Summer heat and bountiful sunshine are bringing more food trucks to Denver's streets than ever before this year. From events like Civic Center Eats and the upcoming Best of Denver's Gourmet Street Food Tour -- and even right to your office -- thrill-seeking diners can play tourist with international cuisine or just settle down with hearty comfort food.
How to separate the cream from the crop? Our Summer Guide, which hits the streets today inside the regular issue of Westword has information on hundreds of events, as well as this list of ten trucks to follow this summer. Keep reading for our picks.
10) Pink Tank Quick -- what has four wheels, smells like crispy animal meat and belches two huge towers of flame? Looking like it rumbled right out of the monster-truck arena, the Pink Tank has garnered plenty of attention locally for its brash greasy-spoon cuisine. The truck sets itself apart by selling heavy breakfasts like bananas Foster pancakes or a bacon burger in between slices of French toast. But it's the chicken and waffles that made this truck's bones -- spicy, crispy legs dusted with bacon crumbles and served with a dollop of hot-sauce ice cream. 9) Chuey FU's Latin-Asian Grub
A recent addition to Denver's foodie fleet, Chuey FU's proves that two great styles of cuisine taste great together. The well-designed menu pits East against West and spicy against sweet. It's a lot to chew on, but whether in burrito, taco, quesadilla or bowl form, the truck's protein selections are inspired. Turns out chorizo and peanut sauce go pretty well together, as do Chuey FU's char siu pork and wasabi aioli. Who said Asian fusion was dead?
8) Steuben's Pearl The appeal of a free-roaming Steuben's is easy to understand: It has the comfort food and retro vibe of the Uptown favorite, but on wheels. Pearl, the dependable Steuben's food truck, has been hauling grub around since 2010, making her one of Denver's first food-truck stars. And if it ain't heavy, it ain't here: Look for bronzed fries dripping with gravy, a pulled-pork sandwich with sticky-sweet sauce, and a green-chile cheeseburger that is classic Colorado cooking. 7) Verde At a time when everyone with a van is trying to sell Mexican street tacos, Verde's Sonoran-style treats are a like a much-needed squirt of hot sauce in the food-truck scene. Sticking mainly to the fundamentals of Mexican desert cuisine, Verde's tacos and burritos are jammed with piquant fillings, like the spicy carnitas and the traditional Sonoran machaca beef. The slightly crispy tortillas are imported from a tortilleria close to the border, and anything can be smothered in Verde's hot green chile. This somewhat whimsical truck is a worthy successor to the taco-slinging loncheras of yore. Keep reading for more trucks to follow this summer. 6) Fat Sully's Slice Truck
Slices of New York-style pizza served out of a moving vehicle seems like a no-brainer, but Denver is definitely lacking in good pizza-on-the-go. Enter Fat Sully's Slice Truck, which, like its brick-and-mortar brothers, makes a toddler-sized slice with a no-nonsense sensibility. You've got a cheese slice and the opportunity to add a few toppings, and that's about it. Just good, solid pizza served as slices should be: gulped down on the street in the blazing sun.
Even in a lineup of a dozen trucks, Manna From Heaven always stands out for its friendly vibe and unique Asian flavors. An indefatigable presence at most food-truck events, Manna is a reliable source for smiles and sandwiches, pearls of boba and crispy egg rolls. The truck's banh mi has sustained unknown hordes of office workers and college students with its portion of fresh pork, chicken, steak or tofu, crunchy veggies and signature sriracha mayo. And props to Manna for often providing actual seating for its fans, especially on a bright summer day.
4) The Tasterie Truck As soon as someone says -- and they will -- that the food-truck landscape is an exhaust-choked landscape devoid of sophistication, the Tasterie Truck arrives on the scene to prove them wrong. Taking a global approach to street food, the Tasterie Truck's seasonally evolving menu offers some unexpected delights -- like a cured-salmon salad, with fried capers and a goat-cheese dressing, that could plausibly come out of any bistro in the city. The truck's pasta à la Norma, with juicy eggplant and springy basil tied up with shavings of Pecorino, is much like the truck itself: subtle, satisfying and unexpected. Keep reading for more trucks to follow this summer. 3) Los Molinos
Los Molinos earned its status as a top-notch taco shop during years of Mexican cooking at its Five Points location. Now Los Molinos' cooks are on the road, with authenticity as thick as their chunks of carnitas. Hot, messy and just plain good, the tortas are a good enough reason to pay Los Molinos a visit. But the long-simmered meats, including a strong carne asada and a killer red adovada, shine between corn tortillas as well. The salsas and the friendly service are equally appealing.
Man can only live on tacos and burgers for so long. When it's time to embrace the sixth food group -- ice cream -- turn to Sweet Cow, whose MooMobile takes its creamy goodness all over the state. Slightly wacky flavors, from Ozo coffee to Dutch chocolate, get slapped on cones and in cups for the enjoyment of throngs of shrieking kids and their parents. Ice-cold and buttery, these scoops hit the spot whether piled three high or sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies.
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SHOW ME HOW
1) Quiero Arepas To eat at Quiero Arepas is an education. The street food of South America is sparsely represented on Denver streets, in direct opposition to its total deliciousness, but Quiero Arepas is spreading the gospel of the arepa, a sandwich stuffed to bursting in a flaky cornmeal shell. It's as if a pupusa and a sope had a love child -- and this truck is the best place to find one. The salchicha sausage arepa and the shredded-beef pabellon, all slathered in bright-green guasacaca sauce, would be right at home on the streets of Maracaibo.