The food truck trend on the East End has evolved into its own culture, reinventing a culinary philosophy steps above the traditional hotdog cart. From vintage trucks and trailers, to new restaurants adding wheels to current ventures, the food and the people behind it are defining a new type of cuisine.
“Man cannot live on fine dining alone,” says Claudia Fleming, the James Beard award-winning pastry chef and owner of the North Fork Table and Inn in Southold. The North Fork Food Truck, with offerings like pulled pork, lobster rolls, and bánh mì, is a more accessible option for the community. She also says the food truck phenomenon is less of an evolution and more of a proliferation where guests have begun to expect creativity and quality from food trucks, not just hot dogs.
New trucks are rolling out this year from a number of Hamptons restaurants, including The Plaza Café in Southampton and Harbor Bistro in Springs. Chef Douglas Gulija’s Plaza Café on Wheels is an evolving concept and a fresh take on his 21-year-old business. The menu will be similar to the restaurant’s bar menu with fresh grilled tacos and take-out style shrimp available at locations like Estia’s Little Kitchen, The Spur and The Milk Pail.
Chef Damien O’Donnell says the Bistro Mobile Kitchen will be an extension of his Three Mile Harbor location, serving summer dishes like fish tacos, tuna poke, ceviche and more at private events. The motto is “keep it simple, keep it fresh, keep it local,” he says.
For Terry McGuire, the food truck business is a standalone that has combined his passions. Homeslice Pizza Co. was built by McGuire on a military trailer with a pizza oven that holds possibilities beyond this favorite New York food, like sourdough bread and slow cooked meats. “I long-ferment my dough, which has a difference in digestion and flavor,” McGuire explains. “We get back to doing it naturally. It’s not a giant heavy pizza; it’s light and fresh with local ingredients.”
This year McGuire is working with the Amagansett Food Institute to further develop his dough recipe and starters. Of toppings, he says everything is seasonal, like David Falkowski’s hot peppers infused with local honey from Open Minded Organics in Bridgehampton. McGuire believes in working within the community, including other food trucks, like his friend Juan Ruiz of Aji Authentic Mexican Food. Ruiz’s had more than 16 years of cooking experience in the Hamptons before he launched his own truck a few years ago.
Laughing that he learned a lot about Italian cooking, which he loves, Ruiz opted to stick to his Mexican roots. Tacos are the most popular, especially the El Pastor, a savory pork taco peppered with sweet, grilled pineapple. “People are starting to like food trucks more,” Ruiz says. “They are doing two different food trucks for weddings now instead of traditional caterers. It’s really great.”
Rosalie Rung owns Little Creek Oyster Farm and Market in Greenport with her husband, Ian Wile. The Shuck Bus is a restored 1965 International Harvester Metro Van where the pair offer their own fresh shellfish for private events. Food trucks offer more than food, Rung says — they set the tone of the event and create a full experience.
“This is especially true of the more classic model trucks that instantly conjure up either a nostalgic throwback moment, or lend a retro vibe to any event,” she explains. “Our truck just makes people smile…it has a happy face! When we bring our truck to an event, it’s about the oysters, sure, but we’re there to set the stage and really extend the experience that people have had at our shop. I think the same is true of most of the East End trucks as well, with or without a physical shop.”
Finishing with something sweet, a donut truck was a natural extension for the multi-generational Dreesen family business. In addition to portable machines, the donut truck serves fresh, hot donuts in traditional styles, among seasonal flavors like hot apple cider, pumpkin spice and donut ice cream bars.
“Coming up with displays and recipes is the fun part,” says Christina DeSanti of the four-generation family business. “We’ve had donuts since the 1950s. They came up with recipes as a side part to the business, and it’s a lot more popular.”