How to improve a perfect, leaf-peeping autumn day? Simple. Add 20 food trucks, live music, and a craft beer garden. Let Mother Nature’s foliage of crimson, gold, and amber provide the backdrop.
That’s what’s happened in Stoneham Square when the town hosted over 5,000 taste-testers at the North Shore Food Truck Festival Oct. 17.
Some of New England’s best food trucks — and one wood-fired brick oven — wheeled in for the day, including Gotta Q, Better Buzz Mobile Espresso, Frozen Hoagies, Happy Taco, Sharky Dogs, Whoo(pie) Wagon, Yumm Bai, Zinneken’s Waffles, Munch Mobile, and Makin’ Jamaican.
Patty Delmonico, who trekked from Tewksbury with friends, noshed on fried cauliflower with curry aioli from The Dining Car and a grilled chicken sandwich with wasabi aioli on a Piantadosi roll.
“They’re really, really good,” she said of both.
Ed Hertz stood in a semicircle next to Rhode Island’s Gotta Q truck waiting for a bite of a pulled pork sandwich being passed around among his son, Ben, Ben’s fiancee, Kerri McCarthy, and her parents, Karen and Rick McCarthy, all of Stoneham.
“We had food at five other trucks,” Ed Hertz reported. “Tacos, Mediterranean, whoopie pies, Jamaican chicken, and frozen hoagies.”
“This was the best,” he said of the pulled pork. The others nodded in agreement.
Ben Hertz said he found the festival bigger than he anticipated.
“I hope it becomes an annual event,” he said.
Angelique DePaolo of Dennis and Kristi Dolbec of Yarmouthport left the Cape to meet their friend Brynn Cooper of Stoneham. The trio visited four food trucks and the Sam Adams beer tent.
DePaolo recommended Roxy’s Green Muenster Melt.
“I ate it in two seconds if that tells you anything,” DePaolo said of the gourmet sandwich from Roxy’s Grilled Cheese made with homemade guacamole, North Country bacon, and Muenster cheese. The Allston truck garnered national acclaim after competing on season two of the Food Network’s “The Great Truck Food Race” in 2011.
Cooper chimed in with her vote. “A Belgian waffle from Zinneken’s Waffles. It was chewy, not too crisp. Delicious.”
As I looked around, lines longer than the RMV’s snaked in front of almost every truck, yet no one seemed to mind.
“Food truck festivals are like going to a concert,” said Anne-Marie Aigner, founder of Food Truck Festivals of America, which organized the event with Stoneham Selectman Tom Boussy. “Waiting in line is part of the experience.”
That meant my teen daughter, husband, and I required a strategy.
Should we pick trucks with the shortest line or ones with food we liked best?
Do we wait together? Or divide and conquer? And mission critical: Do we each have enough cash? (Some trucks did take credit cards.)
We started with Anzio’s, a wood-fired pizza oven on wheels from Grafton.
As Scott Glassman of Northbridge tossed large discs of dough into the air, one after another, he said he expected to flip about 200 pies that day. Next, Dan Hookailo of Sutton added toppings. With a large wooden paddle, owner Todd Harrington slid pizzas in and out of the oven.
The two slices we ordered, one cheese and one meat, were worth the wait. The crust was ultra thin and crispy. The meat slice, topped with quarter-sized pieces of Canadian bacon, added a touch of salt.
Steps from Roxy’s window, my daughter returned with bad news.
“The owner of Gotta Q said he’s about to sell out,” she said.
Later, Mike Strout of Gotta Q told me, “This is the first time we’ve run out.” He and his partner, Janice Sullivan, went through 377 pounds of ribs and 227 pounds of pulled pork in four nonstop hours.
Panicked that the dessert trucks might run out, my husband disappeared, returning with a box “for later” from Cupcake City of Reading with four gourmet treats (red velvet, chocolate, mint chocolate, and tiramisu) and one (so he said) classic from Topsfield’s Whoo(pie) Pie Wagon.
Finally, I made it to Roxy’s window and ordered the Rookie Melt and Mighty Rib, hand-cut truffle fries, and a fresh strawberry lemonade.
After a brief wait, my name was called.
The smell of truffle oil wafted as I was handed an oversized bag stuffed with warm, crispy, salty fries. The Vermont cheddar oozed in the Rookie Melt, thin slices of fresh tomato sandwiched in grilled, buttered white bread that crunched with each bite. The Mighty Rib (with fontina cheese, braised beef, and caramelized onions) filled the void my daughter felt from the sold-out ribs.
Leaf-peeping never tasted so good.Kathy Shiels Tully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.