Did you know that Chattanooga has a street food scene? If you said no, you’re not alone. If you said yes, you are probably either (a) like me and unnaturally absorbed in the Chattanooga food scene; or (b) someone who works downtown. Food trucks in Chattanooga don’t do a lot of venturing out of downtown Chattanooga at this time, and why would they? Their bread is definitely getting buttered by the downtown crowd, as they sell out of product regularly and are definitely thriving. Right now, the food trucks in Chattanooga are Southern Burger Co. (aka the best burger in Chattanooga), Taco Sherpa (Korean tacos & rice bowls), Famous Nater’s (sandwiches), and A Taste of Argentina (duh, Argentinian food). Supplement that with Monkey Town Donut Company’s donut cart and Pure Sodaworks’ handmade soda cart, and you’ve got a true street food scene.
I’ve been wanting to try all of the above for some time now, but since I both live and work in Hixson and we are not big on crowds (i.e. we don’t care too much for the Chattanooga Market), this amazingness has eluded me to this point. I had a personal day that needed ot be used up before the end of the school year, so I took yesterday off from work and went to Fresh on Fridays, a gathering of all the food trucks and carts plus several other vendors at Miller Plaza. Once summer break hits, I am sure that I will attend many more of these plus some Food Truck Tuesdays at Warehouse Row. Both of these events begin at 11 and end at 2.
We arrived a few minutes early and the only vendor that was open was Monkey Town Donut Co., so we waited a few minutes. I had already decided to eat at Taco Sherpa. They opened promptly at 11 and I walked up and introduced myself as Chattavore (I’m a big dork like that). Whit, the chef, and I had conversed a little bit on Twitter, and he shook my hand….and he knew my first name. And that I’m a teacher. I was quite impressed. That, my friends, is connecting with your consumers. Whit’s wife, Lindsey, gave me a bite of dak galbi (spicy chicken) to taste so I could make sure that it wasn’t too spicy, since I’m a pansy. It wasn’t. I ordered one dak galbi taco and one galbi (pork marinated in sweet & spicy soy-based sauce) taco plus chips and salsa as a side. They also offer Korean banchan (pickled/fermented vegetables) but as I mentioned, I’m a pansy and I was afraid of the kimchi. I’ll wait for Philip to order it at some point, because if my food’s too spicy, I can’t eat it. And nothing is more depressing to me than ordering food and not being able to eat it.
My tacos came out quickly. They are served on double corn tortillas with cucumber, radish, cabbage, cilantro, sesame seeds, and sherpa sauce. The chicken is cut into large chunks and coated with the sherpa sauce, which is just a little spicy…you taste the chiles more than the heat. I liked it….but I liked the pork more. The pork was shredded/pulled pork and you could just taste the slow-roastedness of it. The sauce was perfect and all of the veggies really completed the flavor. I love corn tortillas and the tacos were great on them. The chips and salsa were….chips and salsa. I want to try the banchan…and I will, eventually. Taco Sherpa is a fantastic addition to Chattanooga’s street food scene. Try it. TRY IT! They just opened last month, and they’re sure to be around for a long time. You can learn more about Taco Sherpa at their website, http://tacosherpa.com, their Facebook page, or on Twitter (@tacosherpa).
****Sadly, the Sherpa closed in early 2013 when White and Lindsay decided to move back to South Korea. I wish them well but they’ll be missed!
While Philip liked the idea of Korean tacos, he was sucked in by the promise of the Famous Nater’s BBQ pork sandwich: 12-hour roasted pork with truckmade barbecue sauce, bacon, and cabbage slaw on a Niedlov’s bun. Yep. Pork on pork. Since Philip loves pulled pork and bacon about equally, he was pretty much fixated and couldn’t take his mind off that pork sandwich. Nater’s was a little late opening, so he had to wait a few minutes longer than I did. He got the BBQ sandwich and a bag of Route 44 salt & vinegar chips (we got our drinks from Pure Sodaworks-more on that in a minute). As you can see, there were a few lightly pickled vegetables also included with the sandwich, along with the huge stack of pulled pork in sweet sauce and a thick layer of red cabbage slaw. The roasted pork was perfectly tender and the sauce was just right, although Philip commented that he couldn’t really taste the bacon very much….I guess it was overpowered by the barbecue sauce. Oh well. The sandwich was still great and the Niedlov’s bun pulled it all together…quite literally. Famous Nater’s has been around since early 2011 and landed very close to the top in a national food truck competition…in their first year! You can find out more about Famous Nater’s on their website, http://famousnaters.com, their Facebook page, or on Twitter (@famousnaters). You can also call them at 423-596-5457.
Like I said above, we got our drinks at Pure Sodaworks. I had no idea such a thing existed until last month when another local blog, Local Milk, started talking about it on the blog and on Twitter. Handmade soda? In Chattanooga? Yes please. Philip and I are soda lovers but soda is a treat for us, and we are always on the lookout for a great soda that doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup, and we’ve recently even tried our hand at making our own (good times!). Well, we have found the perfect one(s). Pure Sodaworks has a stationary location in Coolidge Park that just opened, and in addition to selling their drinks by the cup, they will start a bottling operation soon. They offer seasonal flavors-hooray-sweetened with natural cane sugar-hooray again! On this day, the offerings were root beer, ginger ale, hibiscus lemon, strawberry jalapeno, and lavender mint. I jumped at the lavender mint, and Philip decided on strawberry jalapeno. Both were heaven in a cup, a few squirts of syrup over pellet ice (rejoice!) and topped off with carbonated water. Mine was so fresh and herby tasting, not overwhelmingly minty or lavendery but a perfect balance of both. Philip’s was sweet and perfectly strawberry tasting with the peppery flavor of jalapeno and just a hint of spice…even my pansy tastebuds could handle it. He kept saying it was blowing his mind (in a good way) to taste sweet and jalapeno together. Perfection. Shawn, the soda jerk who was working the stand (I found out his name because I cyberstalked him on their website) carried our drinks to the table for me because I had my hands full of tacos and then he spent several minutes talking to us about their business before we left. I am so excited about Pure Sodaworks I can hardly take it! Get out of your Coca-Cola rut and give them a try! Pure Sodaworks is located at 181 River Street, Chattanooga, TN 37405. You can call them at 423-299-3219. To learn more about them, check out their website, http://puresodaworks.com, their Facebook page, or Twitter (@puresodaworks).
Finally, as we left, we stopped by the Monkey Town Donut Company trailer. Monkey Town Donut Company is based in Dayton, Tennessee (get it? Monkey Town? As in the Scopes Monkey Trial?). Their donuts are tiny, one to two-bite donuts (one for Philip, two for me) coated with cinnamon and sugar. Oh, and they only have thirty calories each. Yep, 30 calories. Which means that a serving (six!) has less than 200 calories. Is that the perfect food or what? They were amazing hot, but we had a few left over (I think that he actually gave us a few more than a dozen-which only costs $4.00, by the way) which we ate cold with coffee after we got home, and they were pretty darn good too. I’m completely enamored and told Philip last night that I wished we had some more. I’ll definitely be getting them again! You can call Monkey Town Donuts at 423-902-6685 or check them out on Facebook.
Street food seems to be the new “thing” in the U.S. and I am glad that the trend has made it to Chattanooga. I hope that the trend will eventually bring our fantastic food trucks into Hixson from time to time, but lucky for me, I’m going to have a lot more free time over the next couple of months to support local street food. I’ve even kicked around the idea of starting my own food truck or cart one of these days-who knows? In the meantime, I’m happy to eat food from these amazing chefs, cooks, and creators who make this food fresh for us Chattanoogans. I encourage you to do the same!