Last Saturday, a few friends and I made it over to DTLA’s Arts District for Bloomfest, which was a damn good time. Both my friend Lisa and I were ravenously hungry before the event, and as soon as we got into the Bloomfest grounds, oh no, forget the band playing and all the shop stalls and everything else — we had our eyes on the prize.
And we settled here: the Slammin’ Sliders truck (and the back of someone’s neck, hello!). The line looked hideously long at first, but half of that crowd turned out to be people waiting for food. Oh, the food—every time someone walked away with their sliders and fries, our eyes followed them. The sliders looked sumptuous, overflowing with their some tasty sounding toppings.
As restraint is not one of my strong points, I opted in for the three sliders + fries option, which set me just over $11. I really liked that you could assemble your slider options from throughout the entire menu’s selection, not just through certain price points.
I settled on the pink pepper-encrusted lobster (of course) with sweet lemon-chili sauce and lettuce, chicken with tomato, lettuce, guac and chipotle aioli, and kobe beef with caramelized sweet onions and onion crisps. All together now:
Damn that looks tasty. Let’s take a closer look:
From sweet bun top to sweet bun bottom (the sliders were assembled in some fantastic bread), these sliders were serious good eats. I ate them in order presented: lobster, chicken, and beef. The lobster was coated super crispily (yay for made up words), and the contrast between the shell of the outside and the sweet sweet lobster within was delightful. The lemon-chili aioli and lettuce helped calm down the heat of the lobster too (it appeared to be freshly baked), and also helped to add that kick of sour/sweet that lobster pairs best with.
The chicken was the disappointment of the trio. While the veggie toppings were fresh and crisp, the guac seemed spiceless which was like, hello, it’s supposed to be guac, not avocado mush. The chicken seemed a bit overcooked and chewy; compared to the lobster slider, it was only so-so.
And then last but certainly not least, that monster of a kobe beef slider. I ended up shaving half of the onion toppings off just to make the slider consumable (though I ate the onion crisps up afterward, heh). The entire thing was quite salty, but the combination of slippery caramelized onion with the onion crisps and the perfectly pink in the middle beef? What a winner.
While the lobster is still nearest and dearest in my heart, the kobe beef is not to be messed with. The chicken - eh. There’s much better on the menu (I see you, pulled pork), the portions are pretty fantastic; these sliders are, indeed, slammin’.
Happy summer! Your food warrior Katrina is currently living in the NorCal Bay Area. I’ve been happily interning at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in the weeks since classes have ended, and lucky for me, the EFF offices are located in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. The eclectic mix of hip restaurants and bars, ethnic grocery stores, and cheap taquerias all make the Mission an excellent food destination.
Off topic: I learned from my boss that the burrito is actually a proprietary San Franciscan invention! Maybe that explains why I was the only one to order a taco at a place the other day: when my lunch came out, it was drenched in so much delicious mole that I had to eat it with a fork and knife while looking very silly and non-native.
San Francisco is also generally a great food truck town, and LA-based Nom Nom Truck even has a mobile outlet in the area. In my neighborhood, there’s a dedicated food truck lot that recently opened called Mission Dispatch. It holds just a couple of trucks at a time during lunch hours. While the boss lady has been great about showing me her favorite lunch restaurants in the neighborhood (and treating me too!), I suggested this new lot after she asked if I wanted to go to this Vietnamese place for what would be our 3rd time.
Out of the two trucks in the lot that day, she suggested Chairman Bao Truck (or The Chairman Truck) not least, I think, because of the adorable Shepard Fairey-esque wrap featuring a panda in a beret. The menu setup gives you four filling choices (fried tofu, crispy chicken, pork belly, and pulled pork) and a choice between steamed mini bao buns and slightly bigger baked sweet rolls. My boss got two tofu bao, while I diversified with one bao each of tofu and pork belly.
The bao buns themselves are pretty tiny, like the buns you would get if you ordered roast duck at a nice Chinese restaurant. They had a little sweetness and tasted very fresh, and were much softer and fluffier than restaurant buns I’ve had. Surprisingly, they weren’t so wimpy that they couldn’t stand up to the robust fillings. None of their bao fillings seemed very saucy, and they don’t dress the sandwiches themselves. Like I would on any taco, I drizzled a thin line of Sriracha sauce on each of my sandwiches.
The tofu bao featured big blocks of soft tofu marinated in miso before being pan-fried for nice crispy edges. Slightly blanched choy sum dressed in what might have been a white miso-garlic vinaigrette accompanied the protein, and were also a little on the big side for such a little bun. The combination had a very mild flavor that cooperated with the soft and unassertive bao. The texture and temperature contrasts between the melty-yet-crispy tofu, the crunchy leaves, and the fluffy bun were probably the most interesting parts of the sandwich. I can see why my boss loves the tofu bao, but they were a little bit on the bland side for my tastes, and I would recommend pairing it with a differently filled bao.
On the other hand the pork belly bao did not lack for flavor! The fatty pieces of meat were smaller than the tofu, and were also very tender. I liked how the pork was braised in a sweetish soy liquid to render some of the fat, instead of fried like bacon or pancetta. The juice got all over my hands! If an eater weren’t into fatty textures then I probably wouldn’t recommend this bao. The daikon pickle slices had a pretty golden tone from the turmeric. Thin daikon slices made the vegetable easy to eat, but the pickles might have packed more of a textural punch if they were slightly thicker.
I would recommend The Chairman Truck without reservations to any nommers in the City By the Bay, as well as the Mission Dispatch truck lot and surrounding neighborhood. Next time, I may go for the canned coconut water the truck serve alongside the sodas, since that’s what everyone else seemed to get. As I was finishing up lunch with my boss, we got engaged in a great discussion of food truck culture’s spread from LA, and the fact that hating LA is a San Franciscan pastime that’s not reciprocated (except in baseball!).
Nom on, food warriors!