Photo Credit: Hillary Brown
EXPRESS YOURSELF: The brand spanking new Manila Express food truck doesn’t have regular hours or a consistent location yet. For the moment, you’ll have to track it down on Instagram (@manilaexpressga) and cross your fingers. Ask a young person if you do not do the social media. Its adorable proprietors, Rachel Barnes and Alfredo Lapuz Jr., are working on making its goods more available, but it’s also worth seeking out. The truck, which focuses on Filipino food, was busy retailing at the recent food truck party hosted on the lawn of Milledge Avenue Baptist Church, and although the line was long and the weather steamy, things came out of the window speedily and with good cheer.
Don’t expect to eat yourself silly. The portions aren’t huge, but they have a crazy amount of flavor. Lumpia—essentially Filipino egg rolls—are probably the most familiar thing on the menu, aside from rice, and they come out of the fryer burning hot, stuffed with juicy, salty pork. They don’t need either of the dipping sauces that accompany them—a sweeter one that kind of resembles duck sauce and a magical one that seems to contain mostly vinegar, garlic and water and could add some kapow to anything—but that doesn’t mean the sauces are bad.
Next best is the chicken adobo, which doesn’t look like much (just sort of a pile of grayish hunks in a sauce) but tickles each and every taste bud with coconut milk, vinegar, more garlic and whatever else is in there. Don’t forget the pork belly barbecue, served on a couple of sharp wooden skewers, with its meaty chew and Maillard reaction-ed exterior.
Don’t eat meat? There are some veggie choices, too, among the sides, which could make up a full plate. Pancit is rice noodles cooked with veggies and soy sauce, and the Filipino street corn is lovely. The kale stewed in coconut milk could stand to cook a little longer, or maybe it needs a massage with some salt, and the the sariwa (a sort of summer roll with raw veggies and peanuts) needs more flavor. You could dunk it in the aforementioned vinegar sauce and improve it mightily.
On the whole, it’s all very successful, with garlands of fake flowers and black-and-white paper straws adding some ambience to the usually spartan world of a food truck. Welcome, new kid.
HOT DIGGITY DOG: While I’m discussing pop-up options, the Wednesday night version of the Athens Farmers Market that takes place in the parking lot of Creature Comforts from 4–7 p.m. has started hosting a small hot-dog stand operated by home.made, normally of Baxter Street and more refined environs.
As you might expect, pretty much everything is made from scratch, including the hot dogs (although the casings have to be ordered). They’re on the dense side, as most housemade sausages tend to be, but the flavors are on point—salty and meaty, as they need to be to pair with the sweetish yellow bun. Tofu dogs are available too, and it’s a credit to what I think of home.made that I almost ordered one, but in the end I couldn’t do it. There are plenty of areas in which fake meat or vegetables are a perfectly adequate substitute for animal protein. Hot dogs aren’t one of them.
That said, the toppings are pretty great, so maybe they could make a tofu dog decent. For $5, you get as many as you want, chosen from among: comeback sauce (not the JB’s variety, but a Thousand Island-ish pink concoction), a super funky kimchi, a nice green tomato relish, a way-spicy hot pepper mash (go easy when you spoon it on, unless you want your lips to tingle for a good while), thin-sliced onions, a watermelon rind relish (which I missed), a bottle of organic ketchup and some Tropicalia-accented grain mustard.
Up the amount you fork over to $7 and you’ll get a side with your dog, either a lovely lemon-dill-mayo potato salad (the potatoes having been seared in a hot pan) or a cool, refreshing salad of sliced cucumbers and onions. The stand even takes credit cards.
ONE MORE THING: If you haven’t noticed, the Holy Crepe food truck has been setting up on Sundays from 11 a.m. to about 2 p.m. in the parking lot at Boulevard and Park, where it lives, and serving not only the usual stuff (sweet and savory crepes, crepe dog), but also a few brunchier items, including a crepe made with White Tiger Gourmet’s pulled pork and a runny-yolked fried egg. It is a fine alternative to a breakfast biscuit, although a giant mess to eat.