Despite a relentless winter and brisk competition for choice parking spots, Chicago's food truck scene continues to chug along. Just in time for summer, City Council just approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to add five more designated food truck parking stands to downtown: 200 S. LaSalle St., 151 N. Franklin St., 185 N. Upper Columbus Drive, 105 E. Monroe St. and 300 S. Wabash Ave. Commingling with the veteran trucks this summer are eight new mobile eateries, several of which have already started hitting the streets. Read up on their offerings, from modern German street food to healthy comfort cuisine to "kimcheesy" rice balls. email@example.com | @redeyeeatdrink
Chicago Pizza Boss
Twitter handle: @ChiPizzaBoss
The story: "People have strong emotions about bosses," said Giuseppe Badalamenti, who started the truck along with wife Antonella so they wouldn't have to answer to anyone else. "We thought 'The Boss' was the perfect character to really grab the customer's attention. No matter who you are, you have a boss—I just happen to be the pizza boss."
Now serving: Pizza baked in a wood-fired brick oven right in the truck. Popular picks include the classic margherita, parmesan-basil-meatball or fig and prosciutto ($11-14).
Expected launch: June 7 (rolling in the suburbs since October 2013)
Frequent hangouts: To be announced upon launch. "We are working with other food trucks in the city that have been holding our hands and giving us advice [on times and locations.] It's amazing to be part of the brotherhood of the food trucks," Badalamenti said.
Most popular item: Arancini ($5 for one; $8 for two) stuffed with three different filling combos: ground beef and peas; ham, alfredo sauce and mozzarella; or spinach, ricotta and mozzarella. These tennis ball-sized beauties have a crunchy, breaded exterior and a soft, melty interior.
Twitter handle: @dmentruck
The story: This truck is serving up modern German street grub with flavors introduced to Germany by Turkish immigrants in the early 1970s. "We're not talking about classic schnitzels—this is doner kebab sandwiches and currywurst," said Shawn Podgurski, who co-owns DonerMen with Phil Naumann (they're both also in the indie rock band Sybris). "It's like Tex-Mex is in the states, but with German and Turkish food combined: Ger-Turk."
Now serving: Sandwiches such as the signature doner kebab ($10) made with spit-roasted chicken, red cabbage, bok choy and cucumber-tomato salad on toasted Turkish bread, and currywurst ($6), which features grilled pork sausage on a roll with a housemade curry sauce.
Expected launch: June
Frequent hangouts: "You'll find us specifically at bars that don't have kitchens, like the Map Room in Bucktown," said Podgurski. "We cater more to the drinking and late-night crew, but we'll also be doing lunches."
Gino's Steaks Truck
Twitter handle: @GinosSteaks
The story: This truck's name is an homage to the father and mentor of one of the truck's co-owners. "Gino was a Sicilian baker who owned his own restaurant and had a reputation for being a sticker for serving good food," said Rafael Alvarado, a 15-year service industry veteran.
Now serving: Griddle-cooked steak, chicken and vegetable sandwiches smothered in cheese. Sandwiches are $8; upgrade any menu item to "Chicago Style"—with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, pickles and seasoning—for an extra buck.
Rolling since: December
Frequent hangouts: University of Chicago (57th Street and Ellis Avenue), Clark and Monroe streets and 600 W. Chicago Ave. at lunchtime (days vary).
Most popular item: The Fatty ($10), a steak and cheese sandwich with homemade fries, coleslaw and barbecue sauce.
Jack's Fork in the Road
Twitter handle: @JsForkInTheRoad
The story: After years of running local restaurants—including Jack's on Halsted—chef Jack Jones decided to put his fork in the road by launching a gourmet sandwich truck. "I love the excitement food trucks generate," Jones said. "It reminds me of when I was a kid and the carnival used to come to town. Even business professionals in the Loop dressed up in suits and ties—they just light up at the window."
Now serving: Specialty sandwiches ($7-$9), sweet potato fries and hand-cut potato chips.
Rolling since: May
Frequent hangouts: A regular schedule is still in the works, but 120 S. Clark St., Randolph Street and Columbus Drive and University of Chicago (57th Street and Ellis Avenue) are good bets. Jones also plans to fork over his gourmet grub to the late-night crowd in Boystown and Wicker Park starting this summer.
Most popular item: Roast pork loin sandwich with fig jam, crispy prosciutto and apple slaw ($9).
Twitter handle: @LBFoodtruck
The story: Chef Vincent Colombet's brick-and-mortar business La Boulangerie Bakery & Cafe in Lakeview gets more of an evening crowd than he anticipated. "Around 70 percent of the people are coming in between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and yet a French bakery is more of a breakfast or lunch place, so we launched the food truck to reach the areas of Chicago where lunch is big."
Now serving: Viennoiseries (French for Viennese-style baked goods) including almond, raisin or chocolate croissants and the ever-popular crognets (a croissant-beignet hybrid with raspberry, chocolate or maple-bacon filling), plus sandwiches and quiches. Prices range from $1.50 to $8.
Rolling since: April
Frequent hangouts: The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (Wacker Drive near Madison Street), 600 W. Chicago Ave. and University of Chicago (57st St. and Ellis Avenue) for breakfast and lunch (7 a.m.-2 p.m.)
Most popular item: Crognets ($5), though his caneles—small, cyllindrical pastries flavored with rum and vanilla ($2.50) are also a big draw. Whole loaves of fresh bread ($3.50) are another popular pick-up.
Twitter handle: @ModelChef100
The story: This truck's name is a nod to owner Nichelle Benford's modeling past. "The name seemed like the perfect way to describe what we are trying to do—offer a model for eating and living. And by that, I don't mean 'tall, skinny girl,' I mean healthy comfort food with a kick," said Benford, who went to culinary school after leaving the catwalk.
Now serving: Lettuce wraps with chicken breast, mango sauce, cilantro and fresh ginger; chicken crepes with veloute cheese sauce and fresh herbs; and a sirloin burger topped with colby, fresh spinach and house gravy. All entrees ($9 each) are served with grilled asparagus.
Rolling since: May
Frequent hangouts: University of Chicago (57th street and Ellis Avenue) on Mondays, Washington and Clark streets on Tuesdays through Thursdays and 600 W. Chicago Ave. on Fridays, all from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. for lunch.
Most popular item: "The crepes are special. We use thyme, baby spinach, fresh corn off the cob, and a veloute cheese sauce, which is like a little treat inside a healthy meal," she said. "The crepe itself has a great texture and is a bit heavier than most crepes in order to hold the filling."
Twitter handle: @PierogiWagon
The story: "I am the guy who is bringing the delicious, little golden pierogi to the streets of Chicago," said Damian Warzecha. Proudly raised in Poland on pierogi—a dinnertime staple—Warzecha launched this truck with girlfriend Jessica Whitney after the two met working at a local restaurant.
Now serving: Pierogi ($6 for four; $8 for six) filled with beef, mushroom and sauerkraut, potato and cheddar or and spinach with cheese. Topping options include chopped bacon, sour cream, sauerkraut and sauteed onions. Polish sausage will join the menu next month.
Rolling since: April
Frequent hangouts: 600 W. Chicago Ave. and/or Cityfront Plaza on Mondays and Wednesdays, Clark and Monroe streets on Thursdays, Tuesday and Friday: University of Chicago (57th Street and Ellis Avenue) on Tuesdays and Fridays, all from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. for lunch. For dinner, look for the truck at the Polish Triangle (Ashland and Milwaukee avenues at Division Street) from 6-8 p.m. Tuesdays.
Most popular item: "We have only one product, but it's very special," said Warzecha. "The most popular flavor is the potato and cheese. The outside is a seared crispy texture, and as you bite into it, the cheese melts and is this beautiful and delicious golden color."
Twitter handle: @YumDumTruck
The story: A former finance desk jockey, today Jeff Wang calls himself Yum Dum's Chief Dumpling Engineer. "I always grew up around food with my parents owning Chinese restaurants my entire life. I always knew I'd find my way back," said Wang. "I chose to open a dumpling truck as a way to share my culture, my travels abroad and my childhood through food. Plus, my mom makes some killer dumplings!" To come up with the name and brand for Wang's dumplings-on-wheels concept, he turned to a professor at Columbia College Chicago, who presented the design challenge as a class project—and Yum Dum was the winning entry.
Now serving: Handmade dumplings in varieties such as pork and Chinese chives, Thai chicken basil and lemongrass chicken. Baowiches (think Asian sliders on a sweet rice bun), rice balls and rice bowls are also offered. Prices range from $3-$8.
Expected launch: June or July
Frequent hangouts: Until the truck is ready to roll, you can try Yum Dum's fare on Mondays at The Garage (116 N Aberdeen St.) and Thursdays and Fridays at The Nosh's lunch market at Block 37.
Most popular item: The Kimcheesy rice ball ($3 each)—a favorite of Wang's as a self-described "young chubby Asian child"—is made with cheddar-jack cheese, house kimchi and jalapeno-sriracha mayo and cilantro. They frequently sell out at pop-up events.
>>3 truck-driven events on the way
Chicago Food Truck Fest at U.S. Cellular Field
Noon- 9 p.m. June 7
This family-friendly event had booked more than a dozen trucks to participate as of press time. General admission is $10; VIP tickets ($25) includes early admission, free parking and two drink tickets. More info: chgofoodtruckfest.com
Chicago Food Social at Kendall College
11 a.m.-10 p.m. Aug. 23-24
Chicago Food Social (formerly the Chicago Food Truck Social) has rebranded and expanded to include brick-and-mortar restaurants, along with one of the largest gatherings of mobile eateries in the city. Admission is $5. More info: chicagofoodsocial.com
Taste of Chicago
11 a.m.- 9 p.m. July 9-11; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. July 12-13
More than 15 food trucks will be parking it at Taste of Chicago this year, including Gino's Steaks Truck, Bridgeport Pasty, Chicago Lunchbox and Harold's Chicken. Admission is free; food and beverage tickets are 12 for $8.50. More info: cityofchicago.org