Thursday, September 16, 2010
Last night my sisters and I drove out to Verdugo Bar in East Los Angeles to check out Nom Nom Truck and Grill 'Em All, the final two food trucks competing in the Great Food Truck Race - finale is this Sunday! - and, of course, I brought my camera along. We left home at around seven - the trucks were set to open at 8:30 - and waited in line until well after 11. While we obviously wanted to taste the original recipes of Nom Nom and the Grill 'Em All guys, we mostly made the trek because my younger sister Erin is a super-food-tv-fangirl. You should have seen this kid. Hopping up and down in line, squeeing like she was about to see the Backstreet Boys in 1998. Every time she would get a glimpse of a Nom Nom Girl or people walking past the line with a basket of burgers, she'd literally whimper.
Bottom line: Three hours is too long to wait for any meal, but it was fun to hang out with my favorite people on earth, make fun of loud-mouthed Angelinos, and meet the people who we see every Sunday on television. And the food was good enough. Yeah, good enough. Read on, my friend.
See, if Nom Nom Truck ends up winning the Food Truck Race, I'm willing to bet it's because their truck lighting is so much better. I like to imagine a hoard of food bloggers, let loose on the two trucks, and immediately making the decision that photos of Nom Nom's signature lemongrass chicken Banh Mi and pork tacos, well-lit next to the cheery colors of the Nom Nom-mobile, would look a lot more blog-worthy than the dark, heavy-metal, grease bomb that is Grill 'Em All. You can see from my own photos that the light conditions were a complete train wreck, but come on, it IS a food competition, and I have to say it... if Nom Nom wins, Grill 'Em All was robbed (kind of like Naomi Pomeroy, but that's another story). The Grill 'Em All food was simply miles above Nom Nom's.
The photogenic girls - and guy - of Nom Nom Truck have a great business model - a few recipes, tested by time, with super-quick prep and a bit of cultural novelty - not to mention ridiculously great social-networking skills. But that burger... well, it was totally nom. Grill 'Em All managed to take some pretty outrageous combinations (Peanut butter, jelly, and Siracha? Sausage gravy, apple wood smoked bacon, maple drizzle on a burger? Cranberry, maytag blue cheese spread, and Munchos potato chips? California cream cheese, deep fried bacon, beer and sriracha soaked onions, and garlic aioli? Dude.) and make a perfectly-cooked, perfectly balanced, awesome flavor exploration. You can't find those combinations in any ol' diner, but you can find a similar - most likely better - Banh Mi in any Vietnamese Deli than you'd get at Nom Nom.
Yes, we waited about twice as long for the Grill 'Em All guys' rather slow assembly line. Yes, the lighting kind of sucked. Yes, those Nom Nom girls are adorable. But in my eyes, there's no contest. Grill 'Em All had one of the most original burgers I've ever tasted, and they should be the winner. And in case you're wondering, the answer is NO. Los Angeles food carts got NOTHING on Portland. Hear that Food Network? Come on up, we'll buy you a beer.