Once, it seemed like the law of the land: Prep cooks and T-shirt-clad entrepreneurs started up taco trucks and mobile kitchens with the goal of upgrading to a full-service restaurant — without wheels — down the road.
It’s a two-way street now, kid, and established restaurants are playing the mobile game with an eye toward extending their brands or bolstering their catering businesses.
Eric Banh of Monsoon and Ba Bar is shopping for a truck to hawk Vietnamese-style street food. The vegan Plum Bistro on Capitol Hill and the Barking Frog in Woodinville will roll out trucks in May.
The most anticipated food truck, though, is from Seattle’s famous fried-chicken franchise. Phylicia Davidson, daughter of one of the Ezell’s founders, and her cousin Jennifer Stephens head Ezell’s Express. And they seem bent on world domination.
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Their goal: a fleet of food trucks to run in Portland, Los Angeles and Dallas and, after that, expand to other states. To work out the kinks, they are starting with one truck in Seattle this spring and likely a second truck here by late fall.
Ezell’s Express will park at sporting events and festivals, farmers markets and private events. It will run daily, even at 3 a.m. for the bar crowd after last call on Capitol Hill and other barhopping ’hoods.
Due to the constraints of a mobile kitchen, the truck will sell smaller-size pieces of the plump Ezell’s chicken: just wings and drumettes, chicken strips and mini rolls with some Faygo to wash that grease down. (A couple of healthy options will also be available, they said, but what’s the point of that?)
Of course, Ezell’s is far from alone on the road. About 40 mobile kitchens are registered to serve on public property in Seattle, with more applying as the weather warms up.
Here are trends to look for during food-truck season:
• Grilled-cheese sandwiches are big.
• Many trucks are going the eat-local, farm-to-table route.
• Some want to form new pods in Sodo and Georgetown this summer, since the rent is high in downtown and South Lake Union.
• Many are parking in front of brewerieswith tasting rooms but no kitchens to serve food.
The choices are overwhelming, but here are 20 new trucks to watch for. They are under 10 months old or returning from a hiatus. The best way to track their whereabouts is through their webpage or on Facebook or Twitter.
314Pie was started by a couple of guys who were inspired by the meat pies from the Land Down Under. www.314pieseattle.com
Caravan Crepes offers interesting savory and sweet variations beyond Nutella. Not that there’s anything wrong with Nutella. www.caravanseattle.com
Curb Jumper Street Eats does sliders from mini banh mis to burgers. www.curbjumperstreeteats.com
Fish Basket is a fish-and-chip truck that parked in the marina in Des Moines and that’s now taking its stellar panko-coated shrimp to Seattle. fishbasketnw.com
Monte Cristo features gussied-up versions of the croque monsieur from Danielle Custer, who was anointed one of “America’s Best New Chefs” by Food & Wine in 1998 and a “Rising Star Chef” by the James Beard Foundation. mobilemontecristo.com
My Chef Lynn debuted in South Lake Union earlier this month, with an addictive pot-roast sandwich soaked in a French
onion-and-mushroom jus. www.mycheflynn.com
My Sweet lil Cakes specializes in hot cakes on a stick, stuffed with sweet or savory ingredients. www.mysweetlilcakes.com
Now Make Me a Sandwich serves some souped-up sandwiches like the pulled pork with bacon, ham and provolone with apple jalapeño slaw on a toasted roll. nowmakemeasandwich.com
Seattle Biscuit Company serves a brunch-style menu including the gut-busting “Che” biscuit with stacks of ham, bacon and cheese and topped with a fried egg, and to cut into the richness, some apple butter, sweet onion mustard and pickles. seattlebiscuitcompany.com
The Grilled Cheese Experience started rolling out a truck after building a following at the farmers markets for its decadent grilled-cheese sandwiches. www.thegrilledcheeseexperience.org
WiseGuy Italian Street Foodrecently debuted downtown, selling out by noon sometimes. Try its signature Italian sausage simmered in a pinot grigio-tomato sauce, topped with sautéed Walla Walla onions and stuffed in a Le Panier bread. Check Facebook.
Barking Frog, a posh restaurant inside Willows Lodge in Woodinville, will bring its “Mobile Kitchen” to Seattle. Think duck confit-controne bean cassoulet with house-cured pancetta, crispy duck skin and a port-pork jus. www.willowslodge.com/barking_frog
Owners of Brass Tacks restaurant in Georgetown will debut its bratwurst truck this Sunday at the West Seattle Farmers Market with venison sausage. www.georgetownbrass.com
Plum, the Capitol Hill bistro, will roll out its vegan-burger truck by June. www.plumbistro.com
Evolution Revolution debuts in May in Seattle, with comfort food and eclectic offerings such as oxtail pierogies. www.evolutionfoodtruck.com
How Pickle Got Out of a Jam debuts in mid-April, with soups, salads and — wait for it — jams and pickles. howpicklegotoutofajam.com
Outside the Box may debut its truck by summer, focusing on the Paleo diet meat and veggies. No dairy. www.eat-otb.com
Ezell’s Express will hit the road in mid-April. (Track it on Facebook or Twitter @EzellsExpress1. Website pending.)
Roxy’s Waffle Wagon starts in early April with savory and sweet waffles, including the signature carrot-cake waffle with cream-cheese frosting. roxyswafflewagon.com
Tokyo Dog returns at the end of March. It’s inspired by the cult-food cart JapaDog in Vancouver, B.C. Think the all-American hot dog with a Japanese sensibility, dressed with bonito-fish flakes or squirts of miso mayo. tokyodog.com
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @tanvinhseattle