Johnson City Press: Food Truck Junction Returns to Johnson City
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Food Truck Junction Returns to Johnson City

Mystery Diner • May 7, 2019 at 7:45 AM

It was the Retiree who called my dining partner to invite her to one of her weekend “Food Toots.” This is something our friend does in order to 1) keep her knowledge of area food offerings up to date and 2) do some casual reconnaissance for the rest of the dine-around bunch. When I heard my dining partner repeat the phrase “Food Truck Junction,” I immediately volunteered to, umm, “assist” with the mission.

Facility: This year’s version of the Johnson City Food Truck Junction was held in an area just guaranteed to attract the curious and the hungry: the parking lot of the Mall at Johnson City. Vendors got to set up their rigs right next to North Roan Street, a site both highly visible and easily accessible to passersby via the mall access road. There were eight food vendors on site for the 2019 Food Truck Junction, most notable being the Caribbean Grill truck, the Bite! food truck and Auntie Ruth’s Donuts & Pretzels trailer. Even with a brisk breeze on a crisp spring day, these three vendors were kept busy serving long lines of patrons waiting to sample what they had to offer.

Caribbean Grill — Cuban sandwich, Seis Leche cake: A nice lady named Maria manning the Caribbean Grill food truck had no trouble talking up a Food Truck Junction “special” for my friend the Retiree featuring their Cuban sandwich and a square of their Seis Leche cake at $12 for both items. The Cuban sandwich had a good-sized portion of lean pork roast laid into a fresh-baked baguette as its foundation, with a layer of “City” ham strips next topped with a good quantity of shredded American cheese, some very hot chopped onion and torn cilantro leaves; a dill pickle spear was included almost as an afterthought. The mixture as prepared retained a high temperature, giving the sandwich contents a tendency to slide off one end of the baguette; this was easily restored with minimal mess. The Seis (”Six” to us Anglos) Leche cake was a real treat, the cake having a mildly caramel flavor that complemented the creamed frosting and the crushed fudge stripe cookies sprinkled on top. The included fresh strawberry was a nice touch, and made a nicely astringent palate cleaner.

Bite! — Beef Philly sandwich & Cali Burger: It was good to see the Bite! food truck participating in this year’s Food Truck Junction. I’d had one of chef-in-residence Michael Killgore’s classic Beef Philly steak sandwiches ($10) on an earlier occasion, and talked my dining partner into ordering one. Chef Killgore uses a shaved cut of prime rib sautéed with onions, bell peppers, Crimini mushrooms and (of course) the smear of melted cheese sauce. I had a bite, and it was just as juicy and flavorful as I remembered. Meantime, I’d ordered a Chef Killgore signature, the Cali burger ($8.95). Here Killgore takes a 1/3rd pound of 100% Angus beef, grills it to perfection, tops it with smoked provolone, leaf lettuce, tomato and avocado slices, something called “micro-greens,” all nestled onto a whole wheat (or, in my case gluten-free) bun, and sided with a ramekin packed full of black bean salsa. Very good indeed, though I’d recommend adding the black bean salsa to Killgore’s Cali burger in small doses. Otherwise, you’ll have all of it; burger, provolone, black bean salsa, right in your lap.

Auntie Ruth’s Donuts & Pretzels — Donut ($2 each) & Pretzel ($3 each): By the time the three of us had finished our entrees, our dessert choices for Food Truck Junction 2019 had become limited indeed. Though there was a guy selling caramelized kettle corn, the biggest line was for Auntie Ruth’s Donuts & Pretzels. Before we could discuss the matter of dessert, my dining partner decreed that we would order one each of Auntie Ruth’s offerings in the simplest configuration and share them between the three of us. This proved to be a glazed donut ($2) and a lightly salted pretzel ($3). Auntie Ruth has her food van open on three sides, allowing her customers get to watch their orders’ progress from start to finish. The tantalizer was positioning the cooling rail for the donuts right near the cash register; with all that aroma of fresh-baked goodness enveloping you and your wallet, it’s no wonder customers were buying Auntie Ruth’s handmade yummies by the bagful. The glazed donut the three of us consumed was as large as a coffee saucer and coated with sugary sweetness. I was entranced by the skill of Auntie Ruth’s pretzel girl as she twisted and flipped the pretzel dough into its familiar tri-lobed shape, then handed it to me, baked, lightly salted and tucked into a paper bag, in just under five minutes. Another five minutes, and the pretzel (my portion, at least) was a very pleasant and tasty memory.

Drive-away thoughts: As popular as food trucks have become in Johnson City, a food truck entrepreneur’s participation in a gathering like the Food Truck Junction is a must; not only to “show the flag” and make the public aware of what it is that your food truck is selling, but also to give each food truck vendor an idea of what the competition is and learn how to better serve his customers. An event like a Food Truck Junction also benefits the dining public by increasing awareness of what is available, how much it costs and where to find it. The maxim that “Fortune Favors the Prepared” is true. Those who are aware and prepare will be those who survive and thrive.

Caribbean Grill

824 Sunset Drive

Johnson City

218-5184

Tue-Fri noon–6 p.m.

Sat noon–3 p.m.

Available on Facebook

Credit cards accepted

Bite! Food Truck

747-2885

Check Facebook & social media

for location and hours

Credit cards accepted

Auntie Ruth’s Donuts & Pretzels

7730 Erwin Highway

Chuckey

470-4315

Check Facebook & social media

for location and hours

Credit cards accepted

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