Indian Tacos (with lettuce, meat, cheese, and various other toppings on fry bread) are Off The Rez's specialty.
With summer fast approaching, Off The Rez Food Truck is preparing for the busiest time of the year: festival season.
The extremely popular Native American cuisine food truck is always a hit at festivals because of their particular flavor they provide. They offer fry bread, Indian tacos, seasonal jams, salads, and American favorites such as burgers and fries, all of which brings in the crowds.
“At the food truck rodeo earlier this month, a customer told us she had been waiting in line for an hour!” server Emmitt Cod told us. “We were so swamped, I didn’t realize the line had gotten so long.”
One factor drawing to Off the Rez’s popularity is their unique flavor. They offer the only authentic Native American cuisine in both Seattle and at the festivals they attend, owner Cecilia Rikard added.
When Off the Rez began in 2012 they served a few areas in Seattle, but this changed as they quickly grew a large customer following. Now, three years later, Off the Rez sets up shop all around the greater Seattle Area. They also offer catering for events and are even contemplating opening up a permanent location instead of operating out of a food truck.
The future will have to wait though, explained Rikard. Off the Rez is focused on the present and preparing for the various festivals and events they’ve committed to. On the docket is the Georgetown Carnival and Brewers Festival in June along with Dragonfest in July.
The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0
To bring the food truck project to a close (for now, I’ll probably try to hit a couple more here and there as time permits) I’ll try something that you just don’t see a lot of around here: Native American food.
- Food Truck: Off the Rez
- Cuisine: Native American
- Yelp:4 stars, 24 reviews
- Location: Harrison Street between Boren and Fairview
- Days: Wednesdays
- Payment Methods: Cash, cards
- Sales Tax included in menu prices: Yes
- Time to order and pay: About 5 minutes
- Time to receive food after ordering: About 4 minutes
Over the course of human history, it seems that just about every culture has at one point or another gotten the idea of taking some sort of dough and frying it in oil. In the case of the various Native American tribes, it was largely out of necessity, as they worked with whatever they happened to have on hand (which, after the tribes were moved by the US government on to the reservations, was mostly government-provided flour, sugar, salt and lard.) Although the ingredients are similar, there are almost as many different variations on frybread as there are tribes (this site contains an extensive list of these.) From my childhood in Los Alamos, I recall frybread being served mostly at special events like the County Fair or the annual rodeo. This frybread, presumably influenced primarily by the various Pueblos found in the area surrounding Los Alamos and Santa Fe, would usually be served either with butter and sugar similar to how an Elephant Ear would be served, or in the form of an Indian Taco, which basically involves putting the type of toppings you’d expect to find on a taco on top of frybread. Tasty, but most Indian Tacos (at least they way they were served back in Los Alamos) could be serious contenders for some sort of “Messiest Food Ever” award..
Until I found this particular truck, it had been years since I have had frybread at all, so I thought this truck would be a good chance to reacquaint myself with it. The menu here provides four different options for Indian Tacos, plus a number of options for sweet toppings to put on the frybread by itself, as well as Succotash, chili (which happens to be the same stuff that’s used as the primary topping on the beef Indian Taco,) and some sort of a burger (presumably to give the Gringos something they’ll actually recognize on the menu.) There were a few people in line in front of me, but things moved fairly quickly. I did have to wait a bit for the food after ordering, but not excessively long. Having already tried both the beef and the chicken tacos on a previous visit, I found at the time that I preferred the chicken, so I ordered that (I haven’t tried the pork yet, but I’m not big on the whole pulled pork thing right now after some of the other trucks I’ve been to over the last couple of weeks.) In order to try out the frybread by itself, I ordered one naked as well, with no toppings added.
Based on previous visits to this stand I knew that one taco should be plenty to make a lunch out of, and two is bordering on too much food (but if you are so inclined, there are a couple of different 2-taco combos on the menu, as well as a 3-taco combo that’s bordering on just plain overkill.) A good portion of the chicken (which is simmered in a chile verde sauce) is placed on top of the taco and topped with cheese, lettuce, a few pickled onions (had to look at the website to figure that part out) and a cumin crema sauce to top it all off. As often seems to be the case with Indian tacos, if you tried to eat it by hand you’d most likely find yourself making a big mess, so a knife and fork seems to be the way to go here. As you might expect, the chicken is the star of the show here, with a good flavor and just a little bit of spice to assert its presence. Based on trying the beef taco previously I do have to say that if felt a little bit heavier overall, mostly because of the chili.
As for the frybread by itself, it seemed to be mostly pretty good, although I will note that it seemed like it could have used just a little bit longer cook time, as it seemed just the slightest bit doughy in the middle. Even so, once I took it back to my desk and applied some honey that I keep in my desk drawer (for various breakfast purposes) it was quite good, although at the same time it did make me kind of wish we has someone around here in the Seattle area making proper Sopaipillas the way you get them down in the Southwestern United States. It’s not exactly native food, but I certainly wouldn’t complain if Off the Rez decided to branch out a bit. In the meantime, they’ve got some pretty good stuff that you’re not likely to find around here unless you happen to make a trip out to one of the reservations.
Food Truck Nation
Brad Miller visits the Mile High City, Denver, where the family-run Simply Pizza Truck is cranking out crowd-pleasing Neapolitan-style pizzas in 90 seconds flat thanks to a massive wood-burning oven. Their menu ranges from the Hatch Pizza with shredded chicken and roasted green chilies to the Belgian Farmer Pizza with bacon, Brussels sprouts and goat cheese. Next, Brad heads south to Atlanta, where the Happy Belly truck is cooking up artisanal burgers that boast meats from their custom ceramic smoker. Finally, Brad travels to Las Vegas, Nev., to find The Cookie Bar, where specialty cookies are infused with homemade spirits.
Hot Dogs, Po' Boys and PBJ
Brad Miller travels to Las Vegas, Nev., to visit El Shuko, a food truck serving up traditional Guatemalan street food to the hungry masses. Chef Yasser Zermino and his brother, Christian, bring a taste of Central America to an American favorite with a double hot dog loaded with spiced shredded cabbage, chimichurri and guacamole. Then Brad heads to Denver to check out Crescent City Connection, where Chef JP is throwing down some serious Cajun- and Creole-inspired dishes like a Blackened Shrimp Po' Boy featuring fresh Gulf shrimp. Finally, Brad stays put in Denver to tame his sweet tooth at Hey PBandJ, where Chef Matt McDonald crafts his one-of-a-kind Blueberry Pie PB and J filled with an actual blueberry pie, crust and all.
Biscuit Sandwiches and Wings
Brad Miller travels to Atlanta, Ga., where he finds the Deep South Biscuit Co. truck and Chef Gia Rosenfeld delivering the goods with a fried chicken biscuit with bourbon-bacon jam and a brisket biscuit sandwich with cherry cola barbecue sauce. Next, Brad visits the Hunje truck in Denver, Colo., where Chef Jason Bray serves Brad a plate of hickory-smoked fried chicken wings slathered in homemade Asian hot sauce. Finally, Brad is in Las Vegas, Nev., to sample dessert hand pies, like the strawberry French toast creation, at the Smiley Pies truck.
Barbecue Ribs and Cheese Melts
Brad Miller travels to Nashville, Tenn., for hickory-smoked baby back ribs with hot, Memphis-style barbecue sauce from the Smoke Et Al food truck and owner Shane Autrey. Then he samples a pair of gooey cheese melt sandwiches from Genevieve Hardin at the What Would Cheesus Do? food truck in Denver, Colo. Finally, Brad heads south to Atlanta, Ga., where he finds the Meatballerz Truck and owner Cara DeLalla's hand-rolled meatballs stuffed inside Italian boules. For dessert, Brad gets his hands on their seasonal unicorn cake fritters.
Arepas and Mac 'n' Cheese
Brad Miller gets a taste of Venezuelan street food at Arepas House food truck in Denver, Colo., where Chef Jorge Dominguez serves a traditional corncake sandwich filled with marinated flank steak, grilled pork sausage and creamy avocado sauce. In Nashville, Tenn., Brad checks out inventive macaroni and cheese from Chef Kayla Nicholson and The Mac Shack truck. Brad samples the Mac Waffles, a spin on chicken and waffles, with three-cheese macaroni baked right in. For dessert, he hits Atlanta, Ga., and the Simply Done Donut truck, where owner Karissa Norfleet presents a pair of sweet mini doughnuts.
All-Day Brunch, Jerk Chicken
Brad Miller starts out at Nashville's Sucker Brunch truck, where Chef Michael Gilbert's celebration of breakfast comes in a grits dish topped with smoked Andouille sausage, caramelized onions and spinach. Next, Brad heads to Atlanta, Ga., and gets a taste of the Caribbean from Bahamas native Daron Wilson's Island Chef Cafe truck. Brad enjoys the classic mango jerk chicken and fresh conch salad before getting his sweet fix at The Sweet Divine Cupcake truck in St. Louis, Mo. He tries Chef Jenna Siebert's Drunken Pig cupcake made with beer and cheddar cheese as well as her more-traditional Banana Split Cupcake.
Cobbler a la Mode
Brad Miller heads to Portland, Ore., to visit Chef Melissa McMillan at her Pastrami Zombie food truck. She shows Brad how to make the truck's namesake sandwich, and he also tries the Cubby Cubano, a twist on the classic Cubano sandwich. Next Brad swings down to St. Louis to visit Guerrilla Street Food, where Chef Joel Crespo serves up Filipino food with a spin. Brad tries the traditional beef asado with crab roe fried rice as well as a Filipino-style sweet bread sandwich stuffed with barbecue pork, pate and pickled veggies. Finally, Brad heads to Nashville for a taste of Grandma's cooking at The Tennessee Cobbler Company. Chef Jami Joe shows him how to make a Peach Cobbler Milkshake and her grandma's Blueberry-Lemon Cobbler with fresh blueberries and ice cream.
Burritos, Kabobs and S'Mores
In St. Louis, Brad Miller visits the Seoul Taco truck, where Chef David Choi is serving up a unique spin on Mexican food by infusing it with the flavors of Korea. Brad samples a Gogi Bowl and the popular Korean barbecue burrito filled with marinated beef and spicy kimchi fried rice. Next, Brad travels to Portland, Ore., to meet Chef Victor Darchini at his Caspian Kabob food truck. Victor shows Brad how to make authentic Persian food, including his popular lamb and beef kabob. Brad sticks around Portland and stops at the Wild North food truck, where Chef Brandon Hughes uses his wood-fired oven to deliver the inventive Shrimp Boil Bread Bowl. For dessert, Brad satisfies his sweet tooth with the decadent Campfire S'Mores Cookies featuring toasted bourbon-vanilla marshmallows.
Hot Chicken and Spicy Beef
Brad Miller begins his culinary adventure in Nashville at Red's 615 Kitchen food truck, where Chef Eric White is known for his take on the local favorite, hot chicken. Then Brad heads out west to Portland, Ore., where he checks out White Elephant Asian Fusion, a food truck delivering authentic Laotian cuisine. Brad samples a few dishes from Chef Chris Soutavong, including his special Green Papaya Salad and Waterfall Beef with sirloin marinated in soy sauce, red chile and ginger. Finally, Brad heads up to Seattle to visit the city's first Native American food truck, Off the Rez. Chef Cecilia Rikard shows Brad how to make their famous frybread taco topped with sausage gravy and a fried egg, and for dessert, they assemble an ice cream sundae with all the fixins nestled between more fresh, warm frybread.
Ribs, Ramen, Gooey Butter Cake
Brad Miller's food truck trek starts at Wood Shop BBQ in Seattle, where Chef Matt Davis serves up massive smoked beef ribs and chicken wings tossed in his special Kansas City-style barbecue sauce. Next up is the Hapa PDX truck in Portland, Ore., where Brad meets chefs and co-owners Sara and Michael Littman. He tries the G-Special Ramen with tender slices of pork belly, pickled shiitake mushrooms and a soft-boiled egg. Finally, Brad stops in St. Louis to visit Farmtruk, where owner Samantha Mitchell serves her mouthwatering soft-shell crab BLT and a St. Louis specialty -- gooey butter cake -- topped with fresh strawberry sauce and whipped honey goat cheese.
Pork Buns, Falafel, Snow Cones
Brad Miller hits the road in St. Louis, where he gets a taste of authentic Hawaiian food from Buzz's Hawaiian Grill food truck. Brad tries Chef Thomas "Buzz" Moore's signature yellow fin tuna poke bowl and his Kalua Pork Buns topped with barbecue sauce and pineapple slaw. Next, Brad travels to Seattle to meet Chef Shimi Kahn at Falafel Salam, where he tries the lamb gyro salad and the famous falafel with spicy pickled mango sauce. Then Brad finishes things off in Nashville at the Retro Sno truck, where he learns how to make extra-large snow cones from scratch with a variety of homemade toppings. He tries the Rainbow Snoball with cherry, pineapple and blueberry sauces as well as the Tres Leches Snoball with vanilla ice cream, caramel and sweetened condensed milk.
Taco Truck Challenge
Off the Rez, Seattle’s first and only Native American food truck to date, faced off against thirteen other competitors for the ninth annual 107.7 Taco Truck Challenge over Cinco de Mayo weekend. Armed with over 200 pounds of homemade dough, Off the Rez slung out over 800 Indigenous frybread tacos in six hours at the Seattle Center.
For owners Mark McConnell (Blackfeet Nation) and Cecilia Rikard, it’s their seventh year serving Native traditional food with highly strategic innovation. “We decided that we were gonna do a flavor twist to make Mexican-inspired Indian tacos,” Rikard said. “We decided to have a bit of fun with it.” This year, their Challenge-only menu featured a meat-lover’s chili-marinated, braised beef barbacoa Indian taco with jalapenos and a veggie medley offering of cacti, poblano and corn, relished by zesty avocado salsa and queso fresco. “We like to be really creative with our specials,” Rikard said. The truck’s menu was inspired by McConnell’s mother’s recipes which became the backbone of the dream of starting their Native cuisine business.
It was the second year in a row that the entrepreneurial couple, along with their truck team of family and friends, fought for a shot at victory at the 107.7 Challenge. “Last year I guess we almost won. We were two votes off or something,” McConnell said. “So this year we really wanted to win.”
“We felt confident actually. We just had a huge amount of people coming up to us throughout the day being so positive,” Rikard said. “We actually had a line of probably, like, thirty to forty people deep all day long. We had a number of people come to stand in the line twice because they loved it the first round, so that was super promising to us.”
We had a number of people come to stand in the line twice because they loved it the first round, so that was super promising to us.”CECILIA RIKARD
While they have a loyal following who enjoy menu favorites like their Powwow Burgers, some new international visitors were spotted in queue pondering the menu, not knowing what to expect from the turquoise truck painted with a stylized Blackfeet chief in a headdress.
So what did Off the Rez win?
“Mostly bragging rights,” Rikard said, laughing. “We were actually too busy to accept our award.” The duo was presented with champion crowns at the event after all attendees’ votes were tallied. In addition, their dedicated fans were able to vote for Off the Rez in Seattle Magazine’s 2019 Best Restaurants Readers poll.
Off the Rez previously won the Golden Taco Award at the 2014 Taco Libre Truck Showdown. Rikard remarked that local and visiting Native people are often surprised by their menu, for they’ve featured an array of never-before-seen frybread dishes that included frybread ice cream sandwiches, homemade lemon curd topping and banana cream filling in addition to their more traditional menu items, such as frybread with honey or chili beans.“We are super-focused on quality,” Rikard said. “Everything we sell is handmade from scratch by us. We want it to be extra delicious.”
“Everything we sell is handmade from scratch by us. We want it to be extra delicious.”Cecilia Rikard
This year they participated in the 8th annual Taco Libre Showdown on May 18 and engineered some new specials for that challenge. For meat lovers, they served up beer and mustard braised short rib tacos topped with onions and jicama slaw veg heads enjoyed mushroom chorizo tacos with red salsa, corn salsa and cotija. Though votes weren’t tallied this year, McConnell and Rikard relished in the opportunity to just make great food. “We did have a very busy day and sold out all our tacos, including our specials,” Rikard said. “So it was a success.” The team was soon spotted at Optimism Brewery, drizzling pineapple habanero sauce to kick up the heat in the May Seattle rain Blackfeet frybread tacos are here to stay in the Emerald City.Off the Rez plans to unveil a venue in Seattle, a tasty secret until this summer. To date, they have dished out their delectables at several Seattle-area businesses, powwows, catered events for local Native tribes, and plan to broaden collaboration with other entrepreneurs. As part of the growing indigenous cuisine revival, their spring victory is a well-deserved reward for their years of creativity and hard work.
Christy Hanson is an experienced writer and instructor with a demonstrated history of working in freelance and education.
Northwest Native American food
Closer to home, Inez Cook owns Vancouver BC’s only First Nation restaurant, Salmon n’ Bannock. Like Sherman, her restaurant was also born out of an epiphany.
“The Vancouver 2010 Olympics were nearing,” Cook said. “The entire world is coming here and there isn’t anywhere you can get local, indigenous cuisine. It’s ridiculous.”
Cook’s story is fascinating because she didn’t actually grow up with a direct First Nation influence. She was adopted by a Caucasian family at birth.
“A time when the government went into the communities and adopted the native kids to white families,” she said.
But when she opened her restaurant, which specializes in local salmon, game meats and a biscuit/scone hybrid called bannock, she was reconnected with the Nuxalk Nation, the nation of her parents.
“It was all over the media that a Nuxalk person had opened this restaurant,” Cook said. “But because no one in the Nuxalk community knew me, they didn’t think it was necessarily true. I could have been choosing a nation that was just far enough away that nobody would ask questions.”
“So they sent in people to check it out and this one lady was asking me questions,” she said. “She made a phone call and when I came back to deliver her tea, she was standing there with her arms extended and she said, ‘Let me be the first to welcome you home, we’re a family.’ So that started a very emotional journey for me. Now it’s just such an honor showcasing my heritage with pride.”
Both Sherman and Cook source as many of their ingredients as possible from Native American suppliers, foragers and farmers and all of their employees are First Nation.
Off the Rez Brings a New Taste to Blanchet’s Lunches
Last week the braves celebrated the annual Native American Week at Blanchet and with it Off the Rez visited Blanchet, giving students and faculty the opportunity to try the various items on their menu.
On October 31st, Blanchet students and faculty were able to try Seattle’s only Native American food truck. Off the Rez offers their own style of traditional foods such as tacos and burgers, putting a Native American twist to these items. Highlights from their menu were the Indian tacos served with homemade frybread and their bacon cheeseburger, the Rez Burger. Another popular item from their menu was the sweet frybread, giving people the opportunity to try the frybread with either honey, cinnamon-sugar, nutella, powdered sugar, or many other sweet toppings.
“The sweet frybread was amazing,” said senior Lars Krokum, “It was such a great dessert after the tacos which were delicious.”
The Indian Tacos also gave people the opportunity to try a traditional chicken, beef, or BBQ pulled pork taco on frybread. Talking with the people who ordered the tacos, the resounding consensus was that it was amazing. Everyone agreed that the flavor was amazing and two tacos were enough to fill them up.
The Rez Burger also got the same positive reviews as the tacos did. You may have needed two burgers to satisfy your empty stomach, but only if you decided to not get the mountain of fries that were a three dollar add on to the Rez Burger. Despite the size of the burger, it was a delicious sandwich, the combination of bacon, cheese and cumin crema all made for an outstanding lunch.
“All the flavors balanced perfectly,” said Derek Loen, “nothing was too overpowering. It was an overall great experience.”
If you are interested in trying out the various items on the Off The Rez menu give their website a visit, they move from place to place each day so make sure to check their schedule before hand.
Going into his senior year, Jason Knoblich makes his debut as a reporter for The Miter. Completely new to journalism, Jason hopes to sharpen his journalistic.
Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center
Celebrate the original people of the Seattle area by supporting the Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center! The center sponsors an awesome monthly Duwamish Native Arts and Crafts Market from October through December, which you can catch this weekend December 15-17th! You can also visit the Duwamish Longhouse gallery and gift shop, which features Salish art from local Native artists, books, educational materials, and jewelry all year round.
If you're up for an adventure out of Seattle, these Native-owned establishments make for a great road trip while still being easily accessible from the city:
10 Seattle food trucks to add to your mealtime bucket list
Seattle is home to what seems like hundreds of amazing food options on wheels. From dumplings to desserts, we’re lucky enough to have so many food truck options in our city.
Here are ten Seattle food trucks that you need to find and try this weekend.
Sugar and Spoon Cookie Dough
Although they’ve opened a brick and mortar store, we’ll always think of Sugar and Spoon Cookie Dough as the dough on wheels. Served in a cup or cone, Sugar and Spoon offers raw cookie dough that’s safe to eat. With classic cookie dough, dough-reo, party animal, campfire, snickerdoodle, and a flavor of the month, even picky eaters can’t resist.
When: Monday to Sunday
Time: 12 – 8 pm
Where: 400 Pine Street, Seattle
Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
We already know that Ezell’s chicken is some of Seattle’s best, but did you know that it’s also mobile? Enjoy chicken combos or a la carte versions of your favorite chicken strips and wingettes on one of the great Seattle food trucks.
When: Monday to Sunday
Time: Time is updated daily on Twitter
Where: Location is updated daily on Twitter
Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
Dumplings, dumplings and more dumplings are what Alaskan Dumplings are known to serve up. Enjoy chicken, pork or potato and mushroom fillings along with baked goods such as pierogies and spinach pastries at this fast and friendly truck.
When: Monthly schedules are posted on Instagram and Facebook
Time: Monthly schedules are posted on Instagram and Facebook
Where: Monthly schedules are posted on Instagram and Facebook
Instagram | Facebook
Off The Rez
Seattle’s first Native American food truck has hands-down, some of the best frybread in town. The key is that they handmake the dough daily. With a menu including Indian tacos, burgers as well as sides of chili, salad, and more, you’re not leaving hungry.
When: Monday to Sunday
Time: hours are available daily on Facebook
Where: location is available daily on Facebook
Instagram | Facebook
Sam Choy’s Poke To The Max
With restaurants and trucks in five locations, Sam Choy knows what he’s doing. Taking traditional Hawaiian eats and fusing it with Western dishes, enjoy island favorites such as big kahuna kalua sandwich, reconstructed musubi and shaka sandwich wraps. The food truck also serves up traditional poke in a rice plate or as a salad or wrap.
When: Monday to Sunday
Time: hours are available online monthly
Where: location is available online monthly
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Seattle’s first bubble tea food truck serves the dreamiest drinks around. The truck is hard to miss, with a pastel wrap and unicorn graphic that is the perfect backdrop for your Instagram photo — because you know you’re going to take a photo of your drink for the ‘gram.
When: Dates are posted weekly on Instagram
Time: Schedule is posted weekly on Instagram
Where: Schedule is posted weekly on Instagram
Instagram | Facebook
Island Blends Açaí
Island Blends Açaí brings the taste of Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest. The truck serves up fresh, organic açaí bowls with mix and match toppings, fresh smoothies, and poké bowls. If you’re looking for a traditional Hawaiian snack, this is your new go-to truck.
When: Schedule is posted on their website
Time: Schedule is posted on their website
Where: Schedule is posted on their website
Instagram | Facebook
Layers Sandwich Co.
After several successful sandwich pop-ups, Layers Sandwich Co. Food Truck came to be. Owners Ashley and Avery Hardin poured their hearts and souls into creating more than an artisanal sandwich food truck. With responsibly sourced ingredients and witty names of dishes such as precocious piggy, your only worry will be choosing which sandwich you’d like.
When: Calendar is available on their website
Time: Calendar is available on their website
Where: Calendar is available on their website
Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
Falafel Salam is a rare food truck that creates everything from scratch using local and imported ingredients. The Middle Eastern Kitchen is perfect for those with dietary restrictions as everything is gluten-free and can be modified to fit vegan diets.
When: Sunday to Friday
Time: Times vary and are available on their website
Where: Location changes daily and is available on their website
Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
Wood Shop BBQ
More of a mobile smokehouse than one of the Seattle food trucks, Wood Shop BBQ serves amazing meat by the pound. They offer brisket, pulled pork, smoked chicken, beef ribs, hot link sausages, polish sausages, hot cheddar link, pork spare ribs, smoked wings, mac and cheese bowls, sandwiches and more. You won’t leave without all of your BBQ needs satisfied.
When: Friday to Monday
Time: 11-2 pm
Where: location changes daily and is listed on their website
Instagram | Facebook
Food Truck Shoreline – Final Wednesday at Saltwater Park
The final Wednesday of food trucks in Richmond Beach is August 22, 2018. These family-friendly beach parties are wildly popular, and you can expect more adventures in eating and swingin’ music this week!
Head to the lower parking lot to choose your meal from FOUR trucks, then move to the upper shelter to enjoy your food and Cuban rhythms by Clave Gringa. Walk, bicycle or carpool if possible parking is limited.
Papa Bois offers authentic Caribbean flavors! Their menu offers a great spread from sandwiches to main dishes with sides and drinks. Each item holds a special flavor that ties it back to their Caribbean roots!
Off the Rez is the first and only Native American food truck in Seattle and features Indian tacos served on handmade frybread, burgers, fries and a number of sides and extras. You get the option of beef, pork, chicken or veggie.
If you are looking for gastropub eats and upscale carnival treats, head over to Bread and Circuses and try their Mac and Beer Cheese or their Fries with Beer Cheese! One of the top sellers is their Circus Burger that contains provel cheese, ground beef, crisp bacon and so much more.
Peasant Food Manifesto serves globally-inspired fusion dishes. Vietnamese, Korean, Israeli, Tunisian and American influences have all gone into this truck’s fare. Choose from comfort food classics with a twist such as Pho French Dip Sandwich Kimchi Mac and Cheese Korean Cheese Steak and Pho, BBQ Chicken or Pork Tacos.
Clave Gringa presents a broad spectrum of Cuban music, from the charm of the cha-cha-cha to the depth of AfroCuban rhythms. They play original engaging compositions by bandleader Ann Reynolds, as well as Cuban classics. The band includes Cubans and musicians well-schooled in the style to provide an authentic Cuban sound.
Richmond Beach Gear will be available for purchase. Check out the orca-inspired gear from t-shirts, mugs, aprons, coasters, totes, note cards and more! RBCA has a whale of a selection for you to choose from. Cash, debit and credit cards welcome.
A Day in the Life of a Food Truck
At 8:25 on a Wednesday morning in late February, the only thing grayer than the sky is the back of the food truck. Nearly every inch is covered in stainless steel.
A large plastic cooler functions as a seat in an aisle about the width of a doorway. On the driver’s side, a 36-by-22-inch griddle, a three-compartment sink, and assorted kitchen appliances acquired on eBay and Craigslist. On the passenger side, a three-door fridge stocked with about 15 pounds of beef and 20 pounds of pork. Overhead, a bungee cord spares the truck’s three rear passengers from a downpour of napkins and to-go cartons.
It’s cold, curl-your-toes-for-warmth cold. And loud—what is that rattling?—but not so loud that the chatter about the day ahead can’t break through noise. Chef Donovan MacInnis stands where the passenger’s seat would normally be, while Mark McConnell, who launched Off the Rez with his girlfriend, Cecilia Rikard, captains the 1992 Chevy Grumman Kurbmaster from a tattered blue seat.
As it barrels past a stretch of restrained one-story buildings in SoDo, the truck, named Big Chief by its owners, provides a splash of color. “Nice bus!” bellows a driver at a stoplight. They get that a lot. Emblazoned on one side is the turquoise profile of an Indian chief in a war bonnet. On the other is a man (he’s purple) taking a hit off a peace pipe.
It is Rez’s third week in business, though the truck had been buzzed about for months. Partially because of those murals—commenters on online forums had complained of unflattering stereotypes—and partly because of the Native American classics on the menu, mainly frybread. The fried dough plays an important role in Native American culture but has been all too rare in Seattle.
McConnell stops at a gas station to pick up a Red Bull and a Frappuccino for two crew members, then rolls up to a curb between Boren and Harrison in South Lake Union at 9:06. It’s a spot in Seattle secured by Amy Novak, an admin of Buns food truck, for her four-wheeling friends. The owner of the lot charges the trucks $60 a day. By contrast, a city-designated slot, handed out in four-hour increments and good for one year, costs about $470 annually. The spot has been a good one for Off the Rez, drawing as many as 120 customers per day. The drawback is the sloping pavement, which elevates one side of the trailer to an awkward angle. “That’s the only thing I don’t like about this one,” MacInnis says as water from the full sink spills onto the floor.
Within 20 minutes, though, the griddle cackles as MacInnis flips a mound of beef then places it in a warmer. MacInnis had done all the prep at Rez’s commissary on South Brandon Street, both for convenience—last night he made 120 pounds of chicken chili verde, which should last two weeks—and for regulatory reasons. Raw meat, for example, can be cooked, but not cut, on the road. Tomatoes and lettuce must be washed and chopped beforehand.
Outside the truck McConnell’s cousin, Kigali Davis, hangs up the day’s menu, piquing the interest of a passerby. “I’m from South Dakota,” he says, contemplating the offerings. “I wanted to make sure it’s the right stuff.”
He means the frybread. Crispy outside, feather-light inside, and laced with a hint of honey, frybread is a novelty in the tortilla- and bun-heavy street scene. McConnell grew up in Ballard eating frybread made by his mother, a member of the Blackfeet tribe of Montana. She counseled MacInnis, McConnell’s friend from Ballard High School, as he spent half a year perfecting his recipe for the pillowy pucks—now the crux of Rez’s menu. That frybread is now readily available has been heralded by local Native Americans—“Yes!! Yes!! Yes!! I am so excited about this, it’s long overdue,” posted one fan online. At its best, street food stretches our palates by introducing us to flavors and cultures underrepresented elsewhere. And for that our flourishing culinary scene is expanding—kind of like the frybread.
A little after 10am MacInnis’s brother, Kelly, unloads 300 or so dough rounds, one-fifth the number they sell each week. He starts the fryer, his forearm branded with a wicked burn from a recent shift. “He’s got the touch,” coos McConnell as Kelly drops the dollops, just under two ounces, into the oil. They triple in size. Kelly gives each side a 30-second dip then pulls one out to reveal a puffy disc with slight air bubbles—perfect.
The foot traffic that trucks generate can bring vital street life to a neighborhood. That’s certainly the case today. At 10:45 the first customer arrives and orders one frybread with honey. By 11:30 the hungry tech workers from Amazon’s South Lake Union home have begun to fill the streets. “Put your smiley faces on,” cracks one of the guys in the truck.
The Amazonians like their food neatly packaged for easy transport. They tip minimally, maybe because they’re in such a rush. On Rez’s first day here in early February, the flurry of activity sent order sheets flying, causing a considerable slowdown in operations. McConnell laughs about it now but knows he lost a customer or two. “People were pissed.”
By 12:30 a crowd of 20 has coalesced. “Everything is, uh, shifting downhill,” chuckles MacInnis before diving into the biggest single order of the day: 15 Indian tacos and three orders of dessert frybread. The tilt of the truck causes stray bits of lettuce to muck up his corner at the front of the bus. Here MacInnis tops tacos with homemade bourbon barbecue sauce and sliders with shavings of Velveeta (he used to use gruyere but it didn’t jibe with a menu inspired by reservation life).
McConnell, meanwhile, is in the back by the griddle. Davis takes orders, swiping credit cards with an iPad, and Kelly holds the frybread station. Nearly half the fifteen-by-seven foot space is occupied by kitchenware. On average a transaction takes 45 seconds. At 12:45 the window in back is propped open to relieve the building heat.
The truck quakes with any big movements, and, thanks to that incline, gravity is not in their favor. A tube MacInnis tries to refill with sauce slowly slips out of reach. A cover on the meat warmer slides free and falls to the ground. More overflow from the sink.
By 1:30 the crowd thins MacInnis estimates they’ve sold 250 orders of frybread. Fifteen minutes later McConnell calls it quits, though the day is far from over. After every outing McConnell and company take the truck back to the commissary, where they prep food for the next outing—some days accounting for an additional five hours of work—and the kitchen is taken apart, then washed and reassembled.
Working from a fixed location would be easier logistically, and maybe more profitable. “A food truck is not the way to get rich,” McConnell offers, cracking a Coors to toast the end of the day. He doesn’t dwell on the thought. Rather, the man who first tiptoed into business at age 16 building docks on Lake Washington beams anytime he talks about his truck. Rez is the real deal—he’s arrived.