It looks like a giant piñata on wheels with its brilliant colors and swirling lettering. But out of this visual fiesta called Twister Truck come creative twists on filling foods found in taquerias from San Diego to San Francisco.
The truck, which launched in September 2011 from its base in Oakland, debuted this past Monday at the Larkspur Ferry Plaza’s Monday night Food Truck Crush, and will be a weekly vendor there. It will also be parked and cooking at the Marin Country Mart Farmers Market in Larkspur Landing June 3.
One of the largest food trucks to swell the ranks of these trend-forward eateries on wheels, Twister Truck, 26 feet long and 10 feet tall, is the brainchild of Syufy Enterprises. The San Rafael-based privately owned company owns a variety of businesses, including public markets, drive-in theaters, Tomatina restaurants, Peacock Gap Golf Club and its new Range Café.
“We wanted to create a twist on the traditional Mexican food truck,” said Patrick LaCava, senior vice president of operations for Syufy. “We were also interested in developing a Mexican concept for a stand-alone restaurant and wanted to use the food truck as a living, breathing test kitchen for our concepts. So we had the truck custom-built for us.”
There are three key twists to Twister Truck’s fare. One is the San Diego burrito, built on thin, ultra-crispy skin-on french fries instead of rice. Next (and my favorite) is the burrito cone, a hand-held pastry cone, similar in concept to the edible salad bowls served in many Mexican restaurants, but tastier thanks to a crunchy crust based on a mixture of corn and wheat flours.
Nested in aluminum foil and paper, the cone is filled with your choice of fragrant, fresh cilantro rice (leaf-green and twist No. 3) or french fries, then piled with whatever you choose from the line-up of meats and seafoods.
A burrito cone is a hefty handful. One order, fully stuffed with rice, black beans, pico de gallo, shredded cheese and the combination I chose: marinated steak, carnitas and chipotle shrimp with a spiral of avocado sauce for garnish, weighs in at more than a pound. It’s even heavier with a base of french fries.
Despite the weight, said LaCava, the cone was designed to make it easy to consume while walking around. It’s served with plastic picnic ware so diners can dig in with dignity. Or you can do as I did: plunge your face in and start nibbling away, working your way up, down and around like a kid with an edible playpen in hand.
What surprised LaCava and his team was how popular the San Diego burritos are, whether rolled in traditional pillow shape or served as the base of a cone.
“It’s definitely something different in texture and flavor,” said Tony Maniscalco, director of marketing for Twister Truck. “People say they can only find fry-based burritos in San Diego. They’re happy to find it up here. We also hear that the overall idea is fresh.”
As for the flavors in Twister Truck’s offerings, I found them satisfying and full-bodied. Everything is prepared daily on the truck. Not only do the meats, such as carne asade and chicken, have richer nuances from having been marinaded, they are also tinged with extra smoke from being grilled before serving. I particularly liked the chipotle shrimp, with an iron-like burnished finish thanks to daubs of medium-heat spice paste.
The menu includes tacos, burritos both regular and in cones, and tortas served in torpedo-like Mexican rolls called bolillos and quesadillas. Ingredients, from cheeses to starches to proteins, can be mixed and matched. Have your item with just one meat or a bit of everything. All the foods are available as side orders. Prices range from $2.75 for a simple fish taco to $7.75 for an all-seafood burrito cone. It’s easy to stuff yourself for under $10.
Fancy an egg for sauce? Yet another Twister Truck twist is the offer of a “farm fresh” egg served sunny side up as garnish. I think it works best on the cone.
I was impressed with the truck’s visual impact. The colors made it eye-catching from blocks away. Up close it seemed impeccably clean, and the crew of four inside was moving constantly, processing orders and dishing up food pretty quickly. To drink there were Mexican bottled sodas, including Mexican Pepsi in glass bottles (the cane-sugar one, much better than American Pepsi) and ubiquitous bottles of water.
Desserts are not yet available, said LaCava, though some are being considered for the near future. Food trucks can be more specific in their offerings than restaurants, because they are frequently parked in multiple-truck venues where on one side might be, say, a cupcake truck and on the other, a van selling cream puffs.
Twister Truck is available for private parties and special events. It’s able to cater as few as 20 people and on up beyond 500. Because it is licensed in Marin, Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara counties, it’s scheduled to do a wide lineup of street fairs and festivals as the summer progresses.
“We’re already doing very well with it,” LaCava said. “What’s driving people to eat out these days is freshness, quality and price point. That’s what people are looking for and that’s what we’re trying to deliver.”
Find out where Twister truck will be from day to day by going to Facebook, Twitter, or checking it out online: twistertruck.com. For more information, call 510-508-9455.
On May 19, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., the third annual free Taste of Town Center will take place at the Corte Madera Town Center shopping mall for a day of entertainment and noshing. From stations set up around the central elephant fountain you’ll be able to sample such dishes as sweet potato fries, cookies, ice tea and chili, pizza and brownie bites, gelatos and ice cream, assorted cheeses, bruschetta al pomodoro, taquitos, Baja shrimp and ceviche, spring rolls and salads, energy snacks and a new frappuccino blended beverage. Vendors include A.G. Ferrari, Baja Fresh Mexican Grill, Barnes & Noble Cafe, California Pizza Kitchen, Champagne French Bakery and Cafe, Ciao Bella Gelato, The Counter Custom Burgers, Il Fornaio, La Maison de la Reine, Pacific Catch, PF Chang’s China Bistro, REI, Starbucks, Sur La Table, World Wrapps and Blue Barn Gourmet. For more information, call 924-2961 or go to shoptowncenter.com.
Contact Leslie Harlib at firstname.lastname@example.org.