings like steamed enoki mushrooms, Japanese fried cauliflower and cucumber-kimchi salad.
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The board of seafood offerings from East Coast Joe's tends to command a higher price point, which means that the truck — a vintage 1967 Ford called the Grey Ghost that Gerace brought up from Albuquerque — spends more time at high-end events and private gigs, including catering for Tim McGraw, the Foo Fighters and Ted Cruz (although they claim no political affiliation with the presidential candidate) last summer. The couple wanted a second food truck that would reach more of Denver's street-food fans at a lower price point, so Evans says a good-sized lunch from Bao Chicka Bao Bao will run about $10 to $12, with individual bao buns coming in at $6 or $7 — they're big ones, she points out.
The other thing Gerace learned from visiting restaurants and food vendors in Shanghai is that "they don't take anything for granted; they don't waste anything," he says. That's part of his philosophy with his trucks, too: East Coast Joe's is already fitted with enough solar panels to make it 70 percent sun-powered and he hopes to add more to that. At his commissary kitchen in north Park Hill, he prefers to use local ingredients for all his sauces, marinades and slow-cooked meats, noting that the difference is obvious in the flavor.
Look for Bao Chicka Bao Bao — just call it BCBB if that's too much of a mouthful — to hit the streets by the end of May, possibly at this year's Civic Center Eats and at other food-truck rallies around town.