Korean BBQ tacos from Garbo’s Grill
Ever since Charles Goodnight rolled the first chuck wagon through the plains of northern Texas, food trucks have played an increasingly important role in America’s culinary landscape. They draw tourists and foodies searching for one-of-a-kind eats; sustain hungry students, laborers, and office workers of every demographic; serve up the last hurrah of countless drunken nights; and satisfy locals who know the best food in town doesn’t come from a four-star restaurant but from the side window of a beat-up van.
In celebration of the mouth-watering burgers, tacos, barbecue, vegetarian plates, sandwiches, and ethnic platters that are elevating today’s al fresco experience, Yahoo Food asked Yelp to search its database of users’ ratings to come up with some of the best food trucks in the country. The list is based on rankings (one to five stars) and the number of legitimate reviews.
With thousands of independent food trucks parked throughout the country (and contributing to a $1 billion industry), we barely scratch the surface of what’s out there. What you will find here is a list of culinary and cultural ambassadors made up of seasoned chefs and ambitious amateurs who have found the rare opportunity to cook food their way and deliver it to those who would have no other way to discover it. Many of the trucks, based on glowing online reviews and mainstream media attention, have earned a place among food truck royalty and history.
Since Yelpers living on the two coasts typically crank out the majority of the site’s reviews, we arranged our list to highlight the No. 1 truck from each city or town mentioned in the research. We then give a quick shout out to other highly ranked trucks that operate in the same area. This method should provide a better representation of the country’s different regions than some of our past lists. When we have location and hours information, we’ll include it. If your favorite isn’t mentioned, let us know what it is and what you order. We’ll share it with the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, whether you’re a visitor traveling through town or a local who’s been meaning to swing by, you can’t go wrong giving these trucks a try. Pull up to a piece of curb, grab a few extra napkins, and explore what some of America’s best-loved food trucks are dishing out.
Shark Pit Maui’s spicy shrimp taco, Korean steak taco, and paniolo crunch burger. Photo: Saminda W., Yelp
Hawaii: Shark Pit Maui, 78 Ulupono St., Lahaina; 4.5 stars, 477 reviews.
Chris Mahon’s Shark Pit Maui food truck has been gathering a large and loyal following since rolling into the west side about two years ago. With a focus on Asian fusion and island-style comfort food, Shark Pit Maui uses organic, locally grown produce; free-range chicken; fresh fish; and grass-fed beef for its “funked up fish” and char sui pork tacos, steak poke Ceasar, burgers, and the already legendary furikake-dusted grilled corn on the cob. “It def lived up to my expectations,” writes Josephine A. of Columbia, S.C. “I don’t know why I’d never thought of seasoning corn this way!”
The truck is open from 11 a.m to 3 p.m., or until the food sells out. Yelpers are bummed when it does, but you have to give Shark Pit a break. It warns that “all menu items are limited due to availability from farm and sea.” Check out Shark Pit’s Facebook page for daily specials like the Upcountry Bikini Blonde Venison Taco, Korean fish tacos, and the oyster pepper steak tacos. “Such a unique twist on tacos,” writes Jody C. of Los Angeles.
Yelp’s other top-ranked trucks in Hawaii:
Ono Tacos, 910 Honoapiilani Highway, Lahaina; 4.5 stars 693 reviews.
The Pizza Connection, 3600 Lower Honoapiilani Road, Lahaina; 4.5 stars, 131 reviews.
Geste Shrimp Truck, Kahului Beach Road, Kahului; 4.5 stars, 505 reviews.
Rainbeau Jo’s, 3215 Oihana Street, Lihue; 5 stars, 119 reviews.
El Chato’s al pastor tacos; always in bloom. Photos: El Chato, Facebook
California: El Chato Taco Truck, 5300 W. Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles;
781 reviews 4.5 stars
Dollar tacos. Four dollar burritos. Perfectly cooked meats. Just the right amount of grease. Tons of flavor. Killer sauces. Fresh toppings and sides. Probably the best al pastor in town. No wonder El Chato is firmly placed in the upper echelon of L.A. food trucks, scoring plenty of 5-star Yelp reviews, top 10 mentions and lots of love in general. “Best tacos north of the border,” writes Dat N. of Garden Grove. “I drive 40 miles each week just to satisfy my cravings.” Regulars gladly put up with long lines and packs of drunken weekend revelers. “This is the late-night dream!” writes Olivia H. of Houston, Texas. “The tacos are on the smaller side, but still fully packed and delicious!”
Yelp’s other top-ranked trucks in California:
The Lobos Truck. Los Angeles. Locations and times. 4.5 stars, 619 reviews.
GD Bro Truck, Orange County. Locations and times. 4.5 stars, 187 reviews.
The Chairman Truck, Civic Center and Hayes Valley, San Francisco; 4 stars, 1280 reviews.
Leo’s Taco Truck, 1515 South Le Brea Avenue, Los Angeles; 4.5 stars, 506 reviews.
The Burnt Truck, Orange County. Locations and times. 4.5 stars, 673 reviews.
Frozen Kuhsterd, 428 11th Street, San Francisco; 4.5 stars, 254 reviews.
Porko Rico BBQ, Orange County. Locations and times; 5 stars, 90 reviews.
Komodo Cafe, 8809 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles; 4.5 stars, 739 reviews.
The legendary Shiner Monte Cristo Photo: Bandon C., Yelp
Texas: Hey!… You Gonna Eat or What?, 1720 Barton Springs Road, Austin; 4.5 stars, 392 reviews.
The guys running this truck advertise that they have the rudest service and worst attitude of any business in Austin. Not true. Yelpers say they’re nice guys who love taking time to explain what goes into their storied sandwiches. Even if they were jerks, crowds would still show up for the famous Shiner Monte Cristo: a Shiner Bock beer-battered sandwich filled with pit-smoked ham, mesquite-smoked turkey, cheddar and provolone, and homemade cherry and fig jelly. “It’s the perfect balance of sweet and savory, with perfectly smoked meat and melting cheese,” gushes Neha S. of Austin.
The three other sandwiches on the regular menu also get Yelp rave reviews. The Lonestar BLT features applewood smoked bacon with fried green tomatoes and homemade poblano pepper aioli. The Spicy SXSW Reuben layers hickory smoked brisket, spicy slaw, and pepper jack. The Texas Mesquite Turkey is covered with pepper jack, fried green tomatoes, and jalapeño jelly. All are served with homemade potato chips. “This really is one of the best food trucks I have experienced,” says local Jillian C. Check the truck’s Facebook page for daily specials.
Yelp’s other top-ranked trucks in Texas:
la Barbecue, 902 E Cesar Chavez, Austin; 4.5 stars 563 reviews.
Sonora Hot Dogs, 5715 Burnet Road, Austin; 5 stars 121 reviews.
Gourdough’s, 1503 S 1st Street, Austin; 4.5 stars 2076 reviews.
Tacos Tierra Caliente, 1919 W Alabama Street, Houston, Texas; 4.5 stars 353 reviews.
Garbo’s quarter-pound mango dog. Photo: Garbo’s, Facebook
Florida: Garbo’s Grill, 409 Caroline Street, Key West; 4.5 stars 414 reviews.
Kenna and Eli Pancamo dreamed of owning a small restaurant in Key West. What they wound up with was Garbo’s, a food cart (5 feet by 8 feet) that both locals and tourists say serves up some of the best tacos, burritos, burgers, and dogs in the area. “Believe the hype people. This place is UH. MAY. ZING,” Yelps Joe S. of Islamorada, Fla.
Guy Fieri thought so, too, when Diner, Drive-ins and Dives hit Key West. Like most people who visit the cart, Fieri was blown away by the Umami Burger: a half-pound of ground Angus topped with heirloom tomato, applewood-smoked bacon, and chipotle Gouda. And nobody seems to go wrong with the mahi mahi, marinated beef short rib, and shrimp tacos and burritos, as well as the mango and kogi quarter-pound hotdogs. “Our group had one of everything and everyone raved,” writes Joey F. of Monticello, Minn.
Creative dishes deserve creative names. Carte Blanche’s Important Helmet for Outer Space. Photo: Carte Blanche
Oregon: Carte Blanche, 3207 S.E. Hawthorne Boulevard, Portland. 5 stars, 140 reviews.
Carte Blanche’s eclectic dishes personify the English translation of its name: the freedom to do whatever one likes. Take, for instance, the ingredients in the Important Helmet for Outer Space rice bowl: spiced red wine and hoisin braised pork shoulder with miso-buttered mushrooms, leaks, kale, Brussels sprouts, coconut jasmine rich, and ginger-pineapple lemongrass slaw. Doubt that this combination of flavors and texture work together? Don’t. “The depth of flavors are so deep and each is so unique, but they gel so well (and) create an amazing taste explosion,” writes Portland’s Rajesh K.
The same goes for the mash-up of seasonal ingredients and cultural influences behind the truck’s (it’s actually a vintage AirStream trailer) other dishes, like the Have a Seat sandwich, the Noodle Incident mac & cheese, and the Wild Bill Penny mole bowl. Check out the rotating menu and find out why Cart Blanche is quickly becoming one of the most beloved kitchens in Portland. “If there was a place that deserved six stars, it would be this food cart,” writes Tom C. of Albany, Ore.
Yelp’s other top-rated truck in Portland:
Chez Dodo, 427 S.W. Stark St., Portland; 4.5 stars, 176 reviews.
Three more, please. Bite Into Maine’s classic lobster roll. Photo: Bite Into Maine, Facebook
Maine: Bite Into Maine, Fort Williams Park, 1000 Shore Road, Cape Elizabeth; 5 stars, 122 reviews.
This truck, parked right by the historic Portland Head Light, is open from May to October. But we bet there are more than a few people who would brave Maine’s nastiest snowstorms to get hold of Bite Into Maine’s lobster rolls. “Perfection. From the lightly buttered perfect roll to the delicate sweet lobster meat, which is beyond delicious and tender, to the seasoning, this was THE BEST. Hats off to this amazing food truck,” raves Kat N. of Cambridge, Mass. Round things out with corn, cucumber, and blueberry salad and a side of warm baked beans with local maple syrup and wild blueberries. But when you have lobster rolls like these, do you really need anything else? “Take it from someone who literally ate her way across Maine, this is the best lobster roll you will find,” says Alexandra L. of New York City.
Cupbop’s sundubu jjigae special. Photo: Cupbob, Facebook
Utah: Cupbop Korean BBQ, Salt Lake City; 4.5 stars, 159 reviews.
Cupbop keeps the basic ingredients of its BBQ simple — vegetable and rice with beef, pork, chicken, starch noodle, or a combo — but creates magic with a combination of special sauces and whatever else its adding to the habit-forming cups. “The first time I tried Cupbop I was hooked!” says Alexander D. of Roy, who, like a lot of Yelpers, swears by the combo. “I’m seriously addicted to this place.” And Cupboppers love the personable staff as much as they love the food. “Amazing flavors and exceptional service! These guys really know how to make some darn good food!” writes Crystal B. of Millcreek. Choose your level of heat, from 1 to 10, and make sure to get a cup lid so you can give things a good shake and mix up all the goodness. “Their cups are delicious with flavors that compliment each other so well … packed to the brim with those Korean flavors you love,” writes local Bethany G. Check Cupbop’s Facebook page for the schedule and locations of its trucks, as well as its specials
Short Leash Dog’s Abendbrot appetizer. Photo: Short Leash Dogs
Arizona: Short Leash Dogs Food Truck, 110 E Roosevelt Street, Phoenix; 4.5 stars, 293 reviews.
One of Short Leash Dogs Food Truck’s signature sausages is the Bear: peanut butter, smoked gouda, bacon, BBQ sauce, and cracker Jack on a choice of regular, brat, all beef, spicy beer hot, vegetarian, or chicken wiener. It’s all wrapped in a soft, fresh naan. Yelpers can’t believe how good it is. “The ingredients sound strange together (and I add fried pickles), but taste like heaven,” promises local Tammy D., who gets it all on a veggie dog. Whoever can pull that off has to be good.
Short Leash Dogs’ signature menu combos feature gems like the Moki, with roasted green chiles, sautéed onion and pinto beans; or the Devil Dog, with roasted red pepper, green chiles, sriracha, cheddar, and jalapeños. The premium dogs take things up a notch with Bratwurst Stuffed Pretzel, a brat slow-cooked in beer with sauerkraut, onion and bacon topped with swiss cheese; and the Crispy Dog, featuring three jalapeño stuffed wieners rolled in corn tortillas and deep fried. “These hot dogs are unlike anything you’ve ever experienced,” writes local Tanishia B. e believe her. Make sure to start things off with the fried green tomato stack. Yelpers say it’s life changing.
Keep on truckin’?
Fill us in on your favorite food truck and what you order