Alarm Cluck Sandwich at Chick-N-Que
Chick-N-Que serves the kind of food that you'd actually seek out at a state fair. In fact, proprietor Ernest Harris got his start peddling chopped chicken BBQ (a family recipe) to patrons at the Raleigh Flea Market at the NC State Fairgrounds in 2009. Though the truck still serves the classic Chick-N-Que sandwich ($5), some much bolder poultry options have been added to the menu. The big bird sandwich ($8) boasts a marinated ostrich steak, while the menu warns patrons that the spicy angry bird sandwich ($8) "is not for the faint of heart." I, for one, would heed that warning. The alarm cluck sandwich ($7) certainly had my heart doing some palpitating. The smoked dark meat chicken had a richness to it that had me peeling back the bun to make sure there wasn't some bacon hiding in there. Sliced jalapenos combined with habanero ranch dressing made this sandwich the spiciest item I've eaten from a food truck to date. Would that more food vendors catered to the strong of heart!
Boxcarr Farms' Local in Motion
Local In Motion is as much in line with the "local food" movement as you can get. The truck is run and supplied by Boxcarr Farms, who grow local organic and sustainable produce and meat in Cedar Farms, NC. But what really sets Local apart is its food. On any given trip you might find yourself tucking into chilled potato and cucumber soup, or fresh pasta folded into a pillowy goat cheese ravioli, or maybe a pork belly and swiss chard tart—yes, from a food truck. Local's dishes consistently bring out incredible flavors from simple ingredients. And the menu changes for each outing, so you can always marvel over something new. The truck can be elusive—its only regularly scheduled appearances are the first and third Thursdays at Fullsteam Brewery in Durham—but seek it out; it's a must-taste in the Triangle.
I love Chinese-style dumplings. And having spent many a lunch break in New York's Chinatown, I like to think I know a good dumpling when I eat one. So it's no small compliment to say that Chirba Chirba could hold its own against some of the better dumpling spots in NYC. Chirba Chirba offers three versions of dumpling—Bayside Chive ($4.50), Juicy Buns ($4), and Grass is Greener ($4)—and you can't miss with any of them. Each order will give you six, so if have to limit yourself to one (some people mistakenly claim that 18 dumplings is excessive for lunch), the Juicy Bun is a good place to start. The Juicy Bun hits all the right dumpling notes: the wrapper is tender and the filling packs a lot of flavor without being overwhelming. Also, true to its name, it's juicy, so get some napkins. The truck is easy to spot, bright yellow and emblazoned with a gigantic smiling dumpling. Chirba Chirba means "eat eat" in Mandarin so eat up!
Pizza is a food truck staple. Good pizza is not. Luckily for Durham, Pie Pushers is serving up slices (or whole pies) of innovative and delicious pizza. And it's cheap. $3 for a slice of cheese or pepperoni, $4 for a signature slice, and about $15 (price will vary with the toppings you want) for a whole 16" pie. Their crust is quite thin, with a great initial crunch but isn't at all dry. In addition to your standard cheese or pepperoni, Pie Pushers has a rotating menu of topping combos like the Thai Clucker: Thai basi, fresh red peppers, grilled chicken (thighs for extra flavor!), bacon, mozzarella; or the Beetza: roasted beets, rainbow chard, bleu cheese, and mozzarella. The list, quite literally, goes on and on.
Sympathy For the Deli
Sympathy for the Deli, in addition to having the best food truck name ever, make some of the best sandwiches in the Triangle. Sympathy's sandwiches are straight-forward deli standards: Reuben, Pastrami, Smoked Turkey, a French Dip-less (the baguette is pre-soaked), and Veggie. What makes Sympathy's sandwiches shine is the meat. All of it is super tender, and the meat flavor holds its own instead of being overwhelmed by the smoking or curing. And as a bonus, all of their meats are local and cured, smoked, or roasted in Durham. I'd also highly recommend a side of their ever-so-slightly-spicy "peakles" (pickled sugar-snap peas).
Korean BBQ Short Rib Tako at KoKyu
North Carolina knows barbecue, but when I moved back here after several years in the New York metro area, I didn't have high hopes for finding an impressive execution of the Korean version of my home state's favorite food. In fact, the last place I might have expected to find decent Korean BBQ might have been in a graffiti art-covered truck whose menu includes, among other distinctly un-Korean offerings, duck fat tater tots ($4). But sometimes it pays to be wrong. The BBQ short rib tako ($3) at KoKyu was everything it should be—simple, with tangy-sweet marinated beef, crunchy bean sprouts, and a toasted sesame finish. The beef was slow cooked until falling apart, and finished on the griddle for added crisp. I'll be back to try the spicy pork belly tako ($3), and if I'm completely honest with myself, probably the unreal buffalo chicken sliders, too ($4).
Fried Green Tomato Burger at Only Burger
It's little wonder that Only Burger is one of the best-loved of the new-school food trucks in the Triangle. Now that I've tasted their fried green tomato burger ($7.25), it may truly be the only burger I'll ever want again. It's constructed from equal proportions of fried egg, a hamburger patty, and lightly battered fried green tomato on a toasted, buttered bun. The medium-well-cooked patty is juicy (but not greasy) and salty, and the whole combination provides a satisfying mix of textures, balanced by the tang of the tomato and creamy pimento cheese. I took one bite, and seconds later this burger was gone.
Coriander goat cheese with strawberry swirl. Salted butter caramel. Basil pineapple. Lemon crumb cake. Summer corn. Reading The Parlour's menu, you might think you were in line at a patisserie or a produce stand. Luckily, the Parlour's logo—a top-down image of an ice cream cone—is painted on both sides of the pink and white school bus, just so there's no confusion.. Proprietors Yoni and Vanessa's handcrafted, small batch ice cream has made The Parlour hugely popular since the truck arrived on the scene in 2011. Part of its appeal comes from the shop's dedication to using local ingredients, so the flavors rotate often. For example, the black raspberry buttermilk, which was just as tasty as it sounds, is made with black raspberries from nearby Lyon Farms and the shop is likely to only make one batch this year. They even manage to make their vegan and gluten-free options as appealing as the standard ones. Vegan chocolate black pepper ice cream? Gluten-free almond macaroons with ginger ice cream? Yes, please! Single scoops are $3, chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches (choose your ice cream) are $3.50.