Street Grindz: Not just @food!
We visit 10 food trucks and, between bites, reflect on the phenomena of mobile food and Twitter.
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Inferno’s Wood-Fire Pizza
New address: 951 N. King St., (808) 375-1200, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, 12 noon to 9 p.m.
Inferno’s Wood-Fire (no d, apparently) isn’t a truck. It’s a wood-fired brick oven on a trailer. But since its two young owners break down their encampment every day and bring it back the next, it counts.
John Wong and Kyle Okumoto were installing air conditioning at Hawaii Hardwood Flooring, talking about their passion—wood-fired pizza, a passion that ran so deep they had a mobile oven.
Hardwood’s owner suggested they set up in his lot, just to see what happened. Business exploded. At press time, Inferno’s had just moved to a North King Street location with a larger parking lot.
Inferno turns out excellent made-to-order pizza, classics such as fresh tomato and mozzarella, or fusion pizzas such as a smoked beef brisket with barbecue sauce. All on crispy, slightly charred crusts redolent of kiawe smoke.
It’s the best pizza you’ll ever eat in a parking lot, at about $12 each. “We wanted to be reasonable, because this is fun,” says Wong. “We started out making pizza for friends—and now pizza has made us a whole lot of new friends.”
Sheridan Street between Liona, and S. King Streets 497-7991, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Yajima Ya has a tent that you enter through blue noren. It seems just like a Japanese eatery, if Japanese eateries were open air and had a truck.
When Tomo, who was manning the lunch truck, turned around, emblazoned on the back of his T-shirt were the car wash and detailing prices, available at the Cosmo Yajima Service Station, right around the corner on South King.
“Advertising,” he said. “They own the lunch truck.”
I have no standard of comparison for lunch-truck Japanese eateries, but the food Tomo assembled for us in his truck kitchen tasted like the real deal.
A donburi topped with tempura shrimp and vegetables, and a sweetened ginger pork sliced thin as bacon, called buta syougayaki.
Also, cold udon in broth came topped with what the Japanese call “mountain vegetables,” sansai: various ferns and young bamboo shoots, little mushrooms. Plus more buta syougayaki.
The food wasn’t Nobu, but it was as good as anything I’ve ever had in a white paper bowl. It felt, well, really Japanese, at $20 for lunch for two, including a couple of Diet Cokes.
2012 S. Beretania St., 429-0818, Daily 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
So there’s pizza, grilled cheese, donburi and udon. But the main thrust of the new street-food movement is tacos. Why? You can put anything on a taco.
T.A.S.T.E., a trailer permanently parked in front of a Beretania sports bar, was a forerunner of fusion tacos in Honolulu. T.A.S.T.E.
stands for Tasty Asian-Style Taco Eatery.
All tacos here: rib-eye, chicken breast, char siu, mahi or shrimp. With a chopped cabbage salad and housemade dressings.
To me, the problem with T.A.S.T.E.’s tacos—if you can even rightly complain about $2.75 freshly made tacos—is that the meat is barely seasoned. The flavor gets obliterated by the dressings, especially the wasabi dressing on the beef and the honey wasabi cream on the otherwise good shrimp.
The exception: The housemade char siu is tender and redolent with five spice, so good it shines through the shoyu aioli and hoisin vinaigrette.
Next time I sit on a stool at its little metal table in the parking lot, I am ordering three or four char siu.
One more good thing about T.A.S.T.E. It doesn’t have a Twitter account. You can find it by driving down Beretania.
Camille’s on Wheels
Location and hours variable, (808) 282-1740
If you really want a great fusion taco, it’s not at T.A.S.T.E. or GoGi or Xtreme Tacos. You need to find a light blue truck called Camille’s on Wheels.
Not that Camille’s is particularly easy to find. Only my friend Marianne Schulz could have gotten me to drive to remotest Kailua to have a #tweetlunch in an industrial park on Kapaa Quarry Place, sitting at a card table on an inverted Hardware Hawaii bucket.
After a career in restaurant design, Camille Komine has put herself on wheels, selling fusion tacos and homemade desserts. Schulz claimed Komine’s food was worth the drive. An understatement.
Camille’s tacos are amazing: shoyu chicken, kalbi and, her crowning achievement, spicy Thai pork. Everything tastes different. In every case, you can taste the seasonings on the meat, through the stack of cabbage, tomatoes and fresh cilantro. Tacos come with a side of tasty black beans and rice cooked with kaffir lime leaves. You can add a side of her curried quinoa salad, as packed with flavor as her tacos.
Which brings us to the Bl-uuu-e Velvet cupcake. I have been thoroughly immune to the cupcake craze. I wouldn’t have eaten Komine’s blue velvet cupcake, except she was standing right in front of me, singing its name like she was Bobby Vinton.
Not bad, freshly topped with cream-cheese frosting. Lunch trucks sometimes have off-the-menu desserts; always ask.
And look for Camille. “I’m starting to go to town some days,” she says. “I need to find my tribe.”
3121 Mokihana St., Tuesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday until 9 p.m., Saturday until pau
Of course, dare I mention, tacos are Mexican food. Mexican tacos are what Paul Zarate serves out of his reconverted Roberts Hawaii tour bus, which used to roam but now is permanently parked in a small lot off Kapahulu Avenue.
You step out of your car, breathe in the aroma and know you’ve hit the flavor jackpot. For $2.50 each, Zaratez does tacos with carne asada, pollo, carnitas and chorizo, all seasoned so the meat shines through. Then he piles on the onion and cilantro, and finally, salsa, roasted dark in a cast-iron pan to mellow and deepen the flavors.
The chorizo dances across your tongue with pepper, spice and everything nice. May I suggest a $3 mullita—a grilled tortilla sandwich with layers of cheese and meat. Order half chorizo, half pollo asada, which is deeply flavored but a little less forward.
Wonderful food, and unlike most food trucks, open for dinner. We left, tweeting our thanks for fortifying us for a night on the town. Zarate tweeted us back. Tribal custom.
John Heckathorn has been writing award-winning restaurant reviews for HONOLULU Magazine since 1984.