June 22, 2010

Frankly Austin: the weirdest weiner in Texas

 Eddie Eppright had a twist in fate when he was laid off from his job at a law firm in May of 2009.  The economy had hit bottom and upon a trip to New York to visit his in-laws he was inspired to pursue the hot dog cart idea.  Although there were already places to get hot dogs in town, Eddie has a real passion for Austin and wanted to do something authentic with local products.  So he found a butcher in Taylor who makes all natural beef dogs and smoked sausages and opened up his stand in September of 2010. 

He recommends the Bevo dog, which is his version of a jumbo hot dog with chili and cheese on it.   Another crowd favorite is the ‘weirdest weiner’, which has chili, cheese, brown mustard and jalapenos.
Both Eddie and his wife Shannon are of Irish descent, and they bring 2 ½ year old Eamon (which is Irish for Edward) to special events.  Little Eamon can be see hawking dogs with the best of them, shouting “Hot dogs! Best hot dogs in town!” and drawing people to his father’s business.  After the couple married, they sat down with a map of the United States and wanted to pick somewhere that was warmer and more laid back than DC, and they ended up in Austin in 2005.
How does Eddie like the change of pace?  In his words, “I just like meeting people.  I always had a customer service mentality.  I like to keep my customers happy and have good conversations with people from all walks of life, plus its fun being my own boss.” 


 Former professional poker player Tony Alvarez started his Smokilicious BBQ trailer on a whim in February of 2010.  In Tony’s words, “I’ve always had a passion for cooking, and being from Texas, I have a passion for BBQ.  When I left Texas in 2003 for Reno, I was not finding the BBQ I was accustomed to and used to and what I thought was the best.  When I came back home to visit, I would get my fill of BBQ and good Tex Mex food before heading back.”  Tony comes by his culinary expertise honestly, having worked in kitchens and bars for about 18 years both in private restaurants and corporate chains.  After noting the trailer food culture was taking off, he decided that Austin was the perfect place to try his hand at perfecting his BBQ recipes before trying to launch his product and business.  So he built a trailer and put all his passion into it.

The smoked brisket is his favorite item to cook and to eat.  In addition to brisket being his art and his challenge, it’s his best-seller.  Tony explains, “It’s on our breakfast and lunch menu and outsells every item 2:1.  When I first started with the trailer, I was only going to do lunch and I was getting there early to start smoking meat (8-12 hours).  I would get there early and have people come up and say ‘it smells good’ – and ask if I had breakfast tacos.” So Tony’s breakfast menu was born.  He started with the traditional bacon, egg and cheese tacos but the people wanted brisket.  It’s hard to choose a traditional taco when you smell Tony’s brisket.  The popular thing to do is to replace brisket as the breakfast meat in the taco at Smokilicious. 

A third generation Austinite, Tony tries to buy everything as local as possible.  If he has to buy from a grocer, he buy’s from our Austin-owned-and-operated grocery store (City Market).  He buys ‘Smoky Denmark’ sausage that is made here in town, and he Moonlight Bakery on South Lamar for all of his rolls on his sliders.  Even his drinks are local with Hill Country water, Teas of Texas, and Ruta Maya coffee. Tony says, “If I can get an item that is local that is what ill use; we try to recycle and do everything we can to be green and stay local.”
BBQ was always big in his family.  He learned most of his cooking from his dad and uncles.  “From the very beginning I was interested in the cooking aspect.  What it used to taste like is what I shoot for now.  I know I got it right when it tastes like something I grew up with,” Tony says.  “Im learning so much even though ive been doing it for awhile – its something I continue to learn – its not like a job to me, I enjoy it and ‘get’ to do it.”  The trailer allows him to stay involved in the food industry while also giving him the flexibility to travel.  Tony still travels back to Vegas and Reno to put on his poker face, but since business has picked up he’s playing more on border towns in Texas and online gaming.


- Location: Roving - follow website and twitter to learn location
- Hours: Everyday - hours vary according to location
- Website: www.chilantrobbq.com / Facebook: Chilantro BBQ / Twitter: chilantrobbq

- Cuisine: fusion tacos

From bus boy to working at fast food Chinese restaurants to starting his own business at age 21, Jae Kim has always been involved in the food industry.  His family ran a food business when we has young in Korea.  “I remember growing up in the back of the kitchen,” Jae says.  His aunt and other relatives also owned restaurants and they were able to give him a lot of good advice, knowing the ups and downs of the business.

Born in Korea, raised in Orange County, California, his coffee shop “the Foothill Café” is where he found is true passion for the service and food industry.  The concept for Jae’s Korean/Mexican fusion food trailer came from his background with a large population of Koreans and Hispanics.  “I grew up with burritos and Korean food,” he says, “and the reason I wanted to do it in Austin is because Austin is culturally diverse; Austin welcomes the trailer scene and they want to try something new – this is the best location I can think of in Texas that would welcome this idea – so I put the ingredients together and did research; experimented with friends and family – and opened a truck.”

Jae’s beef dishes are sweet and smoky, while his pork dishes are spicy.  He finds that different locations have different preferences on fair and sells a good amount of tofu and vegetarian dishes as well.  You can get any of these in  taco, burger or burrito form.  Jae’s personal favorite is either beef or pork tacos.

Jae’s advice for other vendors starting out is first to have patience, and second to have determination.  “I made nine dollars my first day, four dollars my second.  So patience is the number one key… Sometimes it gets tough; you have to be really determined to serve the customers regardless of the weather and the situation…  It doesn’t matter if we have one customer, we are still going to go out there and serve; we keep our promise with our customers.”

Bar-BQ Heaven

Glen at BBQ Heaven has been involved in the BBQ business for over thirty years with his brother.  His father and grandfather had café’s and night clubs while he was growing up in the early 70’s.  Glen says he remembers going down to the café as a little boy: “I’d go down and stick my hand in the pots and my dad would call me over to stir the beans or stir the bbq sauce and turn the brisket.”  He got his first job washing dishes at G&M catering in Austin when he was seven years old and progressed through the ranks of the industry from cooking, catering, bar tending, to baking.  When he was 20, Glen opened his first restaurant on
East Martin Luther King Blvd where friend of his family had a corner store and owned the whole block.  After five years, he left Austin and worked in catering for the Houston Astro’s off season training camp in Orlando, Florida for seven years.  He returned to Austin to take care of his mother, so he started with BBQ again.

“I don’t care about the money, the only thing is to live my life right by God – that’s what’s important to me.  My customers – I tell them - ‘ I work for you’ if I didn’t have a customer I wouldn’t have a business – it’s important to me to make them happy, laugh, joke.  We live to make people happy – its about the community, its about the people – that’s what we live for, that’s what we enjoy doing, and we enjoy giving good service.”   Their community is made up of the university crowd including a lot of UT basketball and football players, people who live and work down town, and people who work in the service industry.  Being where they are, there are a lot of pan handlers, but Glen feels it is his job to make his customers feel safe and protected and addresses any problems by coming out of the trailer himself.  The students that come down know they can relax and eat a good meal without getting hassled. 

Brisket is Glen’s personal favorite item on the menu.  In his words of infinite BBQ wisdom, “Brisket – I love to cook it, it’s like a baby – you gotta babysit it for 16 hours – move it around, rub it, play with it… you gotta put time in and be patient, you gotta make it taste good  - that’s my theory right there.”

Trailer Perk

Working and living on the ‘East side’, Monica and Kasey MaGee found themselves looking for something else for breakfast and lunch.  Although they love their breakfast tacos like any red-blooded Texan, they wanted variety.  Opening Trailer Perk presented an opportunity for first-time restaurateurs to enter the food industry in a realistic and feasible approach. 

Monica and Kasey met at the Ritz downtown when they were in college at the University of Texas.  Upon their graduation, they moved to the big apple where there was an international variety of food at their fingertips on every street corner.  Four years later, they were ready to return to the city where they met to enjoy the outdoors, canoeing and gardening.  Each has their own individual businesses, but this is their only business where they are both active partners. 

When you walk up to their 1969 Airstream to order, you’ll hear NPR playing in the background for a touch of sophistication in the park.  Monica’s favorite item on the menu is the Trashy Melt, which offers ham, cheddar, chipotle mayo and avocado pressed.  While Kasey’s favorite is the sandwich he named after himself.  The Kasey Shane consists of provolone, chimmichurra, roast beef, and lettuce on wheat.  While these two sandwiches are excellent choices, Monica reports it is their Aunt Francis that is the best-seller.  This features their homemade pesto on top of turkey, swiss, sprouts, and tomato on sourdough.  In addition to homemade pesto, they also make their own chimmichurri and hummus at the Trailer Perk.  The best part of it all for the MaGee’s is seeing all the faces and getting to know people in their community.

Meso Hungry

Business owners Christina Alonso, who was previously in interior design, and Eric Ariola, former financial planner opened up Meso Hungry in January of 2009.  Their unique culinary concept evolved from a blend of the flavors they grew up with having their familial roots in Cuba, Vietnam and Lao.  Christina’s mother had a large role in the start up and contributing her peanut sauce recipe as well as the naming of the trailer.  She speaks seven languages, and ‘me so hungry’ is one of her endearing phrases. 

A vegetarian since 1999, Eric’s favorite item on the menu is the “Sweet Shroom” which consists of Jewish rye, covered in homemade vegan ‘Sadie sauce’, portabella mushrooms sautéed with sweet Chile and olive oil, some Chinese BBQ sauce, fried egg, fresh sprouts, greens, carrots, cilantro and hot sauce.  What’s ‘Sadie sauce’ you ask?  This sauce was developed out of necessity, Eric explains, “I don’t like giving away dry vegan sandwiches.  So the sauce went through about 4 or 5 trials, and when I had it right, I named it after my dog ‘Sadie’.” Sadie is a lab mix the couple rescued.

While Eric is chowing down on the Sweet Shroom, you can find Christina munching on their Pork Banhmi, which is also their crowd favorite.  This sandwich is made on Mexican French Bread (pan de francais), covered in sweet cilantro mayonnaise (made fresh every morning), BBQ pork, fresh cucumber, jalapenos, pickled carrots, cilantro and hot sauce. 

What does Eric have to say to new trailer food vendors? “Just because your hours say you’re open from 11-7, that doesn’t mean that’s all you have to work .  We are open 120 hours, but I’m working 150 hours per week with prep and clean up.   If it’s something you love and are passionate about go for it, don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have experience or its too hard – it can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.  I’ve worked in politics and finance and I have never gone home more satisfied.”

June 10, 2010


Cody and Kristen Fields haphazardly fell into the empanada business in March of 2008.  Prior to concocting delicious flavor pockets with a tex mex flair, Cody was building wastewater treatment plants in Costa Rica.  It was there in Central America that he found his love of eating empanadas and a seed was planted.  Upon his return to the states he met Kristen in Austin and decided he wanted to stay. After working the grind in a cube at a bank, Cody and Kristen started plotting his escape.  As fate would have it, they stopped in to the Nomad, their neighborhood bar one day before it's opening.  While the owner gave them a tour of the place, Kristen and Cody were joking around about empanadas.  As if on cue, the bar owner shared that his 'empanada guy fell through'.  So the next day, it was Cody's third time and Kristen's first to make empanadas and they churned out about 6 dozen.  The bar owner loved the product and everything snowballed from there.  Six months later they found a truck on ebay, bought it with a credit card and they were in the empanada business.

Something that makes mmmpanadas unique from the majority of the trailer scene in Austin is that they are using a roving trailer to promote their product, which is currently available in grocery stores.  Their trailer is a 23 foot long moving billboard that also generates cash flow.  Cody's personal favorite item on the menu is also their best-seller: the green chile chicken.  Kristin's favorite is the spicy black bean.  Readers please note that the Fields' love for spicy food and flavor isn't overkilled in their products.  They have a simple philosophy of making things the way they like to eat them with four ingredients or less.  Mmmpanadas has served the likes of Matthew McConaughey and the lead singer of the Stone Temple Pilots and they are available for business lunches and festivals.

June 6, 2010


Eric Wolf, owner of Lovejoy's in downtown Austin, opened his Frietkot fries trailer after much market research and development.  His concept is European in nature.  Having been in Belgium, he realized there were multiple fry stands outside of bars with people lined up.  In his words, the french fry trailers were a "cool, simple idea, and also something that went well with the bar scene."  Additionally, he and his friends were inspired by the Austin trailer scene in general, eating at trailers more than brick and mortar restaurants.  Thus, Frietkot was born in February of 2010.

Indeed the potato seemed like the perfect ingredient for a crowd pleaser across the boards.  They have a built in gluten free and vegetarian product that is also popular with the late night crowds looking for a starchy snacking option.  Marc Levine, the chef and culinary creative behind Frietkot liked the idea that a fry is a 'blank canvass' with room for multiple different sides and toppings with endless possibilities.  Eric's personal favorite is the garlic aioli, while the bacon aioli is their best-seller.

Eric and Marc grew up going to camp together in Bruceville, Texas and have stayed friends ever since.  "This is something we wanted to do for a long time; we had spoken for several years about a business.  The trailer made sense because it was something we could get up and going without doing a full restaurant.  Meaning, we could get started for a relatively small amount of money and still put out good food."

Sugarstar Cupcakes

Sugarstar's owner Kristin Gunn describes her goth pastry creations as a 'Martha meets Metallica' kind of treat.   Not your ordinary cupcakes, Sugarstar custom cupcakes range in creativity from modeling after pets, tattoos, skulls and crossbones, jelly beans, company logos and eclectic takes on the traditional treat.  Kristin's cupcakes have been served to Courtney Love among other musical guests.  Her personal favorite is their 'red devil', which is her special recipe for an ultra dense moist, red velvet.  In fact, that seems to be the crowd favorite as well.  Kristin and her cupcake gurus are inspired by unique blends of flavor and funkadellic creations.  For example, she has a maple/bacon cupcake and another green tea cupcake that was a collaboration of ideas from a friend of hers who lives in Japan.

Kristin confesses it was her late night ebay habit where she found Sugarstar's landmark trailer, which is a 1964 Shasta trailer.  She saw it online, bid on it, and woke up the next morning a trailer owner.  Even though it was in Chicago and it was December, the previous owner delivered it right to her front door.  Their outdoor locations are dog friendly and they even keep some dog treats behind the counter for your canine companions.  People of all ages enjoy cupcakes, so they have a broad customer base.  Kristin notes their busiest time starts around 3pm when everyone is in an energy slump and looking for a sweet fix. So the next time you need a quirky pick me, head over to Sugarstar where you can find heavily tattooed pastry artists mixing up something fabulously funky to the sound of some 80's new wave tunes.

June 4, 2010

Best Wurst

- Location & Hours:
   E. 6th St. & San Jacinto:  Wednesday – Friday: 7 PM – 3 AM

   E. 6th St. & Red River:  Friday & Saturday: 8 PM - 3 AM
- Telephone: 512-912-9545
- Website: www.thebestwurst.com / Facebook: The Best Wurst / Twitter: The Best Wurst
- Cuisine: Sausages - Late Night

Plausibly one of Austin's oldest street food vendors is John Notarthomas' "Best Wurst".  The company had it's roots back in the early 90's when it was 'Flamin Hot' hot dog and hill country sausages stand which was renamed to Best Wurst in 1995.  Jon came down to investigate the Austin music scene by way of Syracuse, New York, a city also known for their mouth-watering Italian sausages.  As a musician, he loves Austin both as a fan and a player.  He says one of the occupational hazards of being a musician is you end up cooking/bartending/waiting tables/washing dishes for weekend cash and somehow this weekend job turned into a full time landmark business that is known as the mothership of bratwurst in Austin.

One thing that makes Best Wurst special is that part of Jon's mission is to hire other musicians.  He pays a decent wage and is really doing his part to support other young artists.  It was wages from Best Wurst that put him through St. Ed's to get a college education that he didn't get when he was younger.  Being an Austin institution, the Best Wurst has served some popular patrons including but not limited to: Willie Nelson, Mike Judge, Guy Fieri, Rachel Ray, Jenna and Barbara Bush, members from the Rolling Stones, Spoon, Asleep at the Wheel, and the Flaming Lips as well as many actors.

Being from a traditional Irisih Italian community in upstate New York, his concept is loosely based on Heid's hot dogs of Liverpool New York.  He hated the cons of modern day businesses and modeled his unique 4 x 5 trailer to suit quirky American neighborhood regional foods.  "Good eats doesn't have to be complicated," Jon shares, as he creeps up on his millionth sandwich sold.

Cutie Pie Wagon

"Come on down to the pie wagon where you can stuff your pie hole because my pies will put the doo da back in your zippety."
Indeed Jaynie Buckingham is rightly the self-proclaimed Pie Queen of Austin, Texas but it hasn't always been so. For the 8 years prior to opening Cute Pie, Jaynie was a hospice nurse.  Her boss at the time took her to lunch one day and was bragging about entering her buttermilk pie at an amateur contest at the historic Driskill hotel downtown.  In typical Jaynie-fashion, she told her boss to put her money where her mouth was and entered her own mother's recipe for buttermilk pie.  As fate would have it, Jaynie's pie won, and is now featured on the menu at the Driskill.  Her same pie has been highlighted as 'the best pie in the South' in Southern Living magazine as well as Martha Stewart's Living magazine.  Speaking of Martha, Jaynie says her mother was Martha before Martha knew she was Martha.  Her mother used to entertain her father's friends in the airforce, and her family compiled 300-400 of the recipes she used to use.  In Jaynie's words, "she could have had crackers, mayo and ketchup and made a buffet out of it."  Jaynie lost her mother when she was 18, and she draws a great deal of her inspiration from her mom's recipes.  
So how did she make the shift from hospice nurse to Pie Queen?  "It got to the point where I was crying at the reports every morning and I didn't want to do it anymore.  I'm 48 years old and thinking about changing careers - I just wanted to make pie.  I'm happy when I'm making pie.  I enjoy myself when I'm making pie.  I'm a better person when I'm making pie.  I just want to make pie."  Jaynie must be in really high spirits, as her customers are demanding she churn out about 400 pies a day.

With the 'best pie in the South' the Pie Queen could have her choice of where to open up shop, but she chooses Austin.  "I'm an old hippie chick.  I grew up in the time of Armadillo World Headquarters.  In fact, I found a ticket for a Journey concert there for $4.50..... I dig Barton Springs, the outdoors, the people.  I have the best job in the whole world - I experiment with flavors, honor my mother's legacy, and watch the freak show that is Austin go by every day," Jaynie reports.  Her pie wagon is a refurbished motorcycle trailer that her husband covered with a roof.  Although Buttermilk Pie is her signature pie, her personal favorite is the White Chocolate Coconut Pecan.  Those two along with her Dutch Chocolate are her top three sellers.

June 3, 2010

Vegan Yacht

The inventive dynamic duo Mike and Danielle met while working at Whole Foods Market here in Austin.  The classify themselves as 'east side folks' who ride their bikes a lot and enjoy all the funky benefits of east siding it from farmers markets to organic tea and beyond.  It wasn't out of their routine when they sat down for a drink at Cheer Up Charlies and within ten minutes put a menu together for their Vegan Yacht concept.  Without a hitch they opened the 1967 Airstream a mere three days later chock full of creative vegan choices.

They love being a part of the trailer food movement.  In Mike's words, "We can be total artists, we can play guitar when we don't have customers, we can book shows, change the menu, etc.  You can be yourself, it's not slaving away at an office; it's pretty nice to be off the clock - not to mention, I'm always with my wife."  With homemade fresh olive ciabatta bread, organic red leaf lettuce and organic sprouts, the mock chicken salad sandwich is one of their favorites.  The seitan quesadillas have been a consistent crowd pleaser since they opened in May of 2010.  Although seitan is 100% gluten, the Vegan Yacht menu does bolster some gluten free options.

Danielle enjoys the artistic aspect of their business as well, being the creator-extraordinaire behind the logo for the yacht.  She also developed their recipe for beet brownies.  When asked what inspires them, Mike's poetic response was: 'change'.  "Not being stagnant... When life becomes stagnant whether anyone knows it or not, you stop living... (taking up the whole challenge of change), that's how you keep living life and enjoying life rather than sleeping through it.  Change drives us both a whole lot."