Food trucks began to shed their roach coach image in the late 2000s as an economy on the downswing made starting or staying in the restaurant business an even tougher game. Increasingly, chefs took their talents on the road. They transformed the austere, white shells of ye olden trucks into recognizable insignias, easy to spot a mile away. They brought diversity, both in terms of culinary training and cuisine. But perhaps the single biggest departure from the food trucks of yore has been the introduction and utilization of social media. There but for the grace of Twitter and websites like roaminghunger.com go Easy Slider, Vegan Noms, Ssahm BBQ and their countless, diesel chugging friends. With an active Facebook and a few friendly municipal regulations on their side, food trucks became something that surpassed convenience. They became things worth driving to. Chase down, even.
And then the Truck Yard opened, converging food trucks with a brick-and-mortar home base. Critics have lamented the fact that the Yard is occupied by two or three of the eight affiliate trucks at any given time, and after it opened it was anyone's guess as to whether the concept would last. Three years later, the Yard seems to have captured enough of the drinking and dining public's imagination to remain viable.
But the Truck Yard wants to capture more than imagination: as of Mother's Day, they are now cornering the Sunday brunch market. This means that late Sunday mornings and early afternoons can be spent lapping up the sunshine on lawn chairs that time forgot while enjoying, uh, something to eat.
It is unclear at this point in time what that something is going to be. A recent visit found three food trucks: Not Just Q, Azucar and Virgin Olive. The latter was the only truck outfitted with a brunch menu. Azucar's sign suggested that one ask about brunch specials, which turned out to be breakfast tacos. Not Just Q, meanwhile, had scrapped brunch altogether, explaining that their attempt the week before had turned out to be a bust.
An embarrassment of choices this was not. But hey, sometimes simplicity is best, right? Simplicity allows the kitchen to truly focus on building and executing dishes to the very best of their ability. This makes even more sense when considering the additional constraints of delivering a meal out of a truck. So when Azucar's brunch consists of scrambled egg tacos with bacon and tater tots, full stop, one should not shrink away from the lack of selection but rather embrace the dearth, knowing it will lead to a fine exemplar of a breakfast taco.
The other possibility is that it will lead to a nearly $9 expenditure on tacos that at best rival those slung from fast food windows, the kind made from scrambled eggs that are poured from a cardboard quart container before being dutifully disguised with shredded cheese that refuses to melt, with tater tots fried until whatever starchy soul they once contained is long, long gone. Nine. Dollars.
The Italian Stallion from Azucar, at $11.50, did not fare better. Granted, it was a substantial amount of food — both from a caloric and a mass standpoint — but beyond its ability to make a Styrofoam container sag like a freshly christened diaper, this stallion summoned nary a whinny. The combination of pancetta, sausage, bacon, onion, peppers, eggs and cheese coalesced atop a chunky potato base to form an inscrutable, grease-laden wedge of a casserole.
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Hollandaise-covered nightmares aside, it is early days for brunch. With time and maybe a change in food truck guard, conditions can improve. And surely they will have to, for the idea of food trucks that serve brunch can only sustain itself for so long without something to eat that's worth driving for.
The Truck Yard, 5624 Sears St.