Need to grab a bite on the go? Take your pick from our list of Adelaide's top 10 food trucks. Catch them if you can.
BY MARC LLEWELLYN
Who doesn’t like a good meatball or three? Adelaide’s only meatball food van is the brainchild of David Porcaro, who used to eat meatballs at his Italian granny’s house when he was a child. “We specialise in meatballs in all their glory. We do our best to bring meatballs to the people,” he says. “Everyone can relate to them. There’s not a culture in the world that doesn’t have a meatball in it somewhere.”
The food truck has been operating for the past two years. “It doesn’t have to be just spaghetti and meatballs,” he says. “We think meatballs can be born again and be a gourmet product, like the burger.”
A big seller is a butter chicken meatball dish. Porcaro smothers chicken meatballs in an Indian butter chicken sauce and serves them on rice. Another version sees the same meatballs stuffed into a large hollowed-out bread roll, before being smothered in butter chicken sauce and yoghurt. Poppadoms and coriander act as a garnish.
Customers might be juggling their favourites though, because there’s also classic meatballs with a Mexican-inspired tomato salsa served on yellow rice. A vegetarian chickpea and tahini ball option comes with a beetroot and bulgur wheat salad and harissa yoghurt. Delectaballs is slowly expanding into supermarkets.
2. Sneaky Pickle
'Authentic American’ is the phrase that sums up the Sneaky Pickle food van. Every week there are two main options to choose from. It could be a pulled beef po’boy from Louisiana, or a barbecued smoked brisket from Texas, or maybe a pastrami sandwich similar to one you’d eat in New York.
“We spend several weeks a year touring the United States looking for authentic sandwiches and then bring the concept back to Australia,” says Jeff Griffiths, who runs the business with his wife Amanda.
There are 26 sandwiches in the range and each has a cult following. Side dishes could include fried onion rings, or deep fried pickles covered in a batter made with homebrew beer. “We do some stuff that you never see in Australia,” Jeff says. “We’ve really done our research and we’re very passionate. Our pastrami is second to none. No one else in South Australia is doing it.”
The couple also make their own soft drinks, including cola, blueberry, lemonade, lavender and creaming soda. And they make all their own pickles too. “Every American sandwich has a pickle on the side or within the sandwich itself,” he says.
Grab an authentic American sandwich at the Sneaky Pickle food truck in Adelaide.
3. Veggie Velo
After a vegetarian restaurant that Manuel Parez worked in as a chef suddenly closed, he had an urge to go out on his own. But with not enough money to start up a café or restaurant what was he supposed to do? Get on his bike, of course. But he didn’t have one of those either. So with the last of his savings he imported a ‘cargo bike’ from India, learnt how to weld, and set about turning the three-wheeler into a moving barbecue.
“I decided to start this crazy adventure. I thought it was a good idea to do things on a bicycle because it was a bit different,” Manuel says.
Three years later his partner rides a second bicycle with a box on the back for salad-making and burger preparation. Manuel sells three types of vegetarian and vegan burgers from the back of his bike. The most popular is a haloumi burger with mushrooms. There’s a lentil burger and a tofu burger too.
“We like being a bit different on the bicycle as opposed to other food trucks and because we are on a direct level with our customers it helps us have better relationships,” he continues. “It’s also easier to park!”
4. Burger Theory
Burger Theory started selling American-style burgers five years ago when the typical Aussie burger “was just something you got with the lot”. Rob Dean and Dan Mendleson decided to put their main focus on the beef, and how it is prepared and cooked.
“At first we kept it pretty simple, with just two burgers on the menu called the Number 1 and the Number 2,” Rob says. The Number 1 burger is still the most popular. It’s a classic-style burger with lettuce, tomato and American cheese in a brioche bun. The Number 2 comes with a blue cheese sauce, onion confit and bacon.
There is more on the menu these days though, including a monthly creation. Past monthly creations have seen a burger topped with crabsticks and fish roe. “The Why Not Both burger was our first Burger of the Month two years ago and we’ve just brought it back,” Rob says. “It’s an American cheese burger with a hot dog in there too.”
Burger Theory has really taken off. The boys now have two restaurants and a shipping container serving burgers, and they are venturing into the pub burger scene. This put the food van on the back burner for a while, but it’s getting out and about again.
5. Taste of Hungary
Hungarian Csaba Egri and his wife Monika had a vision for their food truck business when they first hit the road three years ago. “I wanted to go back to my roots and make food without additives or chemicals, using traditional Hungarian recipes,” Csaba says.
One of their specialities is kurtosh kalach, or chimney cake, which is made using a 300-year-old recipe. The ribbon-like dough is wound around a cylinder, covered with sugar and baked in a rotisserie. The heat caramelises the sugar, and makes a thin, crispy outside layer while leaving a soft interior.
Also selling like hot cakes is Langallo, which is like pizza but with much thicker dough. Toppings include Hungarian Csabai sausage and smoked cheese. There’s a vegetarian version too. They pop out a range of artisan biscuits and home-made drinks as well, including iced elderflower cordial, lemonade made from fresh lemons, and raspberry cordial with real fruit. “There’s a trend to drink artificial stuff but we wanted to show people what they drank years ago, especially in Europe,” he says.
6. La Chiva
Gustavo Eraso knows a thing or two about chorizo. He was born in Columbia and his Andean style chorizo patties zing with flavour. “We set up the van two years ago because we realised that a lot of people didn’t really know what South American food was. They thought it was like Mexican, but they are completely different tastes,” he says.
“We wanted to show our heritage to Australia, so while we serve our South American food we also play our South American music.” Back to those chorizo patties…They are made from free-range South Australian pork and finished on the grill with melted cheese. Gustavo serves them in soft bread rolls with lettuce, fresh coriander, smoked salsa sauce and mayonnaise.
Also on the menu are yucca (or cassava) chips served with herby, roasted peppers and mayo dipping sauce. Coming back for more? How about the hand-made grilled white corn bread with shredded chicken and South American sauces, or Amazon Rice tossed with roasted chicken and green peas in a chocolate-chilli sauce?
7. Papa's Gourmet Hotdogs
If you have a Silver Bullet van attached to the back of your Jeep you certainly get the looks you need to drum up business. The owner of Papa’s Gourmet Hotdogs believes his shiny Silver Bullet, all the way from the United Kingdom, is only one of three in Australia.
“There’s another one in Adelaide which is used by a charity, and one in Brisbane. So we really stand out in the crowd,” says the van’s owner, Bruce Zhang. The food of choice here is, of course, hot dogs. But these aren’t your usual sausages in a bun.
The most popular is a wagyu beef sausage done German-style. “Australians tend to prefer barbecue sauce rather than mustard on their sausages though,” Bruce says. Next comes the English pork sausage hotdog, especially nice with a side of shoestring fries. A chilli kransky hotdog adds a bit of bite.
8. Moorish Bites
If you turn a globe upside down, Adelaide would be on almost the same latitude as the town of Chefchaoen in Morocco. Funnily enough, Chefchaoen is where Moorish Bites’ owner, Mohamed Ben Said, originally came from. “I hear of so called Moroccan food being sold in Australia that you would never find over there,” the trained chef says. “What we cook is authentic, with real Moroccan spices.”
His customers love the Meloui, which is a Moroccan pancake filled with spinach and feta cheese, or eggplant, chicken, lamb, or marinated fish. Their second favourite is the Moroccan BBQ, followed by pastilla – a filo-pastry pie made from chicken, almonds and spices.
“That’s really hard to make so we usually reserve it for big festivals when we serve around 500 people a day,” he says. As you might expect, the tagine makes an appearance too. These distinctive earthenware pots produce slow-cooked lamb and Moroccan-style vegetables on a bed of couscous.
9. Chimichurri Grill
The bright red and yellow woven colours of the Chimichurri Grill truck make it hard to miss, which is just as well if you fancy one of the best steak sandwiches this side of Buenos Aires. A former chef at Adelaide’s pioneering Gaucho’s Argentinian Restaurant, Greg Tillman took Chimichurri Grill on the road four years ago. He works with his wife, Sarah, and together they create four Argentinian sandwiches.
“I hadn’t had a decent steak sandwich for a long time and I thought I can make a fantastic steak roll that Aussies will love,” Greg says. He cooks the steak sous vide style, which means the meat is vacuum packed and immersed in hot water until it’s cooked. He finishes it off on a charcoal grill and serves it a fresh ciabatta roll with provelone cheese, rocket, mayonnaise and homemade chimichurri sauce.
The same sauce – made with garlic, red wine vinegar and herbs and spices, with an olive oil base – goes on a spicy chorizo sausage version. “The ‘choripan’ as it’s called in Argentina is their version of the sausage sandwich. It’s the ultimate street food,” he says. There’s chicken too, as well as a vegetarian option.
10. The Satay Hut
It’s been a decade since Adam Jones first put some chicken on skewers and The Satay Hut was born. Then two years ago he quit his job as a project manager at a national scaffold company to concentrate fully on his Asian creations. “It’s my favourite food. I love Asian food and I eat it every time I go out,” says the food truck’s owner, Simon Jones.
The Satay Hut sells the likes of dim sims and spring rolls, but the crowds go nuts for the chicken satay wrap made with satay chicken, fresh Lebanese bread, lettuce, organic tomatoes and red onion. On a good day Simon can sell around 700 satay sticks from his retro van, which you can also find at the annual WOMADelaide world music festival.