Friday, August 19, 2011

Top 10 Healthy Food Trucks

We sent Lisa to scout out the top 10 healthy food trucks in NYC and figure out what the truck fuss was all about.

Many of us grew up with ice cream trucks, hot dog stands, and the occasional bake sale wagon. Aside from that “mobile food” didn’t have much meaning, or glamour for that matter. Today, you can’t walk three blocks without noticing that gourmet food service on wheels, in the form of “food trucks,” has taken over. New Yorkers now have pedestrian curbside access to healthy meals, fresh squeezed juices, gourmet salads, and grilled falafel. NYC tour companies are even offering food truck tours of Manhattan highlighting lunch spots in midtown and the financial district.

So what makes standing on the sidewalk on our tippy toes to order from a truck so appealing? Are we nostalgic about the excitement that came with lining up for the ice cream truck? Do we like the idea of convenience and perhaps “fast food?” Is it because we want to be part of the foodie scene buzz? Or is there something cool about the idea of getting a meal outside your office door that you would other have to travel deep into Brooklyn for? Although the answer may be a combination or all of the above, the bottom line is that much of the food offered is good – healthy and delicious – and oftentimes better than the brick and mortar deli chain competition.

I think the main reason why the quality of the food is better is because the food truck menu options are limited. These food trucks are niche, and when you walk up you pretty much know what you’ll be ordering based on the name of the truck. Whereas other establishments may spread themselves (and the quality of their ingredients) thin with trying to make everyone happy, food trucks aim to please the fans of their “one hit wonders.”

We scouted the best (and healthiest) food trucks in the greater NYC. Here are our favorites:

NY Dosas: With a line wrapping the corner of Washington Square Park, this truck is impossible to miss. You may have to elbow some NYU students to get to your Roti Curry, but it’s worth the wait. (Please, please steer clear of the Vegan Drumsticks) @nydosas

Green Pirate: This sustainable food truck runs on bio-diesel fuel and composts all production waste. They even trade fresh squeezed juices for whatever services you may be able to offer to their business… This truck bounces between Brooklyn and Soho. @juicepirate

Food Trucks parked at Tavern on the Green: Rickshaw Dumplings, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream and Pera Turkish Tacos are conveniently parked in Central Park, right across from the Foodtrainers office. We’re sad to see Ladle of Love have to go, but still love Rickshaw’s organic edamame dumplings.

Rouge Tomate: We are so excited that one of Foodtrainers’ favorite restaurants has gone mobile by entrance to the Central Park Zoo. Not only is the food cart environmentally friendly, powered by solar energy, they serve items like farmhouse yogurt with local honey and delicious chilled white gazpacho. @rougetomatecart
Luke’s Lobster & Red Hook Lobster: The Luke’s Lobster Nauti Mobile offers the option for a half lobster, crab, or shrimp roll. We’ve tried most seafood rolls this city has to offer, and Luke’s is by far the cleanest with mayo optional. Red Hook Lobster also brings their Brooklyn based seafood joint to the streets of Manhattan. @LukesLobsterNY and @lobstertruckny
Crisp on Wheels: This mobile midtown lunch spot offers a variety of falafel sandwiches and salad bowls. Our favorite is the mama mia salad with sundried tomato spread. You’ll never know this falafel isn’t fried. @CrispOnWheels
Organic Carts NYC: Another favorite restaurant, GustOrganics launched the first certified organic street cart in NYC, located in front of MoMa. They have a great breakfast menu with a juicer on the cart. At lunch they serve salads, hummus, and homemade soups and stews.

Cinnamon Snail: This vegan truck caters mostly to Hoboken and Red Bank. Their breakfast menu features dishes from the likes of fresh fig pancakes with pine nut butter and chamomile blood orange syrup, while their lunch menu offers a wide variety from raw pizza, to red curry, and maple mustard tempeh. @VeganLunchTruck

Calexico: This Brooklyn restaurants can now be found parked as a food truck in Soho and Flatiron. They serve clean Mexican food, and we love the naked frijoles negros “burrito.”  

Big Gay Ice Cream Truck: Okay, so we don’t recommend you put this one on the regular lunch rotation, but with toppings like Wasabi Pea Dust, Ginger and Elderflower Syrups, Cardamom, and Pumpkin Butter, we couldn’t leave it off the list. @biggayicecream

Since these trucks don’t have permanent locations, the best way to figure out where they’ll be on a given day is to check their Facebook and twitter pages. Even more novelty in scouting out your lunch – it’s a social media scavenger hunt to get it! Although food trucks have become a popular lunchtime market for professionals, it doesn’t end there. Food trucks are swarming to parks, beaches, and college campuses in order to make themselves available in areas with less (than healthy) options. 

While a lot of fun is associated with finding and patronizing food trucks, we also want to mention that food trucks are serving an important purpose in terms of community nutrition – they aid in solving the problem of “food deserts,” or areas without access to healthy food. NYC’s Green Carts was instituted to serve this purpose andother initiatives have used food trucks as a means to deliver healthy (and free!) food to people in areas where it wouldn’t otherwise be available. Check out Dole Fruit Bowls on Tuesdays  and Go Healthy New York’s Free Fruit Fridays.  @GoHealthyNY

Have you tried any of the trucks we highlighted? Any personal favorite NYC food trucks? Do you have food trucks where you live? If so, what are they? And if you had a food truck what would it serve?


  1. This is why I miss living in a real city.

  2. Love this list, thanks so much for the post! Unfortunately my office is far out of the way from most of these, but maybe I'll find one sometime!

  3. Wow even though i knew there were a few healthy ones, I've still stayed anti-food trucks. But not anymore after this post- My friends are obsessed with Rick Shaw dumplings and Calexico. I think my first stop will be something trustworthy (I'm thinking Rouge Tomate gazpacho yum).. and I've joined the social media scavenger hunt for Green Pirate. Great list lisa!

  4. Great list! I'll keep it in mind if I'm ever in NYC! :) The food truck scene in San Jose is exploding at the moment. And there are certainly some healthier than others. My favorites are a Vietnamese truck that uses local, organic ingredients and an organic vegetarian/vegan truck that has amazing sandwiches that taste really fresh and "clean."

  5. Boy do I feel like I'm missing out!! Never knew this food truck craze existed. I think I may have to make some fig pancakes this morning! Need a cinnamon snail here in Simi Valley =)

  6. For the occasional treat, love @KelvinSlush ( especially when a little bit of vodka or tequila finds it's way into a slush (it made seeing HP and the Deathly Hollows way more enjoyable). And their are some great iphone apps - check out Street Eats or New York Street Food.

  7. I love Rouge Tomate so much. I'm so glad they have a food cart. I really must check it out soon!

  8. Sam, let us know what you think of the cart when you check it out. It's definitely a pretty cart!

  9. How neat! I never knew these trucks were out there..and offered healthy foods.
    It's so refreshing to see things like this. Makes you realize were taking a step in the right direction.

  10. Oh, I shouldn't be reading this while I'm hungry! Everything sounds delish-wish I were in NYC right now to sample! I'm sure there are some good healthy food truck options in San Diego, but I've never tried any. You just gave me a great idea for some tasty "homework"!

  11. EA- let us know if you come up with any SD finds. Maybe you start a gfree truck, your kids would have a ball.

  12. It is cool Ayala and I don't think we realized that this trend isn't necessarily everywhere yet!

  13. The thing I've noticed about food trucks is that the portions are satisfying, but reasonably sized. Compare that to the gigantic sandwiches that office workers get at the corner deli, that alone makes them a bit healthier.

  14. oh wow what fun so want to come and sample these ;-)

  15. Interesting about the portions, it is sort of normal or even snack sized.

  16. Not too long ago I had a fabulous idea to open a dosa food truck. Apparently I've missed the boat!

    I've only eaten Cool Haus' ice cream but aside from that I haven't eaten off a food truck. I prefer the ambiance of a sit down restaurant!

  17. Rouge Tomate is one of my favorite restaurants, too! I want to try the food cart, but any time I am in CP - I am typically covered in sweat and running...

    I love this post because I always wonder about the quality of food at food trucks. I tried KimChee Taco one day - in Noho - after having walked for 30min searching for something to eat. It was sooooo good! I love kim chee, and I love tacos, and the combo is amazing!

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  19. Big fan of Both Rickshaw and of Luke's. Rickshaw is all over the place here in NYC. I really appreciate the move towards higher quality, healthier, I guess it's called "fast casual" foods. 

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