When the Austin food truck scene started to expand about 10 years ago, many saw it as a passing fad. Yet food trucks have now become sort of the city’s food testing lab. Some of them get so popular that the owners proceed immediately to opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant. A few cooks enjoy the simplicity of the food truck lifestyle and don’t have any interest in starting a restaurant. Regardless of their future trajectory, food trucks create excellent platforms for experimentation, and Austinites continue to benefit from all this delicious creativity.
If you want to see your kid get excited beyond all reason, just make a stop at Hey Cupcake. The bright colors, the cool Airstream trailer, the delicious smells; it’s sometimes too much for full-grown adults to handle. 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.
There is a belief among certain sects of foodies that anything served inside a cone is going to be delicious. And while this theory tends to apply to sweet treats, it also holds true at the Mighty Cone, where deep-fried chicken, shrimp, and avocado are served in a delightful tortilla cone. Other options here include sliders, chili-dusted fries and fantastic milkshakes, and the picnic tables in front of the truck make for perfect people-watching. 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 basically consists of crunchy chicken with a mango-jalapeño slaw wrapped in a tortilla and served in a large drink cup for portability.
Veracruz All Natural is one of the many food trucks in Austin giving brick-and-mortar restaurants a run for their money. The migas taco, with pico de gallo and avocado, was rated as one of the Top Five Tacos in America by the Food Network. Get the version with poblano peppers for an extra hint of smoky spiciness. La Reyna is a slightly healthier but equally tasty taco, with egg whites, spinach, jack cheese, carrots and mushrooms. The avocado salsa adds a spicy, creamy touch to any of the tacos.
The hefty tacos at Pueblo Viejo are the perfect way to start your morning or close out the night. The Don Chago is a savory blend of eggs, bacon, avocado, beans, and cheese. If you like a little more spice, go for the Taco Viejo, with chorizo, eggs, potatoes, and beans. A veritable rainbow of salsas can add even more punch to your tacos.
Run by an adorable couple, Granny’s Tacos uses freshly made corn and flour tortillas. The chilaquiles tacos with mole sauce are one of the main reasons for this food truck’s growing popularity. The migas and chorizo-and-egg tacos are also beloved by loyal customers. And if you’ve never had a breakfast taco with cactus slices, this an excellent spot to try your first one; it comes with egg, nopal (prickly pear), spinach, and avocado on a corn tortilla. An array of multicolored salsas are available to put the perfect finishing touch on Granny’s creations.
East Side King’s website claims its food truck fare is so good it will “make your eyes roll back.” The food here is varied and eclectic, ranging from fried Brussels sprout salad to beet home fries to curry buns to Thai chicken karaage (that’s deep-fried chicken thigh, sweet and spicy sauce, fresh basil, cilantro, mint, onion and jalapeño). But even though they serve some high-class fare that would likely cost you $25 in a fine restaurant, everything here runs around $8.
Technically this place is a food truck, although the wide lawn, numerous tables, and happy strings of lights might make you feel more like you’re dining at an open-air café than at a trailer. Either way, the food here is wonderful, with Indian treats such as samosas, naan, tikka masala, korma and saag gracing the menu. Most entrees are $10 or under.
The first thing you need to know is that the doughnuts at Gourdough’s are more expensive than your average 50-cent roll of deep-fried dough. But that’s because rather than being intended as a quick bite with coffee, the doughnuts here are a meal—and a delicious one at that. Menu items include the Mother Clucker (fried chicken strips with honey butter), Flying Pig (bacon with maple syrup icing), Squealing Pig (cream cheese and bacon with strawberry jalapeño jelly), PB&J (grape jelly filling with peanut butter icing and peanut butter morsels) and Heavenly Hash (marshmallow with chocolate fudge icing topped with fudge candy). A doughnut here will run you about $5, but you’ll be full for the rest of the day.
There’s no shortage of breakfast options in Austin, and this is one of the best. This one-time taco stand has now expanded with eat-in restaurants all over town, but the original truck is still around and still the best place to go if you want a quick, quality taco. The truck serves up fantastic homemade tacos with fillings such as green chile pork, fried avocado, fried chicken, smoked beef brisket, scrambled egg with fried poblano chile and Jamaican jerk chicken. Not into tacos? Fajitas, burritos, guacamole, queso and desserts are also available. As with many wildly popular Austin eateries, Torchy’s runs the risk of becoming a victim of its own success. It’s always crowded, but you’ll soon understand why when you taste any of their tacos. Their meal-sized breakfast tacos range from simple (potato, egg and cheese) to decadent (migas taco with eggs, green chiles, corn tortilla chunks, avocado, cheese and pico de gallo). Serious carnivores will enjoy The Wrangler, with smoked beef brisket, eggs, potatoes and tomatillo sauce.
Located in southwest Austin, Via 313 serves Detroit-style pizza. It’s a messy-looking style, roughly square-ish with sauce splattered on top, but you’ll forget about the appearance once you take a bite. The crust is thick yet almost fluffy. Adventurous types rave about The Cadillac, which is topped with fig preserves, prosciutto, and a balsamic glaze. For more standard ingredients, try The Omnivore, with onion, mushroom, pepperoni, and sausage. Via 313 also operates wildly popular food trailers at The Violet Crown Social Club and Craft Pride.
Late at night, the taco craving can become almost irresistible. Instead of settling for sketchy Taco Bell Tex-Mex, however, head to Tyson’s Tacos. Some of the most popular tacos include the Princess Leia (potato, eggs and cheese), the King George (migas, avocado, bacon) and the Diablo Shrimp (shrimp with adobo, Napa cabbage, jalapeño jack, cilantro and tomatillos). Despite the fancy names, the prices are very reasonable. The covered outdoor patio is a relaxing spot to wind down and, if necessary, sober up.
UT students flock here for low-priced breakfast tacos on freshly made flour tortillas. The most popular lunch item is the Street Taco, made with avocado, cilantro, queso fresco, onions and grilled sirloin. Another lunch favorite is the El Señor Crocket taco with Gouda cheese, beef strips and peppers. Vegetarians appreciate El Tree Hugger, a taco made from a veggie burger, onions and peppers.