A diverse array of food trucks came to the HUB Plaza and Bell Tower area on Thursday, April 18 for UCR Dining’s R’Chella Food Truck Festival. Long lines and hungry students filled the area as students enjoyed some new and more familiar food trucks. With so many choices this year, the Highlander staff tried out some of the many options with an eye on quality, taste and price.
Mango Lassi: $6
Bhel Puri: $10
Bollywood Bites, an Indian food truck, had a long line surrounding it which made me hopeful that the food would be promising especially after waiting more than 10 minutes in the line. Friends had recommended I try the Bhel Puri, a rice based side dish consisting of lemony tamarind sauce consisting of cucumbers, tomatoes and chips. At the price of $10, this side dish was already just as expensive as their meal options, such as the naan wrap.
The lemon and cucumber in the Bhel Puri gave the dish a citrusy kick that made me like the dish at first. The crunch from the chips in the dish was fun, but after a while it began to hurt my teeth making this meal not enjoyable. As a meal, the Bhel Puri was not filling as I was still hungry after finishing the dish. The mango lassi was delicious, but $6 for the small cup was not worth the price. While the flavor was okay, the hefty price and the lack of satisfaction made Bollywood Bites a food truck I would not visit again.
— Martha Delgado, SSW
Carne Asada Fries: $12
During the food truck festival, Go Fusion offered a variety of Mexican and Asian fusion food options, including burgers and burritos. The asada fries were $12, and definitely enough to constitute a meal. On top of the fries came carne asada, shredded cheese, avocado, cilantro, aioli and a spicy chili sauce. The main positive about the dish was the size. While it was a little pricey, as all food truck items tend to be, the fries came piled high with plenty of asada and various accoutrements. Unfortunately the quality of the dish left something to be desired. The asada was a little chewy, perhaps overcooked, and the fries quickly became soggy beneath the sauce and grease atop. There was not enough avocado, but that is usually the case with food trucks. Unfortunately, there was also not enough cheese, and what little there was became lost among the other ingredients. The aioli clashed with the other flavors, providing a taste that wasn’t quite authentically Mexican or Asian. Overall the asada fries from the Go Fusion truck were passable, but I’ll be sure to try something else next time.
— Aidan Rutten, SSW
Rice Balls of Fire
Belly Kimichi Tots: $13.14
Rice Balls of Fire offers a unique fusion of Korean and Japanese food items. The food truck had an extensive menu that would please everyone including spicy lovers, sushi enthusiasts and smaller snacks for people on the go. The prices for the food ranged from $6-15 depending on the quantity.
I was immediately drawn to the Belly Kimchi Tots, which were vibrantly depicted on the food truck’s menu. The tater tots were covered in a classic melted nacho-like cheese and were covered by the savory Kimchi and juicy pork belly. As I took my first bite, I was overwhelmed with the multitude of flavors and textures. The tater tots were a perfect amount of crunchy that went well with the lightly coated cheese and spicy Kimchi. The only disappointing part of the dish was the fatty pork belly that was slightly too chewy and lacked flavor. The food truck also provided spicy mayo, eel sauce and sriracha on the side. The extra sauces were a perfect addition to the dish.
For a pricy $12, I was afraid that I would not be satisfied or full by the seemingly small dish; however, I was greatly mistaken. I was pleasantly surprised at how much food came on the surprisingly small plate. This is the perfect dish to share with a friend, and will leave all of you stuffed.
Overall, I would order the dish again but would skip the additional pork belly. The meal was satisfying and hit all the notes I would expect from a fusion food truck.
— Jessica Schneider, SSW
Pita Sandwich with Falafel: $9
The YALLA food truck served a build-your-own style take on a popular Middle Eastern dish, shawarma.
I had a pita wrap with falafel, greek sauce (“Grigora,” as they called it) and a side of hummus inside the wrap. Upon first bite, there was an impressive medley of flavor, particularly from the onions and the Grigora sauce.
The falafel was also very good and carried a spicy kick which added a very desirable spice to the rest of the meal. The pepperoncinis accompanied the spice of the falafel and, though at times a bit overwhelming, generously complemented the falafel. The lettuce, onions, cucumbers and olives all worked together to form a crunch that contrasted well with the softness of the pita.
When I finished the wrap, I felt light and energetic rather than the lethargy that accompanies most fast food meals.
YALLA was an excellent addition to the food truck festival and an option I will definitely consider returning to next time. Priced at $10 or lower, the truck provided an excellent meal that was not only fairly priced but a decent take on a popular Eastern Mediterranean dish.
— Evan Ismail, SSW
Pad Thai with Chicken: $13
Thai Tea w/ Boba: $6.50
Hungry Belly provides huge portions, but lacks in the taste department. The truck offers a menu of Thai Asian Fusion food items. The menu did not display their prices on the truck, which caught me off guard when I heard that the Pad Thai was $13. However, the gigantic portion definitely made up for the price point.
The Pad Thai was overall very dry and was a bit too sweet for my taste. The noodles were stuck together, making it hard to mix with the toppings, and the whole dish was overcooked. The chicken was cut into large chunks and was the best part of the meal. It was pleasantly juicy and tender, which helped combat the dryness of the noodles.
The Thai Tea Boba, however, was definitely not worth the $6.50. The drink was very watered down and the boba had a slimy texture to it. Overall, the dish was a decent meal but I would try a different truck next time.
— Kerry Mulia, SSW
Kickin Chicken Tots: $10.98
As a lover of wings and comfort foods, I immediately flocked to the BrewWings food truck in the hopes of a promising and fulfilling appetizer. BrewWings claims to sell gourmet style chicken wings, and was founded in 2013 in upstate New York. Their website claims that their menu items are the definition of delicious.
I ordered the Kickin’ Tots, which are tater tots covered in a shredded and melted three cheese blend, seasoned grilled chicken, bacon and fresh jalapeno. I opted to not add the bacon to the tots.
I ordered the tots with the hope that it would be a delicious comfort appetizer; however, after receiving my order I was slightly disappointed. The three cheese blend was not melted and was very chewy. While the menu claimed that the chicken was seasoned, it was dry, tasteless and too chewy. The tots on their own, however, were delicious and maintained a perfect crisp without eventually becoming soggy. Overall, I was underwhelmed by the Kickin’ Chicken Tots and was expecting an appetizer that was full of flavor and a spicy kick but received something that was bland and underwhelming.
— Amani Mahmoud, SSW
Nom Bomb Sandwich: $8
Okonomi Fries: $5
Okamoto Kitchen’s long line and half hour-long wait are a testament to the anime-themed Japanese food truck’s popularity. Sporting a bright red paint job adorned with a variety of anime characters, this truck boasted a considerable lineup of modern, fusion takes on popular Japanese snacks. From curry rice to burgers, and offering poke bowls, tea and loaded tater tots, Okamoto’s menu is a colorful menagerie of comforting flavors at relatively low (for a food truck prices).
We tried the Nom Bomb Sandwich with chicken ($8.00) and the Okonomi Fries ($5.00). The Nom Bomb featured a sweet-and-sour chicken patty garnished with teriyaki glaze, tartar sauce, cabbage and jalapeno. While the toppings combined for a delicious taste, the chicken patty was unfortunately dry. Although this was partially offset by the sauce, the relative thickness of the patty left some portions tough and unsatisfying. Altogether, this was a shame given the quality of the fluffy brioche bun used, and the overall verdict on this sandwich is disappointment at the wasted potential.
The Okonomi fries, which Okamoto boasts are “here to stay” on their blog, were a pleasant surprise. Topped Okonomiyaki-style with Kewpie mayonnaise, bonito flakes, aonori, onions and red ginger, the fries hit all of the notes expected from this traditional Japanese dish. Overall, this side was a refreshing take, and served as a delicious side to the aforementioned sandwich. The only drawback was the somewhat steep pricing; $4 for fries seems a bit much, especially when the portion was not the biggest and the Okonomi toppings that added all the flavor were $1 extra.
Okamoto Kitchen featured by far the longest line, and for good reason; whether it is due to the anime theme or the fan-favorite menu offerings, this truck is a success. For under $15, one can get a sandwich and a side of topped fries. While these items may have been individually overpriced, especially when compared to restaurant or take-out menus, they still remain decently affordable as far as food trucks go. Okamoto Kitchen is definitely worth a try, and won’t disappoint anyone looking for a creative take on Japanese snack favorites.
— Andreas Rauch, SSW