Lunch trucks are starting to roll on Long Island. Originally a West Coast phenomenon, food-truck cuisine got a major boost this summer when Food Network aired its reality series "The Great Food Truck Race," where seven teams competed for $50,000 and bragging rights.
The shoulders of Nassau and Suffolk's service roads and main thoroughfares have always made room for hot-dog trucks, but now new, more ambitious mobile kitchens are pulling up.
The Lunch Truck
You could hardly have a more ambitious kitchen crew than the one behind The Lunch Truck at Southold's North Fork Table & Inn. The restaurant is one of the Island's very best, but also one of its most rarefied. Lunch is only served on weekends, and dinner starts at $68. The Lunch Truck, which opened for business in the restaurant's parking lot about two weeks ago, is a whole different story.
"The truck is so much less intense," says Claudia Fleming, the restaurant's co-owner, pastry chef and the driving force behind the truck. "Because it's so much less expensive, more of our neighbors can come more often. And I'm getting to know them on a new level because I'm in the truck serving, not back in the kitchen baking."
The truck is open Thursday through Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Prices are, indeed, very gentle - a Hartmann's all-beef hot dog with the works is $5.25; Berkshire-breed pulled pork sandwiches with the works are $6.50; black-bean chili con queso is $5.75; the lobster roll is $14. Claudia's cookies and brownies also are on offer for $1 and $2, respectively.
GHT Rolling Kitchen
Since it opened in 2007, Grey Horse Tavern has committed itself to local and sustainable cooking. According to co-owner Linda Ringhouse, the inspiration for the GHT Rolling Kitchen was "to take our food and our concept on the road." The truck launched in July and since then has done four festivals, including the annual garlic festival at Garden of Eve Organic Farm in Riverhead. Chef Steve Cardello crafts a different menu for each event. His rolling dishes have included adobo-rubbed short-rib taco with peach-tomato salsa, $9, and local eggplant sandwich with San Marzano tomatoes, ricotta and arugula on a ciabatta roll, also $9.
Ringhouse and her partners hope to establish a regular weekday Nassau County location for the truck later this fall. For now, you can find the GHT Rolling Kitchen at this weekend's Huntington Fall Festival at Heckscher Park. For upcoming appearances, follow GHT Rolling Kitchen on Facebook.
Carmine's of Little Italy
Spagnoli and Claremont roads, Old Bethpage (no phone)
Sausage and peppers is standard fare for the Italianate lunch truck, and Carmine's of Little Italy does a fine rendition. But the main event here is the sauteed broccoli rabe, which does both sausages and grilled chicken proud. An overstuffed broccoli-rabe hero with either meat is $8.
Carmine Aquilino, a veteran of the food stands at Little Italy's San Gennaro festival, has run the truck for three years, serving breakfast and lunch along a pretty bleak stretch of Spagnoli-Bethpage Road.
In addition to his signature sandwich, he serves sausage and peppers, and Philly cheesesteaks, $7 each, and big (2 ounces each) Boars Head franks, three for $5.
Hampton Coffee Co. Mobile Unit
869 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill, 631-726-2633, hamptoncoffee.com
The East End's own artisanal roaster operates a custom-built Mercedes Sprinter van equipped with the same coffee equipment and espresso machines used at the Water Mill and Westhampton Beach shops. In addition to the very fine coffee and espresso (hot and cold), the truck sells fruit smoothies and freshly baked muffins, scones and pastries.
The Mobile Espresso Unit is kicking back this fall after a frenetic summer during which it was posted to Montauk's Kirk Park Beach parking lot every day and still managed to show up at almost every big event in the Hamptons.
This Sunday, the mobile unit will be at the Police Athletic League football game at Southampton High School (it's there for most home games). Keep track of the unit at twitter.com/hamptoncoffee.