Food truck culture is one small part of the attractive food scene in Austin, Texas. And with no shortage of creative chefs within the food truck world, you have to have an excellent menu in order to get an invitation to participate in Trailer Food Tuesdays. From gourmet tacos, to burgers with tomato jam and a fried egg, as well as fresh, organic vegan fair, and desserts to keep you cool; every culture, and every type of food is represented on the city terrace. We’ve pulled three stories and recipes from trucks in our June food truck line up from Tiffany Harelik and Renee Casteel Cook’s food truck cookbook series: The Trailer Food Diaries.
An excerpt from The Best of Trailer Food Diaries
Carlos Acosta was ready to open a small restaurant in Mexico when he and his cousin, and now business partner, Mauricio Davila, then living in San Diego, visited to Austin where they found a burgeoning food truck scene and open and eager customers. Deciding to change course and embark on a mission to “bring a piece of Mexico to Texas,” the pair started Rosarito three years ago, and have developed enough of a loyal following in that short time to open a second truck this year.
While the first truck continues to focus on the original menu of tacos and burritos, the second introduces more vegetarian and seafood options, including tostadas and ceviches. Featuring ingredients like fish, shrimp, octopus and calamari in raw preparations, the new VW bus still leverages the same ingredients and inspiration of Mexico, but will be easier to serve from based on simpler food preparation, despite its smaller size.
While the Austin scene was certainly established in 2014, Rosarito’s hand painted truck became quickly identifiable and developed its customer base through consistent lunch service at office buildings and rotations at breweries like Austin Beer Works, Hops & Grains and Zilker Brewing. Favorite menu items like the Enchilada Taco and Chiles Rellenos kept them coming back, and eventually built into a catering side of the business. Rosarito also became known for its distinctive salsas, ranging from the traditional to spicier combinations like papaya habanero or strawberry habanero with sesame oil. This slight Asian nod is also seen in Acosta’s approach to cooking seafood, especially for the steamed rice bowls with tempura fish or shrimp, which became very popular when added in 2015.
With the goal of introducing a wider range of Mexican culinary heritage as they grow, Acosta has a personal favorite, the Governator taco. A “very important taco,” according to Acosta, it features grilled shrimp with pico de gallo, with a cheese chichiron, a creation Acosta came up with when having a hard time finding a good, reasonably priced Mexican cheese. Playing around with a few options, he found one that when burnt brings out a rich flavor, it was an instant hit and signature offering, often requested by consumers on other dishes, including the calamari taco and off menu tacos al pastor special.
Once both trucks are up and running, Carlos hopes to marry the two menus into an eventual brick and mortar restaurant, giving customers the opportunity to combine the offerings into a surf and turf meal.
Green Shrimp Ceviche Tostada
Courtesy of Carlos Acosta, Rosarito
This street food delicacy combines cool coastal cuisine with heat. Serves 1
4 ½ ounces pickled shrimp (approximately ¼ pound)
¼ tablespoon raw green sauce
1 teaspoon habanero mayo
1 1/3 pounds shrimp, diced
1 ¼ cup lime juice, divided
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
Raw Green Sauce:
1 pound tomatillos
12g chile serrano
2 tablespoons white onion
1 tablespoon cilantro
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt + 1/4 teaspoon
1 pinch of pepper
1 cup mayonnaise
1 habanero with seed
½ teaspoon orange zest
Pinch of salt
To pickle shrimp, combine shrimp, 1 cup lime juice, salt and pepper in a bowl. Marinate refrigerated for 35 minutes. Remove excess lime juice. Add juice of ¼ fresh lime.
Next, make the raw green sauce. Cut the tomatillos in 4 and place in bottom of blender. Add the rest of the ingredients except the cilantro and blend. Add cilantro at the end and keep blending.
Finally, make the habanero mayo by blending mayonnaise, habanero with seed and salt in a blender. Incorporate zest at the end.
To assemble, place pickled shrimp atop tostada, top with raw green sauce and habanero mayo.
An excerpt from Trailer Food Diaries: Austin Volume 3
Although the Garbo’s food truck was new to the Austin scene in February 2013, it wasn’t Heidi Garbo’s first rodeo. Her first concept, Garbo’s Grill Key West, opened in Florida in 2010 as a fish taco/tropical food trailer and remains a great success. Well-known singer Jimmy Buffett and professional surfer Kelly Slater have enjoyed eating there.
“I was working in the medical field and my boss (future mother-in-law) told me that if I wanted to take a couple courses at the local college, she would pay for it,” Heidi explains. “Well, I took business and finance for a semester. My final exam was to make a business plan, and after I drew up a plan, I looked at it and thought, ‘This may actually work!’ The business plan became Garbo’s Grill, which I opened in Key West—and it became a hit. I ended up being the #1 ‘restaurant’ there and writing as the local food critic in the newspaper. Then I got married. That led me to Austin, which coincidentally is the food truck mecca. I ate my way through pizza, Vietnamese and Indian carts, and when my pants didn’t button anymore, I thought the one thing I didn’t see was a lobster truck. It’s very prevalent where I am from in New England, and it only seemed right that Austin should have one. I called my family, who just so happens to be one of the largest distributors of lobster in the world, and told them about my idea. My father’s response was, ‘Great! Get back to work.’ So I did.”
Originally from Connecticut, Heidi had been in Austin just one year before opening Garbo’s, a New England–themed mobile food truck. “My inspiration comes from summers in Rhode Island on Block Island eating lobster rolls, watching the sailboats. My clam chowder is actually my mother’s recipe. Good bacon makes all the difference,” Heidi insists.
“My favorite thing on the menu is my CT Roll. Its star is, of course, the fresh lobster, on which I brush a lemon tarragon drawn butter. This is served on a toasted Sweetish Hill freshly baked bun and served with Cape Cod potato chips, a homemade side and a Maine Root soda.”
One of the best parts of Heidi’s business is discovering people who have eaten at her other food trailer in Key West and then find her truck here. She also loves the direct interaction with the customer. “You will never have this interaction with customers working in the kitchen. This gives me an opportunity to get to know the customer while I serve them.” Also, “the health inspector eats with me all the time,” shares Heidi. “That’s a big compliment.”
“Because of my family background, I am able to get fresh lobster meat shipped to me overnight. That, to me, is the biggest factor. It hasn’t been frozen a year and then thawed out to become a dry, tasteless meat of some sort. I use the best bread, the best high-quality butter, fresh herbs, local produce and I make everything, including the mayo, from scratch. The only thing I don’t do is catch the lobster—my family does that,” Heidi smiles, tempting you to come try her menu.
Truffled Lobster Mac and Cheese
Courtesy of Garbo’s
Garbo’s gets East Coast lobster “from the shore to your door” in their food truck. Those making this recipe at home will want to find the freshest lobster available on the market.
1 pound elbow macaroni pasta
1 stick really good butter (Kate’s if you live in New England)
1 cup white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
½ cup flour
2 bay leaves
1 cup vegetable stock
½ cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar
salt and pepper, to taste
2 pounds cooked claw, tail and knuckle lobster meat
7 tablespoons truffle oil
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1 cup grated Romano cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup parsley, chopped
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta. Cook until al dente and strain.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and add onion and garlic, cooking a few minutes until translucent. Add flour slowly to create a roux while stirring constantly so as not to burn.
Add bay leaves and then slowly add your stock while whisking. Simmer for 15 minutes to thicken, then remove bay leaves.
Add the heavy cream and cheddar, then season with salt (truffled salt is nice) and pepper.
Stir the lobster into the cheese mixture and then add the pasta. Transfer to a greased baking dish and drizzle with truffle oil. Toss breadcrumbs with the Romano and parmesan and top the pasta with it. Bake in oven for 25 minutes. Remove, let stand 10 minutes and top with fresh chopped parsley.