New York City has more than 500 food trucks. Boston has almost 60. And now, Israel has one.
In July, the “Auto-Ochel” (or “FoodTrip”) hit the streets of Jerusalem on its first stop of a three-week run. Part food truck and part pop up, this mobile kitchen has been stopping in different neighborhoods each day, serving up halal (lawful) dishes chosen by a local celebrity, including athletes, television personalities and popular chefs. Each guest host works with Israeli chef Assaf Granit to create a dish that tells a story about his or her relationship with the city. In its run, the truck has featured Tunisian food with TV personality Jacki Levy, chicken tarragon with artist Michael Kishka, and eggplant in tomato sauce with politician Ruby Rivlin.
The project is sponsored by Jerusalem Season of Culture, a summer-long celebration of local artists that creates unique cultural experiences for the people of the Holy City. The truck’s reception has been so popular that the organizers decided to wait until the day of to announce its location via text message or social media. And even so, the crowd that gathers at every appearance is overwhelming.
That crowd is a big reason the Jerusalem Season of Culture is doing this. According to its website, the organization hopes the FoodTrip will serve to highlight the “socio-culinary tastes, recipes, interactions and challenges in the city that we all love so much.” It’s as much about the community as it is about the food.
That’s one of the best things about food trucks; they show a city’s breadth and diversity. Boston is a great example of this. Food trucks have boomed over the last few years, and our streets are now dotted with street food of every variety. Visit their websites, and they all mention how important the link between community and food is in the food-truck world.
So consult this list below of some of my favorites and then go track one down. Consider it your tastiest civic duty!
Vietnamese-inspired fare with a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the works.
Best Known For: Their banh mi sandwiches
Underrated Menu Item: The beverages—especially my favorite, spicy-ginger lemonade
Boston boys slinging creative and Food Network-approved grilled cheese sandwiches.
Best Known For: The Mighty Rib (fontina, braised short rib and caramelized onions)
Underrated Menu Item: Summer Curried Veggie (Swiss cheese, roasted summer squash and zucchini, grilled red onion and beer mustard, which is not exactly underrated, but time-sensitive, so get it before the summer’s over)
MeiMei Street Kitchen
Three siblings offer modernized, sustainable versions of their favorite childhood Chinese dishes.
Best Known For: The Double Awesome (a scallion pancake sandwich with house-made pesto, Vermont cheddar cheese and two slow poached eggs)
Underrated Menu Item: Magical Kale Salad (local kale, rice wine vinaigrette, garlic panko, sea salt feta cheese and a slow poached egg)
Simple, vegetarian dishes that use local, fresh ingredients. (They’re also currently back up and running after a foodborne illness scare. Read the latest in the archives of their blog.)
Best Known For: Fried Chickpea Fritter and Rosemary Fries
Underrated Menu Item: Soy BLT (seitan instead of the “B”) and fried pickles (one of their rotating 3 p.m. specials)
Authentic Asian street food from locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.
Best Known For: Cold peanut or sesame noodles (fresh noodles tossed in your choice of sesame or peanut dressing, topped with a special hot sauce)
Underrated Menu Item: The menu is small and the truck was just named the No. 1 food truck in New England, so each dish has its well-deserved fans
*Photo of FoodTrip from the Jerusalem Season of Culture Facebook page