5 amazing food carts

The food cart revolution just keeps on going—and getting wonderfully wackier. The newest spin: vehicles designed to serve a single perfect food

Satellite Republic, San Francisco & Napa

Photo by John Lee; written by Ivy Manning, Alex Pulaski, and Joel Warner

Satellite Republic, San Francisco & Napa

Specialty: Flatbread from the republic of Georgia, served out of a 1970s moped equipped with a tandoor oven, which is fueled partly by grapevine clippings (“I live in Napa!” owner Boris Portnoy explains).

Catch the spectacle: Portnoy slaps his dough onto the walls of the 600° tandoor, the bread puffing up in seconds. “I love the showmanship of having an open kitchen,” says Portnoy, a former pastry chef who grew up in Moscow. satellite-republic.com

The Grilled Cheese Grill, Portland

Photo by John Lee; written by Ivy Manning, Alex Pulaski, and Joel Warner

The Grilled Cheese Grill, Portland

Specialty: Twenty kinds of grilled cheese served inside a 1954 double-decker former Mount St. Helens tour bus that owner Matt Breslow outfitted with tables and painted on the sides to look like a big checkerboard. “It fits grilled cheese,” he says. “It makes you feel like a kid.”

Indulge nostalgia (or not): Sandwiches range from the crusts-cut-off Pre-schooler to the artery-clogging Cheesus, a burger sandwiched between two grilled cheeses. All offerings are in keeping with the company motto: “Come by for a taste of childhood. Unless your childhood sucked, and then we’ll let ya have a taste of ours.” grilledcheesegrill.com

Sweet Lucie’s, Los Angeles

Photo by John Lee; written by Ivy Manning, Alex Pulaski, and Joel Warner

Sweet Lucie’s, Los Angeles

Specialty: Organic ice cream made in and served from a 1950s truck. Owners Geri and Mike Czako (she has an MBA; he works in advertising) refurbished the truck after buying it from a retiring ice cream man.

Forget vanilla: Dreamy flavors include pistachio with truffle-caramel swirl and Earl Grey. And you can thank pregnancy cravings for that: A few years ago, pregnant and on an organic diet, Geri found “there wasn’t much organic ice cream available and [it was in] very limited flavors.” She started making it at home, and when their daughter, Lucie, was born, so was the business. ilovelucies.com

Fresh Local Wild, Vancouver

Photo by John Lee; written by Ivy Manning, Alex Pulaski, and Joel Warner

Fresh Local Wild, Vancouver

Specialty: Local, responsibly harvested oysters, spot prawns, and other delicacies from the Pacific, cooked in a brushed-aluminum trailer powered by the vegetable-oil waste from the truck’s fryers.

Snag a seat: The luckiest customers dine on the trailer’s tiny built-in patio (it seats six). “My idea was to use every little inch for some kind of efficiency,” says owner Josh Wolfe. “We’re making sustainable seafood more accessible by charging less than a restaurant would.” freshlocalwild.com

Trailhead Coffee Roasters, Portland

Photo by John Lee; written by Ivy Manning, Alex Pulaski, and Joel Warner

Trailhead Coffee Roasters, Portland

Specialty: Fair-trade, small-batch-roasted, pour-over coffee served at bike events on an extra-wide “box bike” from local maker Metrofiets. Owner Charlie Wicker built the aerodynamic coffee bar himself, modeling it after art deco trains.

Pay as you please: Wicker doesn’t put a price on his coffee—just one of the ways Trailhead is the anti-Starbucks. “The thing about vending in a mobile unit is that you’re standing entirely upon the quality of what you’re making,” says Wicker. “There’s no ambience, shiny packaging, or cushy chairs  …  it’s just your product and what the custo­mer tastes. I like that.” trailheadcoffeeroasters.com

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