University of Puerto Rico’s Inaugural Food Truck Summer Fest
When does waiting behind a big line of trucks not induce a rage fueled steering wheel thumping fit? The correct answer: When the trucks are kitchens on wheels at a food truck festival in an idyllic setting!
The Spoon Food Tours family happily decided to test this theory last weekend at the University of Puerto Rico’s inaugural Food Truck Summer Fest at the Botanical Gardens of San Juan. Organizers Food Truck Republic, partnered with the UPR to celebrate the graduates of their 2015 class. The suggested $5 donations paid at the door will help fund the university’s scholarship programs.
Completely off the traditional tourist grid in Rio Piedras, UPR’s Botanical Garden is an urban oasis within driving distance from many of the main tourist attractions in San Juan. Spread out over 75 acres, the garden provides a tranquil laboratory in which the university can conduct research and conservation. Free to the public, it is open daily from 6 am to 6 pm. Highlights include, a Heliconia garden (more commonly known as Birds of Paradise), the Monet Garden featuring a reconstruction of the painter’s famed footbridge, an orchid garden, a bamboo garden known as the Bamboo Chapel, a Taíno garden of plants utilized by the Taíno indigenous peoples, and an array of other plants endemic to Puerto Rico. It is truly worth a visit. Even more so when you throw a gastronomic festival into the mix.
Held from 11am to 8 pm, this year’s event was a massive hit. We arrived nice and early to avoid the crowds, but social media rumblings alluded to long lines as the day wore on. Hey, some people get grumpy waiting in line #hangry, but popularity is a testament to success.
Slews of visitors were provided the opportunity to sample fare from 12 food trucks including: The Meatball Company, Dondsea, Lemon Submarine, Bluefin, Yummy Dumplings, Thon Thai, La Taquería PR, High Kitchen, Wawa Expresso, Antojos Food Truck, Acai On The Go, and more. Local artisans were on hand purveying teas, honey, coffee and other local products. Plants from the greenhouses were on sale and university staff were on hand to provide tips on how best to prevent plant negligent homicide. At the agricultural market we found plump starfruit, nisperos, plantains, and fresh herbs for sale. Live musicians played as families spread out picnic blankets and beach umbrellas to enjoy the revelry.
We certainly enjoyed ourselves. It all started with a preliminary NASCAR style loop around the track to gauge our plan of attack. Top of the agenda – hydration. If you’re going to wait on line in the Caribbean July sun, ice cold beverages are a must. Luckily, Lemon Submarine were serving frozen passion fruit lemonades that slowly and sweetly melted as we wait-munch-wait-munched.
Neighboring truck High Kitchen prepared bites of local favorites and delicious London Broil crostini sandwiches topped with cheese and tangy slaw. It was the perfect start and stoked our appetites as we moved on to Thon Thai. Their spicy BBQ Moo Shu Pork Wrap was a perfectly satiating blend of salty, sweet, and spicy. Our partners in crime were simultaneously sent forth to neighboring truck La Taqueria to secure more nosh in an attempt to do maximum damage in the shortest period of time. Our strategy rewarded us with a filling and delicious pork and cheese quesadilla made all the more satisfying by adding guacamole, refried beans, and cilantro cream. Bonus? Leveraging our tortilla chips to befriend the adorable and hungry little girl seated next to us.
One of our favorite dishes was the pulled pork waffle from Antojos Food Truck. After cooking for 12 hours, the pork is tossed in a Honey BBQ sauce, topped with a cilantro mayo and stuffed into an artisanal waffle by BeWaffled. The result, a ridiculously delicious sweet and savory combination in every bite. Apparently this dish is not on their regular menu but it needs to be! Pretty pleeeeease!
By: Text by Caroline Johnson & Paulina Salach, Images by Paulina Salach