October 22, 2010

Conscious Cravings

- Location:  Longhorn Food Court - 1901 Rio Grande St. - @Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
- Hours: Monday -Saturday: 11 AM - 8 PM
- Telephone: 512-782-0546
- Website: www.consciouscravingsaustin.com / Facebook: Conscious Cravings / Twitter: ConsciousCrvngs

- Cuisine: Vegetarian

Rishi Dhir spent four years as an auctions trader on the Philly stock exchange before looking for something more laid back to do.  As a vegetarian, he had created unique recipes based on his own dietary needs and thought he had something that might hold up with the general public.  As such, he heard about Austin and the trailer food scene and opened Conscious Cravings in August of 2010.  His menu is mostly hot wraps and cold sandwiches.  Rishi loves to eat the Black Bean Slider Wrap, and his customers report the Chimmichurri Seitan Wrap is sure to please.

The name Conscious Cravings was developed to inform people the food is healthy while also being short and catchy.  What does Rishi say the best part about Conscious Cravings is? “The fact that I’m allowing people to have affordable healthy tasty food that is not offered widely.  It’s cheap, healthy, organic, and environmentally food.”

the Zubikhouse

Location & Hours: 
  Tuesday - Friday: 8 AM - 2PM - 3447 Northland Dr.  
  Saturdays: 9 AM - 1 PM - 4th and Guadalupe @Austin Farmers Market
- Telephone: 512-751-1989
- Facebook: The ZubikHouse
- Cuisine: Texas Czech - kolaches, sandwiches, dessert

Andy Zubik and his brother Jason have been in business with the Zubikhouse in October or 2009.  With over 20 years of experience in the food industry roaming from Austin to Durango, Houston and beyond Andy came up with a mouth watering menu for his Texas Czech cuisine.  So how does he make this seemingly contradictory fusion work? “Kolaches and other traditional items that are a pretty big staple in Czech cuisine have a lot of weight to them. German/Polish/Hungarian winters are so long that they eat a lot of meat potato dishes.  But when you get to Texas and have 7 months of heat, it doesn’t translate as easily.  You have to be more creative with the heat.  For example, we do fried strawberries and chipotle pecan pie ice cream.  At some point the chef goes back to their roots –what they grew up with, what they started cooking.”

Andy is a big advocate for local business and leads by example by buying from local farms such as Full Quiver, Richardson, Fredericksburg beef, Slovacek and Kocurek.  He says, “If you want a good strong economy you have to have a strong local economy – I can do my part with my business by buying local products.  If I have my way, we will get nothing but local products and keep those dollars here and not sending them overseas or far away.”

Turf N Surf Po'Boys

- Location: Downtown - 2nd St. & South Congress Ave.
- Hours: Sunday - Wednesday: 10 AM - 3 PM
               Thursday - Saturday: 10 AM - 3 PM / 5 PM - 3 AM
- Number: 512-965-4679
- Website: www.turfnsurfpoboy.com / Facebook: Turf N Surf Po’ Boy
- Cuisine: Sandwiches - po'boys, to be exact

photo credit: JTpics.com
I liked cooking before cooking was cool,” states Ralph Gilmore of Turf n Surf Poboys.  Ralph brings his background not only in the restaurant industry but also his experience in designing and building custom homes and choppers to the table as the designer and chef of his trailer that is currently located downtown.  After buying the most raw and rustic unit he could find, he began molding the cart with a turf and surf feel.  The majority of the items on his décor are recycled and he used less than 5% of wood in his build-out.  Continuing with the overall green feel of his food trailer, Ralph buys his produce locally.  “I just wanted to do something that gives back to the people,” he explains about his choice to buy from Austin-area farmers.  

Most proud of his fried shrimp, it is also his best-seller.  Having opened in April of 2010, he has some advice for new vendors: “Watch out for August.  The heat factor, getting back to school, and last minute vacations puts you in the hole if you don’t have the capitol to get through it.  But if it’s your dream, stay with it.”

I don't think Ralph is hiring, but as the sign states - I will work for poboys!
photo credit: JTpics.com

Short Bus Subs

- Location: Roving - follow website and twitter to learn location
- Hours: Tuesday - Saturdays: hours vary according to location
- Number: 512-535-7827
- Website: www.shortbussubs.com / Facebook: Short Bus Subs / Twitter: ShortBusSubs
- Cuisine: Sandwiches

Eric Klusman hails from a sandwich shop family in the Midwest but he got to Austin as quick as he could.  Alongside his brother Dane and business partner Ryan Campion, the three opened “Short Bus Subs” in August of 2009.  The concept to serve cleverly named quality sandwiches out of the window of a 23-foot school bus actually came to Eric in a dream.  After the economy had crashed, he decided instead of opening a shop he would do something a little less expensive so the Short Bus Subs idea was born.

“The Principal” is Eric’s personal favorite item and he claims to eat one everyday.  Similar to a club, it has swiss, bacon, ham, turkey, roast beef, Dijon, lettuce and tomato.  “The Bully” is probably their best seller, which is their version of an Italian sub.  With six vegetarian sammies to select, the “Hot Teacher” sells like hot cakes and includes a tomato/garlic pesto spread with mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, and marinated/roasted Portobello’s.  The bus does not have one location.  They roam freely to catering events and deliver to offices.

Sugar Shack BBQ

- Location: UT Campus area - 24th & San Antonio St.
- Hours: Monday - Friday: 7 AM - 7 PM
- Number: 512-464-1151
- Website: www.sugarshackbbq.com / Facebook: Sugar Shack BBQ 
- Cuisine: BBQ, breakfast tacos

Sugar Shack BBQ was started out of a love for 70’s retro music and back yard bar-b-ques by partners Mark Avalos and Mark Stimak.  If you’re thinking about joining Mark and Mark in the Trailer Food revolution, they have some words of wisdom, “Don’t get fooled by places that have a lot of car traffic.  That’s the number one misconception.  If you see a place that has a ton of cars driving by you think that place will do well – but really foot traffic is the key.”  Indeed, Sugar Shack gets plenty of foot traffic at their log-cabin-shack on wheels which is a favorite place for many students to eat just behind Dobie mall on UT campus.

Playing with the college environment and their theme, their menu includes fun items like the Notorious PIG and the Bama Jammma.  The Sugar Shack’s best seller is their pulled pork with a mustard base cole slaw followed closely by their chicken breast sandwich with a white BBQ sauce.   White sauce you say? That’s right, the guys at Sugar Shack love all kinds of BBQ, not just Texas-style.  Their white sauce is a mayo-based  Alabama-style BBQ-sauce along with 6 or 7 other ingredients.  Not available in bottles yet, their red BBQ sauce is also a fan favorite. 

Torchy's Tacos

- Location: South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery - 1311 S. 1st St - @Elizabeth 
                   Other, various locations can be found on their website. 
- Hours: Monday-Wednesday: 7 AM - 10 PM / Thursday & Friday: 7AM - 11 PM / Saturday: 8 AM - 11 PM / Sunday: 8 AM - 10 PM
- Number: 512-366-0537
- Website: www.torchystacos.com / Facebook: Torchy’s Tacos / Twitter: TorchyTaco
- Cuisine: Tacos - breakfast, lunch & dinner

Ask anyone in Austin where their favorite place to grab a taco is and you’ll likely hear “Torchys!” in response.  Torchy’s five founding partners are Bob, Farrell, Rebecca, and Jay with Mike Rypka as the chef behind the team.  Having been a chef at MTV, Dell, Chuys, Lucy’s Boat Yard and beyond, putting together delectable flavor combinations with tacos as the vehicle was right up his alley and his consistently good recipes are the reason behind Torchy’s rapid success.  In addition to their trailer, they now have multiple other brick and mortar locations and have expanded into other cities. 

Down at the South Austin Trailer Park and Eatery where Torchy’s trailer sits, you can enjoy tacos under the shade of the Live Oak trees that overlooks Bouldin Creek.  The names of their tacos are equally shady with such crowd favorites like the Dirty Sanchez.  In addition to their normal menu, you can look for such specialty items like their Turkey taco with mole during November.  What should you get?  The ‘brushfire’ and the ‘fried avocado taco’ is hot on my list.


- Location: Roving - follow website and twitter to learn location
- Hours: Roaming everyday - hours vary according to location
- Number: 512-743-7601
- Website: www.eatcoolhaus.com /  Facebook: COOLHAUS Ice Cream Sandwiches /Twitter: coolhaus_AUSTIN

- Cuisine: Dessert - ice cream sandwiches!

Christine Aldrich & Nathan Hathaway were friends for many years and partners in life before picking up the torch for Coolhaus, a choose your own ice cream and cookie adventure in the trailer food business in early 2010.   In a merge of food and architecture, Nathan made the 1984 vintage mail truck from Los Angeles what it is today.  With a background in food and a love for baking, Christine manages the flavors that are as non-traditional as they are delicious.

Despite Christine’s claims to be a baker-extraordinaire, since she is producing and selling in such large volume she doesn’t get to make the cookies and creams herself.  With personal favorite items on the menu like mascarpone and balsamic fig on snickerdoodle or coffee toffee on a chocolate cookie, rest assured many hours of quality control have gone into consideration of their super fine menu. 

Perhaps Nathan’s love to scream for ice cream was founded during his first job as a dishwasher at age 15.  He and crew purchased a 5 gallon bucket of mint chocolate chip that they would eat a heaping bowl every day in the pursuit of satiating their appetites.  Christine also has fond ice cream memories including ice cream socials on Sunday afternoons in Michigan, or the ice cream shop that her University ran via their dairy.  Regardless of where they got their sweet tooth, Christine and Nathan can be found roaming the streets and events of Austin with Coolhaus.

Juan Pelota Coffee Truck

- Location & Hours:
   Coffee Truck: Roves to sporting events - location & hours vary accordingly
   Cafe at Mellow Johnny’s: Downtown @4th St. & Nueces
- Telephone: 512-473-0222
- Website: www.mellowjohnnys.com/juan-pelota-cafe  / Facebook: Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop / Twitter: juanpelotacafe
- Cuisine: Coffee

Affiliated with hometown hero Lance Armstrong, the Juan Pelota coffee truck made its debut in April of 2010 to fill a void in providing snacks and drinks at bike races.  The truck drove out to the Tour of Gila in New Mexico where it served contestants, staff and volunteers under a variety of weather conditions.  Post Gila, the truck went on to the AMGEN tour in California before making it’s way back to local triathlons and  bike race events such as the Mellow Classic at Lance’s ranch.  

The Juan Pelota coffee truck is an off-shoot of the Juan Pelota Café, which is located in Mellow Johnny’s bike shop by la zona rosa downtown.  The rustic yet modern building used to the be the old Pearl distributing center before blooming into a community bike shop and café where commuters can even bike in and shower before heading out for the work day.  In addition to races and special events, the coffee truck goes out to ‘the driveway’ every Thursday night just off 183.

October 4, 2010

Kronic Krave Arepas

- Location: Downtown - 5th & Colorado St.
- Hours: Thursday – Saturday: 7 PM – 4 AM
- Telephone: 606-369-5860 / 814.206.4090 / 512.968.0769
- Facebook: Kronic Krave Arepas / Twitter: kronickrave
- Cuisine: Sandwiches ...in an arepa-pocket

Brothers Nicolas and Andres Pombo, along with their friend Juan Carlos Delgado, opened Kronic Krave Arepas in September of 2010.  In addition to providing traditional Colombian mouth-watering arepas, Nicolas sees their food trailer as a way to share something nice about their Colombian culture. 

If you were to travel in Colombia today, you would find many different versions of the arepas the young men grew up on depending on what region you are visiting. An arepa is a cornbread-South-American version of a pita pocket that contains whatever fillings and flavors the consumer desires.  For Nicolas and Juan Carlos, their favorite arepa is the “Blondie”, which combines pulled chicken, guacamole and Monterey jack for the filling.  Andres might say his favorite is the “Don Pablo” which has pulled chicken, kronic sauce, feta and sweet plantains, or the “Mystic” which has sweet plantains, guacamole and feta.  In addition to the three described, Kronic Krave also offers two pulled beef arepas: the “Mariachi” which is embellished with cheddar cheese, and the “Carribbean Craze” which adds sweet plantains to the mariachi. 

The two brothers grew up in Bogota with a population of 8 million people, and their partner grew up in Barranquilla, where Shakira is from.  They all came to the states for a college education.  Nicolas completed a degree in industrial engineering from Penn State and his younger brother Andres is currently attending the University of Texas for supply chain management.  They have a third brother, Miguel, who is in law school in Bogota, where their parents live as well.  The entire Pombo family enjoys water skiing as a hobby and Andres is on the UT ski team as a competitive sport.  Juan Carlos graduated with a degree in finance from Arizona State.

The political climate in Colombia is changing with the inauguration of a new President in August of 2010.  The effect has been a diminishing of the terrorist groups and guerilla activity, although displaced families due to drug trafficking remains an issue.  Nicolas remembers being in high school and offering mentorship programs as a service to a smaller school for displaced children.  In fact, if you are interested in supporting displaced families due to the drug wars in Colombia, please contact one of these organizations: UNICEF or ACNUR which are international organizations, or Antioquia Presente is a local one from Medellin.  The Pombo family as well as Juan Carlos would consider travel to Colombia safe at this time and hope you will take a taste of the Colombian cuisine as a positive thing from their beautiful country.

Hat Creek Burger, Co.

- Location & Hours: 
  Burger Bus: Roves to UT sporting events - location & hours vary accordingly. Follow website and twitter to learn location.
  Hat Creek Burger, Co.: 5400 Burnet Rd. 
- Telephone: 512-732-2025
- Website: www.hatcreekburgers.com / Facebook: Hat Creek Burger Co. / Twitter: hatcreekburger
- Cuisine: Burgers

Hometown hero Drew Gressett grew up here in Austin and graduated from the University of Texas before doing a fair amount of traveling between DC, Dallas and China with a real estate venture.  But he had always had a dream of owning a hamburger stand and decided it was now or never when he opened Hat Creek Burgers in October of 2008 with no regrets. 

Drew says his mom taught him how to make his first burger.  “She always cooked a typical backyard burger with thicker patty – but ours are thinner.  Manageability of a smaller burger, that’s our angle at Hat Creek.”  His favorite way to eat a “Big Hat” burger is with American cheese and ketchup only.  The size of the hat refers to the size of the burger: the “Big Hat” has two 1/5 lb patties while the “Little Hat” is one 1/5 lb. patty.  They offer four cheeses to choose from including American, Cheddar, Pepper Jack and Swiss.  Drew says the premise of their product is a super fresh hand-pattied burger whose meat has never seen a freezer.  “Freezers are for ice cream,” he says.  His burgers have fresh cracked pepper, and are all natural with no hormones, no antibiotics, all vegetarian fed beef.
While Hat Creek started out as a trailer, they moved into a brick and mortar building in 2009 and now use the trailer for special events such as UT baseball games.  Drew mentions a good point in that “the mobile trailer is such a great platform to eventually get into a brick and mortar, and then for a brick and mortar, it’s good to expand business with a mobile unit.”  Coach Barnes and Coach Brown are among two of Drew’s guests.  His employees love the burgers so much, that one of them commenced to eating a 10-patty Big Hat after clocking out. 

The name Hat Creek refers to one of Drew’s favorite books and movies: Lonesome Dove, which contains the Hat Creek Cattle Company.  The real Hat Creek is a trout fishing stream in northern
California, and although he hasn’t been yet, Drew does love to fly fish when he’s not at the grill.

The Peached Tortilla

- Location: Roving - follow website, facebook, and/or twitter to learn location
- Hours: Tuesday - Saturdays: hours vary according to location
- Telephone: 512-761-3241
- Website: www.thepeachedtortilla.com / Facebook: The Peached Tortilla / Twitter: peached tortilla
- Cuisine: Fusion Tacos

The Peached Tortilla is former lawyer Eric Silverstein’s mobile truck that is serving gourmet asian/southern fusion through the medium of street food.  Born in Japan, and having traveled thoroughly around Asia, Eric was exposed to a variety of cultures and cuisines.  At the age of ten, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia which offered a new range of ingredients and flavors.  “When I started that concept made sense to mingle those two cultures,” says Eric.  His personal favorite item on the menu is the Banhmi taco, which uses pork belly that is brined and braised served with a pickled daikon carrot salad with sirracha mayo and cilantro.

I asked Eric to explain the name, the Peached Tortilla, and he said, “It originates from Georgia roots because it’s the peach state.  The word “peached” is something that allows you to define it yourself.  To us, ‘peached’ is to get flavor smitten – we want people to get ‘peached’.  The tortilla ties in with tacos.  We also want to separate ourselves out from corporate America and this name was one way to do that. “

Eric represents the rebel version of entrepreneurs who aren’t satisfied working for someone else.  After discussing a
new city with his girlfriend and much research on his concept, Eric quit his job and three weeks later they moved to Austin and opened the Peached Tortilla.  Why Austin?  “We felt like it was a really open minded city open to eating from a food truck.  There was already a tremendous amount of growth in trailer food industry, the city is growing, the economy is doing well, my concept is different and Austin likes different.”  Currently, Eric is dishing up his gourmet fusion at multiple locations.