How does the NBA draft manage to pull it off? Finding new recruits is darn stressful. It had become painfully clear to me that I needed to reclaim my place in life’s lunch line, and the only way was to recruit a new food truck team. No more wallowing in self-pity and Marshmallow Fluff. Zany and Mad had moved on, and I needed to do the same. Spring had arrived and there were new trucks to chase.
And so, with the help of Marie Antoinette, I launch a major recruitment drive and identify two worthy candidates. First there is “Zak.” We like his bravado. He’s got chutzpah. He’d make a good shock jock. In his interview, he tells us, “I’m always hungry. I’m a food fanatic. I do not use the word foodie (the word drips sarcastically off his tongue) to describe me, but I’m a nut about food. I’ve been a midtown resident for 10 years. This food truck thing was about three years behind me. I’ve been eating at food trucks forever.”
"That’s not credentials, that’s an impressive CV,” says Marie Antoinette. “I’m just trying to step up my game. I want to dish it without having to take it all the time.”
“Buzz” is a pint-sized powerhouse. Her resume says she’s “an avid consumer of all foods from the street.” Her wedding favors were custom-made by the Treats Truck, and last year for Christmas, her mother-in-law gave her a Leggo version of a street food vendor. Best of all, she has the legendary distinction of having eaten one of the last burgers sold by Frites and Meats before the truck blew up. This plays in her favor. Timing is critical on this gig.
Food truck veteran Mad Me-Shell offers some sound advice to the new recruits via email:
1. Do NOT under any circumstances order the ‘healthier’ options listed on the menu. That’s for losers.
2. DO try to abide by Zany’s fail-proof ‘order one of everything’ approach. DON’T say this is too much food. It’s not.
3. DO try to order some of the zaniest (pun intended) items on the menu. They’re on there for a reason!
4. Do NOT be late! The food trucks wait for no one!
If only we had listened! Things are about to become one hot mess. Prior to noon, I find myself caught up in a meeting with my boss, and I’m late for the scheduled lunch rendezvous with the team. I wrap the meeting and hurry back to my desk. The women are pacing like hungry panthers, and apparently Zak has gone rogue. He’s left without us, and is already on line down on 52nd Street at the Kimchi Taco Truck. We grab our umbrellas and head out in hot pursuit.
“He doesn’t play well with a team,” Buzz mutters under her breath.
“He can’t do this,” fumes Marie Antoinette. “This is grounds for immediate dismissal!”
While we catch an elevator to the lobby, a word about the planned menu. The Kimchi Tacho Truck has this to say about their signature dish: “Kimchi is the superfood of Korean cuisine and is served with every meal. This tasty, spicy and healthy dish of fermented vegetables is low in calories and fat while being high in fiber and nutrition…There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi, which differ by main ingredients, regions or seasons. The most familiar forms are usually made of napa cabbage, radish or cucumber."
Now, back to our adventure. It is a miserable day outside. Remember all that gorgeous Spring weather? No, neither do we. We arrive on the street, and Zak is already paying for his lunch. He joins us at the back end of the line – make that dead last – clutching a steaming bag of tacos.
Before you can say “parking ticket,” we notice a commotion up front. I think I spot a police officer. Somebody says, “No more orders – we’re shutting down. Check Twitter to find out our next location.” A hungry midtown power broker who has braved the rain in his Thom Browne suit is unceremoniously sent away. We are left standing on the street – almost – empty handed. Three pairs of hungry eyes fall on Zak’s bag of tacos. Suddenly, his roguish behavior is not nearly so egregious. He is the man of the lunch hour.
We return to my office where Zak graciously offers to share his lunch with us. Zak ducks into his office and produces a set of matching placemats from Crate and Barrel.
I raise an eyebrow. “You keep placemats in your office?”
“Yeah, what’s your point?” asks Zak. I have to admit, it does add a touch of refinement.
We divvy up the Kimchi Tacos and try to savor every bite. Zak has chosen three varieties - beef, pork and chicken – all served with fresh Kimchi, and green onions on toasted corn tortillas. They have a vigorous kick. The clean, sharp bite of the Kimchi blends perfectly with the rich savory flavor of the meat, and there’s a nice residual heat.
While we love the taste, three tacos for three hungry adults is not exactly a banquet. Buzz leans back in her chair and says, “That was just a really mean tease.”
We’re hoping to run out and get a few more. The Official Explanation of the shutdown comes via the Kimchi Taco Truck Twitter feed: “Midtown woes... Sorry, being forced to shut down and move by NYPD, giving us the blues.” They promise a new location shortly, but no new coordinates are forthcoming.
I think I hear somebody’s stomach rumbling.
“Refresh Twitter!” demands Marie Antoinette frantically. “I’m still hungry and I’ve only got 30 minutes before my next meeting.” But the Twitter feed is quiet.
Buzz suggests we go see if there are any trucks on 50th. The mere suggestion has Marie Antoinette careening out the door.
“Hey, wait. What about my umbrella?” I insist.
“Forget it!” snaps Marie Antoinette. “I’ve only got 13 minutes. LET'S MOVE!”
Buzz leads us on a power walk in the rain to 50th Street, but we only manage to locate three FedEx trucks. We are out of time, and out of options, and are forced to stop at a Halal cart for something to eat. The women order some kind of street meat. I order the falafel special. I’m not sharing pictures. You don’t want to see what we ended up with or the conditions in which it was prepared. Some of it wasn’t exactly appetizing. Buzz’s description isn’t quite as kind as mine. The falafel is very spicy. I share some of it with Zak, but it’s not the type of high cuisine we’ve become accustomed to. All this happens in a mere 57 minutes. I thought they called it a “lunch hour?”
So that’s the unvarnished truth about my first venture back into the food truck game. Not exactly a stellar maneuver. In the end, I’m feeling just a little over-seasoned, but perhaps the thrill of the hunt has returned. I’m thinking this team of new recruits may be a little unconventional, and they may need a little bit more basic training, but they could have the right stuff. And, maybe we’ll even get to stuff ourselves on Kimchi Tacos some day. ©2011 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved