Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rickshaw Dumpling Truck

One lunch hour I was perusing the Soho food truck scene to see if anything piqued my interest. I didn’t have much time to mess around, but then I saw the Rickshaw Dumping Truck with no one in line. Jackpot! Luckily the only decision-making required of the soon to be dumpling consumer is to choose which type of dumpling they desire: Pork & Chinese Chive with soy sesame dip, Chicken & Thai Basil with spicy peanut sate dip, or Vegetarian Edamame with lemon-sansho dip. The soy sesame dip sounded most appealing, so I chose the Pork & Chinese Chive. I enjoyed the simplicity of only choosing between three kinds of dumplings and I opted to add a side salad to experience more tastes for my refined palate.

Rickshaw wins the award for most creative packaging. Opening my meal was significantly more fun than opening meals from other establishments. The dumpling box had an “eat me” sticker on it, and the soy sesame sauce had a “dip me” sticker on it. I thought this was a very nice personal touch. It dawned on me that some minimum wage employee had to put all of these stickers on the packaging in the event that my intelligence level was equivalent to Sarah Palin’s and I wasn’t sure how to correctly maneuver my food. I didn’t realize it was possible for food packaging to elicit a smile, so I must give credit where credit is due.

The dumplings were relatively average and could have been a little warmer, but overall they made for a satisfying lunch. The “salad” was some lettuce thrown in a plastic bowl with a peculiar dressing. Barely worth mentioning, except to suggest that you don’t order it.

Because the dumplings were prepackaged, it resulted in a rapid transaction time and a lack of customers in line. This is by far the quickest I have ever gotten a lunch meal from any food truck, let alone an Asian establishment. Normally my experience with Asian lunch cuisine involves at least a 30 minute to an hour wait while an Asian delivery man navigates the streets of Manhattan on his bicycle muttering “scuse me” and endangering citizens almost as much as when they’re operating a motor vehicle. Then I pray to the Lunch Gods that whoever I spoke to on the phone actually understood my order. After battling these Everest-like hurdles, I’m forced to do one of my least favorite activities, math, while straining to read whatever number was scrawled on the grease-stained order ticket to figure out how much I need to tip. These astronomical stress factors bring me to the conclusion that, in the event that you are debating between mundane options such as a sandwich or slice of pizza, the Rickshaw Dumpling Truck is definitely an easy way to switch up your lunch routine.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wafels & Dinges

The Wafels & Dinges truck gets a hefty amount of press in the food truck world and repeatedly gets great reviews (4.5 stars on Yelp out of 630 reviews). Naturally this sparked my interest, but I was struggling to find an opportunity to try it since I never saw the truck parked in my neighborhood.

One joyous evening on my way to meet my friends for happy hour, I passed the waffle truck. I was tempted to try it right then and there, but I was already late and didn’t want to ruin my impending buzz by coating my stomach with food. This resulted in me spending the majority of the happy hour fixating on the waffle truck and repeatedly saying, “I hope it’s still there when we leave,” to the annoyance of everyone forced into my company. Thankfully when I left it was still parked where I originally saw it and I exuberantly shoved my mildly tipsy self up to the truck and aggressively began rambling about how I’d been looking forward to this day and had heard lots of great things but didn’t know where to begin. To their credit, the waffle men were extremely warm and friendly to a seemingly deranged and overzealous stranger. They patiently explained the difference between the two types of waffles: the brussels waffle was light and crispy and the liege was more soft and chewy.

To be honest I wish they only had one type of waffle, because that just meant another choice I had to make in addition to choosing toppings. I’d heard talk of the signature spekuloos spread, but then there was also dulce de leche, butter, bananas, strawberries, walnuts, belgian chocolate fudge, nutella, maple syrup, and whipped cream. In the end, I decided to heed the wise words of King Curtis, and realized, “bacon, is good for me.” I ordered myself a brussels waffle with bacon and then proceeded to pace in circles like a caged zoo animal while I waited for my made-to-order waffle.

Shortly after, the waffle men slid my golden-brown companion into its cardboard tray, or waffle Snuggie as I like to think of it. They called my name and I proudly pushed my way up to the window, much to the jealousy of the other customers. One of the more embarrassing moments of my life occurred when I saw my waffle for the first time. I did not see any thick strips of juicy bacon on top of, or next to my waffle. My confusion must have been evident as the jolly waffle man reassured me that the bacon was, in fact, baked into the batter. I’m not sure what expression one gives off when showing severe dismay due to a lack of bacon, but I was apparently transparent. The waffle man was simply too genuine to play cruel mind games with me, so I placed all of my trust in him that the bacon was present, seized my waffle in its Snuggie, and strolled off towards the subway with my new prize.

This waffle was above average, but not quite as amazing and life-changing as Yelp and Twitter had me believing. Definitely a good waffle, but not anything too different than I’ve had in most diners. However, I don’t consider myself to be any kind of waffle expert so perhaps I haven’t developed strong enough analytical skills when it comes to waffles. The bacon baked into the batter was a nice touch, but I love bacon almost as much as King Curtis loves chicken nuggets, so I would have appreciated larger bacon bits. They were a bit hard to taste since they were so small, so it mostly just tasted like a salty waffle.

The strength of Wafels & Dinges is the fact that it quickly provides waffles from a mobile location. If I wanted a decent waffle with tasty toppings, my first instinct would be to assume I’d have to sit down at a crowded diner and wait around for the server to bring me my waffle. Wafels & Dinges takes out the middle-man and the waiting game and cuts to the chase. Additionally, they provide a wide variety of toppings that aren’t available in diners. While I haven’t had the spekuloos spread myself, it receives high praise - enough so that Wafels & Dinges sells it in individual jars for retail. Most diners provide fruit and ice cream toppings, but Wafels &d Dinges provides all of these and more, even pulled pork.

And even though I said this waffle wasn’t life-changing, I did in fact go back for a second mini wafellini with strawberries and Nutella a few weeks later. Wafels & Dinges isn’t something I’d necessarily go out of my way to hunt down, but I surprised myself and inadvertently proved that I would succumb to the power of Wafels & Dinges in the event that I walk past it.