It must be impossible to spend much time in Los Angeles without developing a sense of intrigue about the food truck phenomenon that now boasts a fleet of over 200 mobile eateries. There is clearly something very appealing about these food trucks, which continue to command both media attention and popular support, as well as – in some cases – the involvement of prominent restaurants and celebrated chefs. Thousands of people track the most popular trucks daily, flocking to them as their current location is revealed via Twitter. The small number of trucks that initiated this new food movement have been portrayed (perhaps even retrospectively idealised) as an experiment in modern street food culture, associated with an anti-establishment motivation, and described as exciting, edgy and alternative. Those that are present in L.A. today have – I imagine – a full range of incentives for their existence, and it isn’t really surprising that the rapid expansion of the food truck movement has also led some to question both its quality and sustainability. But for now – at least – food trucks remain incredibly popular.
I’ve never gone in search of a specific truck, but feel increasingly drawn to do so. It would be an excellent way to tour the city, and could be done in one of several ways. More structured tours could be led by neighbourhood or ethnic food type, but for a more random approach – and this really appeals to me – the nomadic nature of the trucks could guide you on a magical mystery tour as, over the course of a day, you hunt for the best breakfast, coffee, lunch, cupcake, dinner, or late night snack. All of which are possible.
I will definitely do this. But Sunday was a day for the arts, as we headed to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the newly opened Stanley Kubrick exhibition. However, after parking the car – before even crossing the road – I was delighted to see a small gathering of food trucks. I was even more delighted that it was lunch-time(ish), and that we hadn’t yet eaten. But before we reached the trucks I was distracted again. This time by ten sections of the original Berlin wall that had been presented in 2009 as a public art initiative to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its fall. Even on Wilshire Boulevard on a sunny afternoon – 6,000 miles and a generation away from its original location – it’s a spectacle of repression that 23 years later is still adjusting to its position as a symbol of freedom and hope. It’s a powerful monument, and I’m glad to have seen it.
None of the most popular food trucks were around on this particular afternoon, but six or eight gave us a good choice, and a variety that included SoCal tacos, German gourmet sausages, Greek fusion and chicken curry burritos. Clearly, there is a novelty factor at work here, and this is one of the issues that some are objecting to as expansion necessitates diversification in order for individual businesses to stand-out from the crowd. Another way to achieve distinctiveness is to custom-fit a 1968 Airstream trailer with a fully workable – but very tiny – kitchen. That was enough to seduce me, and the wonderful pungent smell of curried spices was only the second reason for choosing to eat at Luckdish. Their menu is rather limited, and although the chicken curry (served with or without the burrito) works well as a signature dish, the list of other items consists of some rather uninspiring sounding sandwiches. It was a decent curry – hot, sweet and spicy – and with a good portion of rice it was also satisfying. At a cost of $8, it wasn’t bad value either. We also went to In-Fusion, which describes itself as ‘Curbside South-western Fusion Cuisine’, and had the Mesa Pork Confit Gyros plus chips and soda for $10. This was an instant hit. The pork (shoulder braised in Applewood bacon fat) had an intense taste that reminded us of Greek holidays; the pita bread was thick, but light and fluffy, and full of cilantro, cucumber, tomato, lettuce and red pepper hummus; the chips were perfectly coated in paprika and pepper.
Moving on from these welcome distractions, we finally realized the object of our outing as we headed towards LACMA. I wouldn’t claim to be a particularly enthusiastic fan of Stanley Kubrick, but neither would I dispute either his creative genius or his impressive credentials. “2012: A Kubrick Odyssey” contains over 1000 items, organized into an incredibly impressive display that is arranged into ‘rooms’, each dedicated to one of his films: Dr Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Barry Lyndon, Full Metal Jacket, Lolita, Spartacus (and more). Each one was a pageant including scripts (with scribbled, hand-written notes), hundreds of original props, costumes and other on-set material, cameras, posters, and personal articles, correspondence and scrapbooks. Whether you’re familiar with his work or not, it’s a fascinating exhibition of a celebrated and controversial film maker, is extraordinarily well suited to this museum space in Los Angeles, and is definitely worth a visit ($20).