With the the heat of Summer finally upon us, many of your annoyingly proactive friends and family members will pick up productive hobbies: swimming, cycling, running, soccer. If you’re like me and the thought of physical activity in the thick, humid Ohio air sounds nothing short of abhorrent, I have good news. It’s also food truck season.
The city of Columbus boasts an ever-expanding number of fun, delicious mobile eateries for you to dig into this Summer. Here are our picks.
NOTE: Many food trucks don’t adhere to a completely set location schedule. Be sure to consult each truck’s website or Streetfoodinder.com for reliable location information and hours.
Ajumama is a longstanding player in the Columbus food truck game, opening seven years ago after founder Laura Lee returned to the Midwest from California, where she worked as a full-time chef. And while the veteran eatery does specialize in Korean street food, it does with it a unique blend of Korean and Ohio cuisine that’s both delicious and unexpected.
“[Our original menu of Korean street food] sort of evolved with me taking inspiration from growing up in the Midwest and wanting to mix things with different Korean dishes to find commonalities,” says Lee. “I grew up in Ohio; we do a lot of sandwiches, so it kind of turned into me being like hey, these two items are common, how can I make them mesh together in a way that is relatable, but flavor-wise true to what I know? There’s an honesty in that as well that’s really appealing.”
And while Ajumama’s fare can be described as refreshing and honest, there’s another word that can be applied: delicious. Take for example the as- good-as-it-sounds Bulgogi Cheezesteak which pairs the traditional shaved beef and marinated onions on a warm hoagie roll with Shishito peppers instead of bell peppers, topped with Lee’s “Kimcheeze” sauce. Another flagship menu item is their Kimchi Bratwurst, which features a Butcher & Grocer sausage topped with homemade kimchi and spicy mayo.
As evolution seems to be at the core of Ajumama, Lee believes in regularly rotating the truck’s offerings, allowing for a wider range of items to be enjoyed. Don’t worry though, staple items such as the Bulgogi Cheezesteak and Kimchi Bratwurst remain on the menu at all times. They aren’t going anywhere.
While the veteran Ajumama serves up flavors of the East to hungry Columbus customers, another relative newcomer to the scene is embracing dishes from the West. Well, the West Coast that is. Like the towering trees in the truck’s name, Redwood Wagon aims to bring large flavors to the middle of the country while capturing the bold, original culinary character of the Paci c Northwest.
While Redwood Wagon’s owner Kyle Hood is a Columbus native, he has spent a considerable amount of time on the West Coast through personal travel, where he was able to establish connections and take in some of the area’s unique cuisine.
“The Pacific Northwest is kind of a microclimate; there always seems to be summery food that’s mixed with fall.”
And in replicating this confluence of styles, Hood decided to blur some flavor boundaries in his own way—a move that yielded the exceptionally delicious savory waffle. This simple but elegant twist to a classic dish is crafted as a bowl to hold other ingredients, and is scrumptiously dotted with garlic, chives, and rosemary.
The two year-old food truck is all about getting food to their customers as fast as possible, and allowing diners full customization as well. Customers begin each order with a choice of “carry” options, including the savory waffle bowl, a regular bowl, or fresh bread. Following this, a variety of different proteins, fresh seasonal vegetables, sauces, and other accoutrements are chosen to make something that is uniquely delicious. With choices from pulled pork and pulled chicken to shredded beef and a vegan vegetable base, diners can add jalapenos, corn, caramelized onion, cole slaw, bacon, mac and cheese, and more, plus cheese and a wide variety of sauces. And if you can’t figure out just what to add, a Redwood Wagon employee can assist your custom meal by suggesting great flavor pairings.
Redwood Wagon is also a proud supporter of U.S. Servicemembers, and customers can find Hood’s father-in-law John Harden, a 26-year veteran of the Air Force, on the truck regularly.
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MOMMA CAN COOK
You probably have a preconceived notion of what homestyle cooking is: rich, hearty, and delicious, but without a lot of real variation of nuance. And while Momma Can Cook, the Columbus food truck, self describes its tasty cuisine as “Gourmet Homestyle,” don’t let the name fool you, owner and head chef Janeen Rogers can cook, and her truck serves up much more than typical comfort food.
Since the truck’s start she’s been serving up everything from the mouth- watering Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese, complete with a cream cheese spread and jalapeno pieces, to her Chicken Adobo Bowl, featuring chicken in a rich adobo sauce with cheesy rice, all inside of a fried tortilla bowl and topped with Pico de Gallo, lettuce, sour cream, and a dash of cilantro.
Two of Rogers’ daughters (she has four children total, and three of them—Brittany Rogers, Glen Rogers, and Brooke Stadtlander— play integral roles in Momma Can Cook, making it a family- run business in the truest sense of the phrase) are vegan, and Janeen slowly took inspiration from them, trying more and more vegan dishes, and eventually adopting the lifestyle herself in the majority of her meals.
Now, not only can patrons purchase pre-made quantities of Rogers’ vegan mac and cheese sauce (the group is attempting to sell more products from their truck alongside food, such as handmade menu boards), but as a part of “Mama’s Rollout,” an extended menu for the truck, diners can order everything from vegan gyros to vegan mac and cheese, plus much more, creating a truly unique dynamic for homestyle cooking.
“I do this vegan Mongolian bowl and it’s so good. So much so that people who aren’t even vegan order it right and left,” says Rogers. “I was thinking about taking the bowl off and I did very temporarily, and it wasn’t a good thing because everybody wanted to have it.”
With Brittany Standtlander being an American Sign language Interpreter, Rogers would like to formally welcome the Columbus deaf community to her truck with open arms as well. “I just want the deaf community to know that they can come here and be understood,” she says.
And while many Columbus food trucks o er fresh seasonal veggies and healthy options, it’s rare for a truck to be built around the concept of healthy eating entirely. Enter Kinetic.
Opened in 2014 by Andy O’Brien as the product of an OSU marketing course, Kinetic was born out of what O’Brien identified as a clear gap in service, with wellness-oriented individuals wanting healthy food truck meals that they couldn’t always find.
Like several other trucks in the city, Kinetic is embracing customization. Diners begin their experience by selecting one of six “Chef-inspired builds,” including enticing options like the savory Medi, with cherry tomatoes, feta, lemon crema, chickpeas, and hummus; or the bright and spicy Stir Fire, which mixes bell peppers, cucumber carrots, jalapeno, Thai sauce, Sriracha, and lime. By grouping each option into a different flavor profile, Kinetic allows their customers to craft their own perfect dish while still allowing for guidance from the chef.
Next, customers select a base of either hearty grains, leafy greens, or roasted sweet potatoes, and the dish is completed by choosing a protein (including grilled chicken, spicy chicken, or house veggies) and throwing in any extra items that might be wanted (such as avocado, chickpeas, or extra protein).
O’Brien believes that Kinetic gives healthy options to diners who are already locked in to a wellness regimen, but through tasty, approachable preparations, the truck can also help people who might not otherwise eat well consistently.
“We’ve always been centered around providing healthy options at a reasonable price point, while making things healthy and accessible,” he says. “By accessibility, we mean that we’re easy to find, but we also mean accessible in the way that we make eating better easier for a lot of people. We’re preparing food to keep its nutritional integrity, but also in a way that it’s appealing to people who might not always eat healthy.”
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