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The Mystery Diner visits Food Truck Junction 2015 – Part One

Mystery Diner • Dec 18, 2015 at 8:30 AM

By the time my dining partner and I found a parking spot, the crowd was already gathering in the amphitheater created by the semi-circle of eleven food trucks on West Walnut Street. Excitement and barbecue smoke was in the air on this sunny, December Saturday afternoon. The brainstorm of Caribbean Grill’s David Ramos, these participants in Food Truck Junction 2015 were out to show the hungry and the curious just what the food truck revolution was all about.

I am not a newbie to the revolution, either. I have been patronizing food cart vendors ever since high school. Back then, I was more than willing to plunk down my hard-earned teen-aged money for a hot dog or a slice of pizza from a food cart, rather than face the alternative of mid-twentieth century war surplus food served by the ladle-full in a high school cafeteria straight out of “White Heat.” Since those callow days of my youth, both the food and the venue have greatly improved. Now, in addition to hot dogs, you’ll find such esoteric fare as ravioli filled with mashed butternut squash, barbecue pulled pork or beef brisket that’s been smoked to a turn right in front of you, and caramelized kimchi, served on an artisan bun and doused with Korean barbecue sauce. These, plus many more and different offerings are available to you from a well-run and efficient mobile food kitchen that could be as near as your street corner. Nowadays, you don’t even have to walk up to the window to place your order; just use your smartphone to email or text it in, and it will be ready when you arrive.

With the arrival of my dine-around bunch friends, I informed them that we were on an impromptu picnic this afternoon. The picnic’s menu would come from the food trucks on-site. Each of us would check out all of the vendors. We could choose a vendor’s most popular food item, and also pick an item that sparked individual interest. While talking, I could see that the Carnivore’s attention was wandering to the first food truck on the left, Gate City’s smoke - shrouded Backdraft Barbecue. My dining partner was interested in the all-white My Father’s Table truck just a few steps away. Looking for something light, the Retiree moved towards the queue in front of Greeneville’s Just Write Food Hut. The Dieter had been “saving up” all week, so that she could pick anything at the festival and not worry about her choice wrecking her diet. Telling me that she’d “find something yummy to contribute to the picnic”, the Dieter sauntered off to find her version of food truck nirvana.

I took a leisurely stroll through the growing crowd, getting re-acquainted with some old friends and checking things out for myself. The Caribbean Grill truck was there, owner Mr. David Ramos out front in his role as Food Truck Junction 2015’s Master of Ceremonies. Ramos was doing a credible imitation of the Almighty on “Creation: Day Three” (dividing Land from Sea) and having a busy time of it.

Foodie Fiction had come in from Bristol, their menu featuring a favorite of mine, the Brie – LT ($7), a grilled sourdough sandwich filled with Presidente brie cheese, sweet sriracha bacon, lettuce and tomato. Also along for the ride was FF’s caramelized kimchi quesadilla ($6).There was Johnson City’s Two Guys hot dog cart, the Carnivore’s favorite place to get his Nathan’s hot dog addiction ($6) seen to. My old friends at Spanqui’s were in from Elizabethton. Though I missed seeing Ms. Kiecia West, the “Spanish Yanqui’s” were busy taking care of the long line of hungry customers that had already formed up out front. The Cuban panini ($9) seemed to be the sandwich of choice, with a $2 fried apple pie for dessert.

Having arrived from Gray, Tennessee, B&B BBQ’s truck had their smoker wafting bewitching odors everywhere. Their “special” was a smoked pulled pork sandwich with baked beans for $8. I ordered one, getting a hefty stack of pulled pork on a standard-sized bun with a 4 oz. -sized portion of the baked beans as the side. I then went round to Greeneville’s Just Write Food Hut, ordering their veggie quesadilla. The Just Write menu chalk board out front said I’d get a half order for $5. The (very busy) cooks inside were handing out whole (and substantial) orders for that price. Though I am not one to interfere with Just Write’s interpretation of the Wealth of Nations, I contributed to their bottom line by ordering some caramel apple nachos ($2).

Juggling my purchases, I carefully walked back to the car, where the dine-around bunch was waiting with their own picnic contributions, and smiles all around. After packing everything carefully away, we all made our way to the picnic site. Next week in Part 2, the dine-around bunch and I taste, compare and enjoy our choices and make recommendations from Food Truck Junction 2015.

For information on the food trucks mentioned in this week’s article that are listed below, be sure to check Facebook and Twitter for hours of operation, accepted methods of payment and (always changing) menu choices:

Caribbean Grill – 218-5184

Backdraft Barbecue - 765-6159

Spanqui’s – 328-4302

Two Guys Hot Dogs – 444-6814

Just Write – 972-0319

B&B BBQ – 361-3714

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