The food truck craze started slowly in Salt Lake City, with Thursday lunchtime gatherings at the Gallivan Center.
Now they’re everywhere — brewery parking lots, city parks, carnivals, birthday parties, corporate get-togethers — serving every kind of food, including hot dogs, sushi, tacos, pizza and ice cream.
The Utah Food Truck League keeps tabs on who’s out on the road, and tracks meetups all over the valley; though it’s active on social media, and has a website — thefoodtruckleague.com — the best way to get the week’s schedule is to subscribe to the newsletter, which goes out on Mondays.
Here are five Utah food trucks that offer menus that offer something a little bit different — and one old classic that you must try if you haven’t already.
Unique Spice Always
The name of Unique Spice Always acronyms as “U.S.A.,” and the menu has a slightly American fusion tilt, with chicken wings and Arabic-style quesadillas. But don’t miss the traditional dishes — kebabs, shawarma, falafel, baba ganoush and Iraqi-style lemonade — that could go toe-to-toe with any other Middle Eastern food in town, including at sit-down restaurants.
Owner Rita Shaba Daynes is a delight — go twice, and she’ll not only remember you, but what you ordered — and if she asks you if you want baklava, the answer is yes. U.S.A. offers several different kinds, including the classic walnut and pistachio; American (chocolate, hazelnut and almond); and the Burma, a vegan version made with coconut and pistachio.
The truck re-launched in mid-February in front of the Osmond Furniture Store in Orem, but you can find it all over the Salt Lake Valley on a regular basis, often outside of T.F. Brewing. Visit U.S.A.’s Facebook page to see the menu, and where they’re parked this week.
The Red Food Truck
Don’t let the nonspecific name fool you: The Red Food Truck is specifically Peruvian — which you might guess from the cartoon llama on the side of the truck.
Its signature dish is traditional Peruvian lomo or pollo saltado: Beef or chicken grilled with onions, tomatoes and cilantro, and then spiced and served over rice. It also serves not-so-traditional saltado sandwiches served on a soft, ciabatta-style bun, as well as pollo a la brasa sandwiches (rotisserie chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, pickled onion, Peruvian spices, mayo and mustard) and aside de puerco sandwiches (herb-marinated pork tenderloin, lettuce, tomato, pickled onions Peruvian spices and mayo).
Quinoa, often associated with yoga moms, is traditionally Peruvian, too — so you’ll find it on the menu here as a salad, dressed in a traditional sauce. The truck also serves a veggie sandwich with marinated tofu, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and Peruvian spices. Find them each week by going to their Facebook page.
Haole T’s Hawaiian Beach Grill
There’s a lot of Hawaiian food in Utah, predominantly poke. Nothing wrong with poke, of course, but if you’re looking to change things up, you couldn’t do much better than Haole T’s Hawaiian Beach Grill.
This truck starts with ingredients like grilled pineapple, smoked Kalua pork and Hawaiian rolls, and mixes and matches them to create something a little different. The angus beef burgers are standouts, including the Hawaiian burger (topped with cheddar, grilled pineapple and teriyaki) and the Mango Beach Burger (which comes with Swiss, avocado, mango salsa, chipotle mayo, and white sauce).
It also offers rice bowls, including one with Hawaiian-style smoked pulled pork, kimchi, daikon, sweet carrots, green onion and your choice of pineapple or mango salsa. You can also get Kalua pork in a taco, with cabbage, teriyaki sauce, pineapple or mango salsa or pico de gallo. Haole T’s is proof that beachside Hawaiian doesn’t always mean raw fish. Find the menu, and where it’s parked this week, on its Instagram page.
Donut Kabobs bills itself as “Utah’s sweetest food truck,” but sugar is sugar is sugar. And there are other trucks on the streets of the Salt Lake Valley serving mini-donuts. But no one else serves them on a skewer — which means even if they’re drowning in delicious buttery glazed donut icing, you won’t end up with gross sticky fingers.
Inspired by the mini-donuts served in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the donuts are fried onsite right before serving, and are served with a number of different toppings: Traditional glazed donut icing; maple syrup and cinnamon; maple syrup, bacon crumbles and whipped cream; Nutella, bananas and whipped cream; and circus animal cookies, glaze sprinkles and whipped cream. And if you’re a person who doesn’t mind getting your fingers a little sticky, you can also buy them by the basket. You can find them by following their Instagram page or going to donutkabobs.com.
Don Rafa’s on State Street
Before Gallivan, before the Utah Food Truck League, before the word “food truck” was even a phrase, there was Tacos Don Rafa, aka “the State Street taco cart.”
So — yes, Don Rafa’s on State Street is technically a cart rather than a truck, so we’re bending the rules slightly to include it, but it was how lots of Salt Lakers first experienced street food (and Don Rafa does operate trucks now, though just for catering) and it’s still as fresh, authentic and affordable as it was when it first opened in 1998.
Back in the late 1990s — when the Sears on State Street was still in business — it was an unusual sight to see Don Rafa at his cart 365 days a year, including during December sleet storms or on blistering August afternoons. If you’ve never been, or made your last trip in 2002, you owe it to yourself to stop at 798 S. State, and try one of Don Rafa’s signature tacos, served in corn tortillas dressed in oil. You’ll still find them there nearly every day — no matter how hot or cold it is outside — and the tacos are still at near-1990s prices, $1.50 per (except for tripe and tongue).
Tacos, burritos and quesadillas can be filled with a number of different meats (including carne asada, pastor, barbacoa, cabeza, and buche), and are topped with Mexican cheese. For the full experience after dressing your food at the condiments cooler, find a picnic table in the ex-Sears parking lot or sit yourself on the cement ledge near the cart to do some people (and pigeon) watching.
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