[I did a short piece on Eat the Street with a roundup of food trucks for Modern Luxury Hawaii, and they axed the part about Eat the Street. So here’s the whole unedited thing, which was written back in April.]
In January, Poni Askew organized Honolulu’s first food truck rally—Eat the Street. “We were hoping for 500 people and we got about 1,200!,” says the mom of three who started the foodtruck-tracking website StreetGrindz.com as a hobby when, after a long career (in the music and coffee worlds), she found being a stay-at-home mom “didn’t go over so well for me.”
Thanks to a partnership with Kamehameha Schools, Eat the Street is now a monthly event, held the last Thursday of the month in a large Kaka‘ako parking lot at 555 South Street. And in April, Askew launched the weekly Friday Night Bites, a lower-key, smaller confab of mobile eats at 1637 Kapiolani Blvd., on the Diamond Head end of the street.
While Hawaii has a long lunchwagon legacy, in the past two years entrepreneurs have broken the meals on wheels out of the loco-moco and garlic shrimp molds. Now chowhounds follow their favorites for everything from lobster rolls to chicken adobo sliders. Askew already sees the new wave of food trucks influencing the old guard.
“Harris Sukita of Simply Ono—he’s been around forever—came to me and said ‘We’re going to start doing empanadas.’ He’s busting out of his own shell. It’s his first experiment and he’s offering something no one else is,” says Askew. “These new food trucks are getting people to think out of the box and make it exciting for everyone.”
Here are just five of the many notables:
Camille’s on Wheels
Roaming, facebook.com/camillesonwheels, twitter.com/camillesonwheel
A few wagons do global “fusion” tacos, but Camille Komine makes the best. A one-time film-world denizen—she’s been everything from make-up artist to food stylist—Komine has found her calling making tacos filled with things like lemongrass-scented pork slowcooked for four hours and mahimahi spiked with chimichurri sauce. She’s also a great baker known for her dulce de leche pecan pie and blue velvet cupcakes.
Gogi Korean Taco Truck [CLOSED]
1637 Kapiolani Blvd, http://www.eatgogi.com
Former merchant marine cook Jim Wilson has the most pro operation. With a permanent spot and an order-pickup system, food comes out consistently. While the food is the most true to the Los Angeles inspiration, Wilson’s best dishes are his local adaptations of Korean tacos, like braised pork on sweet-bread buns. Did you catch the Gogi cameo on Hawaii Five-0?
Postscript: Jim Wilson is from O‘ahu, but has lived for years in Las Vegas, where he has a business. He opened Gogi Korean as a way to keep a foothold here—and excuse to fly back often. Poni Askew informs me that Wilson’s Vegas business has boomed, not allowing him the time needed to oversee his food truck, and sold it a couple months ago. His buyer was overwhelmed by the work it takes to run a food truck. The business closed, in May and is now for sale. Any aspiring mobile chefs?
Roaming; twitter.com/meltHNL; melthonolulu.com
Former Nobu Waikiki chefs Lindsey Ozawa and Alejandro Briceño (also V Lounge’s pizzaiolo) and food writer Martha Cheng have O‘ahu craving grilled cheese sandwiches. Hobbs bacon, house-made harissa and pickled onions go really well with Gruyère and gouda.
3121 Mokihana St., twitter.com/zaratez, 227-1422
Forget Korean tacos, can we get a decent Mexican taco, please? Los Angeles native Paul Zarate answered the call last fall with his chorizo tacos, chicken mulitas, and roasted-tomato salsa. He’s been cooking with his abuela since he was eight—and it shows.
66-632 Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, twitter.com/tacosvicente, 356-9111
This North Shore truck is run by three full-time Brigham Young University students, one of them from a chef-filled family in Cuernavaca, Mexico—the home of al pastor tacos. So no wonder Vicente’s are so good, the red meat pleasantly gritty with ground ancho, guajllo and pasilla chiles, and sliced right off the vertical rotisserie. (Pictured above.)