Over the past few years, food trucks and trailers have become the testing ground for new restaurant concepts and cuisines in Austin. Many offer experimental forms of popular fare or ethnic food that hasn’t quite made it to the mainstream yet (such as Honduran chicken; see Sazon Catracho below). Some evolve into brick-and-mortar restaurants while others occupy a middle ground, establishing a stable presence at food truck parks. Many of the sites are simply a collection of food trucks, but others have additional amenities such as parking, restrooms, and entertainment.
Situated along Barton Springs’ restaurant row, The Picnic has its own parking lot and shaded seating areas with ceiling fans. The Mighty Cone is the most well-known food truck in the group. The Hot ’n Crunchy Chicken cone became a big hit at the Austin City Limits Music Festival a few years ago, and several Mighty Cone food trucks have popped around town since. It’s crunchy chicken with a mango-jalapeno slaw wrapped in a tortilla and served in a large drink cup for portability. Other popular food trucks here include Coat & Thai and Four Brothers Venezuelan Food. (1720 Barton Springs Road)
At one time, South Congress was home to dozens of food trucks on large lots. There are still quite a few, but now they’re tucked into small lots and side streets due to encroaching development. There are a few tables equipped with brightly colored umbrellas at this jam-packed food truck park on South Congress, but parking is hard to find in this part of town. Hey Cupcake! is the main attraction. The most popular flavors are Red Velvet, Vanilla Dream, and Sweetberry. The whimsical decor of the trailer, the park, and the cupcakes make this a cheerful spot for all ages. If you like science and ice cream, or just ice cream, don’t miss The Science Cream trailer, which serves liquid nitrogen ice cream. As they make your ice cream, the liquid nitrogen emits a fog, making the experience seem like a fun science project. The other trailers on site include Pitalicious and Parisian Crepes. (1511 South Congress Avenue)
Located near the old hangar in Lake Park, Mueller Trailer Eats has several shaded park benches and a small parking lot. The must-have delicacy at this food truck park can be found at mmmpanadas. Yes, that’s really the name. Don’t miss the soy chorizo and black bean empanadas. Need even more spice? Try the chicken chile verde with chipotle mayo. You can easily make a meal out of only one of these overstuffed pastries. If it’s comfort food you’re seeking, proceed directly to the Gravy food truck. You can get several varieties of biscuits and gravy as well as full breakfast plates and breakfast sandwiches. (4209 Airport Boulevard)
With 10 trailers, a playscape and plenty of parking, 5000 Burnet is one of the most family-friendly food truck parks in Austin. The Big Kahuna is a big draw here, featuring Hawaiian-influenced food ranging from burgers to blackened tilapia fish tacos with Maui coleslaw and papaya salsa. If you’re looking for spicy Asian food, check out Watzab Thai Food or The B’s Kitchen for Vietnamese fare. For something completely different, Taco Sweets makes ice cream waffle cones shaped like tacos. Why? Just for fun. The most popular creation is a waffle taco filled with chocolate ice cream and Nutella and drizzled with white chocolate. (5000 Burnet Road)
Located directly behind the University Co-Op bookstore, the food court is a favorite among budget-conscious University of Texas students. Parking is virtually impossible near the UT campus, but the area is easily accessible by bus. Jefe’s Street Tacos serves up meat-packed tacos such as carne asada, barbacoa, and carnitas. Bonbon Bahn Mi offers spicy Vietnamese sandwiches and dishes such as vermicelli with pork and spring rolls. For a sweet treat, try Ice Scrapers, which sells fancy rolled ice cream creations and shaved ice. (411 West 23rd Street)
In deep south Austin, the Thicket Food Park is a multifaceted community gathering place. In addition to eight food trucks, there’s a community garden, a yoga area, a playscape and a music stage. The Revolution Vegan Kitchen is a hotspot among vegans in the area. The trailer’s no-meat versions of Philly cheesesteak, buffalo chicken wrap, and al pastor tacos consistently earn high praise. The Blue Corn Shack makes New Mexican-style Mexican food, such as spicy stacked enchiladas, a blue-corn corndog, and sweet bunuelos with ice cream. The Dragon Delights food truck is known for dim sum, chicken dumplings and house-made wonton soup as well as other Chinese delicacies. If you have to wait a while for your food to be ready, why not get a haircut? Just walk on over to the Tiny Barber trailer, and they’ll have you looking sharp within a few minutes. (7800 South 1st Street)
This food truck park is clearly still a work-in-progress, but it’s a promising start. The used car lot next door is an eyesore, but hopefully that will be going away soon. The whole area is in the process of being redeveloped as part of the St. Elmo Public Market. The centerpiece of the new complex will be a huge renovated warehouse that’s directly behind the food truck park. The food trailers are on the grounds of an old motel, and the concrete pads are the foundations of the little cabins that occupied the site long ago. You can even drive right up to your chosen food establishment. Front and center is Picnik, which is built out of an old shipping container, and features an all-paleo menu. Winston’s Kitchen sells mouth-searing jerk chicken and aromatic curry chicken. The Jamaican-style fried fish with veggies is also a solid choice. Louie’s is known for brisket tacos, pulled pork tacos, and the baked potato smothered in brisket. How about Honduran food? Sazon Catracho makes an amazing carne asada with fresh corn tortillas. Another favorite is the fried chicken with sliced bananas. (4329 South Congress Avenue)