Whatever the weather decides to do with itself, there will be a span of time this spring and summer where roadside, park-side, or pier-side eating doesn’t sound half bad. Fortunately, options abound: New Jersey has hundreds and hundreds of food trucks—plus food carts and food stands.
For instance, now is the perfect time of year to check out The Celtic Knot, get your Fish and Chips (and fried pickle) fix. And as temps climb, you could easily check out how barbecue champ Alyson Lupinetti and the team at Butch’s Smack Your Lips BBQ are doing. To prep you for food truck season, we’ve put together a handful of options. But there are so many worth discovering, so just use this as a starting point.
“Donuts on wheels”—beautiful words together. Add a scoop of PB&J ice cream, some whipped cream, and sprinkles, things get downright exquisite. That’s the vibe you’ll get from Carnivale Donut Bar, a mobilized pastry purveyor that’s done corporate gigs for Comedy Central. (Yes, you can hire them out, too). It’s not necessarily the place to get your purist’s plain cake doughnut and a cup of black coffee, but something more along the lines of a French Toast Ice Cream Donut Sandwich (they did do a manageable-looking cider doughnut last year). They’re really known for their “Over the Top” Shakes, wherein a full doughnut, plus mounds of other tasty stuff like Oreos and whipped cream, are put “over the top” of a milkshake. Carnivale does events, and with two trucks, they range all over the state.
New Jersey isn’t wanting when it comes to good Puerto Rican food, but finding the best got a little easier when LaLa’s Puerto Rican Kitchen hit the streets. The truck rolls out genuine abuela-inspired “Sabor Boricua” with a menu of time-tested, generation-preserved Puerto Rican flavors and favorites. They have unctuous, meaty Pernil, yes, but they also have chilo (whole red snapper), and sell tons of the classic comfort dish Pollo a la Brasa. Add a mini-army of ever-ready pasteles, empanadas (beef or chicken), or golden brown alcapurrias (fried yuca fritters with beef) and we’ve found a truck to chase after all summer long. What’s super helpful: they’re actively updating their Instagram and website, so you’ll get new locations as well as dish shots, in case you forgot what deliciously double-fried Tostones looked like (the answer is: very, very good).
It’s protein, plus a dozen-plus (yes) sauces, plus seasoned fries. That’s it. And it’s pretty damn magical. The 2 Much Sauce food truck out of Plainfield knows how to keep things simple without losing satisfaction. When you step up to 2 Much Sauce, you just have to choose chicken, fish or shrimp; then you get to the rainbow of sauce options, which range from jerk BBQ to honey chipotle to pineapple garlic. You can also do proteins in bulk, for a party or for when you really, really need a full platter of over-sauced honey yeriyaki chicken wings. If you have room for seasoned fries, they’re reliably crispy and salty. Get a lemonade to go with it, plant yourself in some sunshine, and pretend like it’s May instead of March.
Yes, it’s the “first and only authentic Thai food truck in all of New Jersey,” but the food Aroy-D, the Thai Elephant food truck is also just plain good. That’s not a major surprise; there are serious chops behind the near nine-year-old food truck (and its sister restaurant in Verona). Chef Pupay is a Thai transplant who attended the Culinary Institute of Bangkok; her husband Jon Hepner is the founder of the New Jersey Food Truck Association, so you know you’re rolling with some Jersey food truck street cred here. More importantly, the Thai food is as fragrant and savory as you’d get in a really good restaurant. You can get a fragrant, mildly sweet Masaman Curry (which yes, can taste better roadside), a nutty Pad Cashew with chicken, or something as sublimely simple as tender Moo Ping (pork satay) with sweet hot chili sauce. (In warm weather, keep an eye out for the seasonal Mango Sticky Rice drenched in coconut milk.) Alas, the truck is doing limited service through winter; you can check the right-hand side of the restaurant website for updates. As temps warm, Spicy Basil sauce-drenched Drunken Noodles should start, well, flowing.
To say chef Jeremiah Echeandia is hungry is an understatement. The chef has a quarter-century of professional kitchen experience under his belt, all of which he’s turned into a busy schedule with Chef J’s Latin Dragon food truck. Bear in mind that “Latin” is at the core, but flavors range as wide as the season and chef’s imagination, e.g. Chorizo Vegan Dumplings with Saffron-Soffrito Sweet and Sour Sauce, Chicken Adobo Flatbread Pizza with Avosabi (avocado + wasabi) Mayo, and Korean BBQ Baby Back Ribs with Sticky Jersey Spirits Bourbon sauce. We’re also intrigued by the Dragon Ball, with Pernil, Smoked Ham, Swiss, and Saffron Rice. Echeandia is heavy into farm-to-truck, so keep an eye on the chef’s Instagram for new dishes.
If the idea of “handheld pot pie” from Down Under makes you uncomfortable, get comfy quick, because you’re missing out on a whole world of gut-bliss food. Lucky for you, there’s a food truck actively on a mission to proselytize the savory Aussie pie way of life—The Flying Pie Guy. Chef Mike Peacock found his calling (selling Australian and New Zealand-style savory, pastry-encased pies out of a truck) later in life, but the truck he first started up in 2016 is still rolling its way around New Jersey. Though don’t let the concept make it seem too simple: yes, the pastry is flaky golden brown, but inside is real depth of flavor, with fillings like Australian and New Zealand grass-fed steak in beer gravy; a hedonist’s mixture of ground beef, smoked bacon, and cheddar; or summer-ready pulled pork in smoky barbecue sauce. Thank goodness for handheld pie wannabes, Peacock and his truck make it all over the state, so check in with Instagram for upcoming events and new fillings.Click here to leave a comment