Crowds of hungry students gathering at HUB plaza, hour-long lines and a colorful variety of food trucks were all indicators of the 2018 Annual Fall Food Truck Festival. With the food tending to lean more toward the expensive side and aforementioned lines being less than ideal for many students’ schedules, many see skipping the festival altogether to be a wiser decision. However, every year there exist a few diamonds in the rough which in spite of the prerequisites of getting yourself a meal, are well worth the cost. With editors here to provide their own insightful input, here is the Highlander Newspaper’s review of this year’s food truck festival.
Katsu Curry Sandwich $11
Yuzu Lime Soda $4
For anyone who didn’t immediately flock to and order from the waifu-clad Okamoto Kitchen truck this past Thursday, which specializes in Japanese style cooking, you missed out on what was one of the best eating experiences I’ve had in the past three years of attending UCR’s yearly food truck festivals. Offering curry, tofu rice cakes and even Japanese Fried Chicken (which was offered at the relatively cheap price of $5), the menu has a bit of something for everyone.
My meal of choice was the Katsu Curry Sandwich, which, while offered at a rather steep $11, was both tasty and filling enough to warrant it. The sandwich, which featured mayonnaise, shredded cabbage and gouda cheese to compliment the titular chicken katsu, was larger than your average burger, while simultaneously exceeding the quality of such. Even without mayonnaise (which I opted out of) the sandwich was still rather juicy, with the shredded cabbage offering a happy medium. To wash it down, I chose the yuzu lime soda, which can best be compared to Sprite, except a bit more bitter. This helps the overall taste, since Sprite has a tendency to be a bit too sweet. At $4, the drink is far from frugal, albeit in spite of the generous size it comes in. However the taste is unique enough to warrant a try at least once. While Okamoto’s prices are double most on-campus food options, it was a refreshing and satisfying alternative I would recommend to any intrigued student.
— Marcelo Garcia, Radar Editor
Go Beyond the Bowl
Tempura Bowl $13
Go Beyond the Bowl offers, you guessed it, bowls, bowls and more bowls. The menu includes a wide variety of Japanese-influenced meals and snacks that include teriyaki bowls, poke and other types of bowls. Despite its good taste, this truck’s prices seemed a little steep for the relatively small portion size.At $13, the tempura bowl includes three pieces of tempura shrimp, a scoop of crab meat, seaweed salad and your choice of brown or white rice. Sauces are also available to put on your bowl, but I chose not to add any. The food itself tastes good, with the mixture of crab meat and rice giving each bite a small crunch. The sweet crab meat paired nicely with the lightly salted seaweed to create a savory taste.
One negative aspect of the taste were the small flakes of pepper that caught me by surprise due to their sharp taste which contrasted unpleasantly with the crab meat. The tempura shrimp itself was crunchy yet it did not taste much like shrimp.
Additionally, the price makes this expensive bowl a rather unsatisfying choice. Apart from being $3 more than the smallest bowl option at Hibachi-San. In fact, the tempura bowl is smaller than the size of a bowl at Panda Express, which, to the uninitiated, is tragically underwhelming. If it were more affordable, I would like Go Beyond the Bowl’s option a lot more. This food truck, however, fails to deliver and, despite the quality of the food, is too little for too much.
— Martha Delgado, Assistant Features Editor
Tokyo Doggie Style
Loaded Yakiniku Fries: $12
Takoyaki (3): $5
Tokyo Doggie Style (TDS) takes an innovative approach to fusion cuisine. Marketed as “Japanese fusion comfort food, TDS blends traditional Japanese flavors with a food truck favorite, hot dogs, and has a little bit of something for everyone.
The Loaded Yakiniku Fries are, quite literally, loaded. Beef, kimchi, cilantro, mozzarella, spicy mayo and caramelized onions; just hearing the ingredients is enough to make the snobbiest foodie excited. While enticing on paper, however, the execution left me expecting more.
While ingredients like the mozzarella, beef and cilantro complemented each other well, the kimchi was another story. It just sort of sat there, not quite blending into the overall taste of the dish. The fries themselves were a solid attempt, not too greasy and relatively flavorful. In the end, however, like all loaded foods, everything just collapses into a mess. A good mess. Not a great mess, though.
The takoyaki looked really crispy on the outside, but biting into it yielded a gooey center. I would have liked more octopus on the inside, but loved the gooey part anyway.
Overall, TDS’ offerings weren’t worth $17. This latest attempt at Japanese fusion food falters in its price, which is prohibitive and not justifiable given the standard quality of its menu.
— Mark Bertumen, Assistant News Editor
Beef Shawarma: $16
Greek Salad: $5
Middle Feast’s Mediterranean-themed truck returned to campus after last spring’s food truck festival and, unfortunately, not much has changed.
Though the beef shawarma was large in size, it failed to impress. The meat was strangely greasy, mostly because the cook overdid the sauce but it did pack a good kick on the first bite. Unfortunately, the flavor quickly became overwhelming by the end of the meal. The various spices in the shawarma did enhance the taste but, just like the sauce, became overwhelming and unenjoyable by the end. To top off the already unsatisfying meal, the sauce formed a questionable wax-like substance at the bottom of the plate making me wonder what I had just consumed.
The Greek salad on the other hand was decent, albeit heavy on the vinegar. However, the salad was enjoyably tangy and paired with a nice array of vegetables. Overall, the salad was relatively enjoyable. Unfortunately, it was in a very small bowl no larger than the palm of my hand, making it definitely not worth the $6 paid.
Middle Feast was mediocre at best. Perhaps it would have been more enjoyable if everything was less than $10. The inflated cost and overall sub-par food made this a less-than-pleasant meal.
— Evan Ismail, Managing Editor
Poutine Fries $6.50
Unreal Reuben $11
Original Herbivore’s (OH) most striking feature is the green triceratops emblazoned on the truck’s side. Like its dinosaur mascot, the San Diego-based establishment goes back to the roots of California’s food truck craze and offers classics with a twist: all of OH’s dishes are, well, herbivore-friendly.
Challenging the stereotypes of vegan food as bland and uninspired, OH manages to offer herbivores a solid lineup, including favorites such as burgers, chicken sandwiches, loaded fries and a glorious Reuben that would impress any deli aficionado.
This reviewer chose to take on OH’s Poutine Fries and Unreal Reuben. The fries, true to Canadian fashion, were garnished with a vegan gravy and “cheeze curds”. Somewhat disappointingly, OH’s fry selection falls into the unfortunate category of soggy and bland. The vegan mozzarella cubes and sauce may as well have been missing, due to a lack of taste and a very conservative portion size. For a pricey $6.50, this poutine just doesn’t cut it and leaves one questioning the merits of avoiding dairy.
The Reuben, on the other hand, may just be OH’s piece de resistance. The “seitan” wheat gluten “meat” can hold its own against most corned beef, and, between two slices of textured rye bread, is a delight. Sauerkraut is portioned perfectly, and complements the delicious flavors of the aforementioned ingredients. As a bonus, OH’s condiment tray stocks a delicious green chile sauce which adds a slightly exotic taste and a slight heat to their offerings.
In short, Original Herbivore offers even the dietarily-restricted foodie some delicious options. Avoid the peripherals; food truck fries should be approached skeptically, anyway. But choose any of the main options and your taste buds are sure to be delightfully tickled.
— Andreas Rauch, Editor-in-Chief
Cousins Maine Lobster
Connecticut Lobster Roll $16.25
Cousins Maine Lobster is an irresistible entry into the food truck festival. Offering Connecticut and Maine lobster rolls, it brings authentic, delicious New England seafood straight to Southern California. The options aren’t diverse, but have a very strong appeal on their own that command plenty of attention.
I instantly turned towards the Connecticut lobster roll, which is a well-done, very buttery hot dog bun with lobster bits and even more creamy butter inside. The bun itself was a delicious buttery base that almost resembled Texas toast. Paired with the lobster bits, I couldn’t help but love the overwhelming creaminess of the butter paired with the savory, chewy lobster and the crunch of the roll with every bite.
The lobster bits themselves were a little disappointing in terms of quality among lobster in general – they were a bit too chewy and didn’t have the satisfying texture good lobster usually does, but were still excellent by virtue of being lobster in the first place.
It’s always hard to pass up on an opportunity for lobster, and the Maine Lobster food truck thankfully delivered with a very satisfying Connecticut lobster roll. At a hefty price of $16.25, the roll was definitely overpriced for how much I was getting. But, it’s lobster.
— Michael Beeli, Opinions Editor