Seattleites like to bemoan the shortcomings of our street-food scene, especially compared to the profusion of portable kitchens in Portland. Still, it’s not like we’re going hungry here. From hot dogs to Thai food to tacos of all (well, at least two) nations, you don’t need to step indoors to have lunch or dinner covered.
1. El AsaderoSeattle boasts dozens of taco trucks, and this converted school bus is among the best. The tender lengua (beef tongue) and crispy carnitas are exceptional; try them in a mulita, a crispy tortilla sandwich filled with meat, avocado, cheese, and salsa. Then have a seat on a rickety stool and eat right inside the bus. You know, just like you weren’t allowed to do on the way to school. How cool is that? Two locations: 3517 Rainier Ave S. and 7300 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S.
2. Marination MobileThe Korean-taco craze has finally hit Seattle (we had heard about L.A.’s Kogi BBQ for months, I tell you!) in the form of Marination Mobile, a slick, custom-built truck that announces its coordinates via web and Twitter. The sweet and beefy kalbi taco is the winner here, and there’s also Hawaiian food in the form of kalua pork and spam sliders. But more spice, please. We can take it! Multiple locations (marinationmobile.com; Twitter: @curb_cuisine)
3. Dante’s Inferno DogsNo bland, boiled dogs here. Dante starts with Boar’s Head all-beef franks with natural casings and rolls them around on a griddle until the skin is snappy, crusty (in a good way), and a little wrinkled. If you’ve spent time in New York, you’ll recognize this as the Papaya King method, sadly rare in Seattle. (Dante also serves a variety of sausages, but the original dog is hard to beat.) Then select from a wide variety of toppings (pickled jalapeños, grilled onions, and kraut for me), which you are forbidden from applying yourself at the risk of eternal torment, or at least the risk of having a hot-dog guy glare at you and say, “Didn’t you read the sign?” Multiple locations (dantesinfernodogs.com; Twitter: @danteinfernodog)
4. Hallava FalafelSo you’re in line at the yellow falafel truck, and under the Falafel heading is an encyclopedia of condiments: beet salad, spinach/romaine, salted cucumbers, sautéed peppers, pickle spear, tzatziki, tahini, tomato zucchini spread. And you are thinking, “How am I going to decide which combination of these condiments to apply to my sandwich?” The good news: You don’t have to decide, because by default you get all of them on the same grilled pita with freshly fried falafel. The better news: They all play well together. Every bite is an adventure. The bad news: The sandwich is exactly as messy as it sounds. 5825 Airport Way S. (myspace.com/hallava)
5. KaosamaiThis Thai lunch truck proves the axiom that anything tastes better eaten on the street. If Kaosamai were a Seattle Thai restaurant (and it is: There’s a bricks-and-mortar location in Fremont), it would be a good one. But here, in the form of a brightly colored truck in a South Lake Union parking lot, it is the lunch of your dreams. The pad kee mao (drunken noodles) combines slippery rice noodles with chicken, about ten different vegetables, and plenty of chile heat. And of course there’s pad Thai, the national dish of Seattle. 1010 Valley St. (kaosamai.com)
6. Roasted Corn StandWe’re talking elote asado here, people, roasted Mexican street corn. The vendor pulls an ear of corn out of the oven and slathers it up with mayonnaise, grated cheese, a squirt of lime juice, and an optional shake of hot chili powder. Once you try spicy corn on a stick, you’ll wish you had one in your hand at all times. And a beer in the other hand. Which would be illegal. Which is why they call you El Bandido de Elote. 9811 15th Ave SW.
7. SkilletSkillet maintains a fleet (well, a small fleet) of converted Airstream trailers, and they have one mission: to bring you burgers and poutine. The burgers are made with grass-fed beef and optionally topped with bacon jam, a condiment exactly as good as it sounds. Oh, the poutine? Crisp French fries with gravy and cheese curds. It’s Canadian, and it’s much, much better than it sounds. Sure, you could get plain fries, but we’re so close to Canada here, you might as well get with the program. At press time, Skillet is revamping their menu and adding a new lineup of burgers, including an alluring guajillo chile model. Multiple locations (skilletstreetfood.com; Twitter: @skilletstfood)
8. Poco CarrettoFinally, dessert. The sweet-toothed mastermind of this roving gelato cart is chef Holly Smith, who serves upscale Italian at Cafe Juanita. The milk and cream come from Fresh Breeze, a local organic dairy known for the best-tasting milk in town. The burnt-sugar gelato, not too sweet, is far from the caramel ripple of your youth, and by all means pair a scoop of dark chocolate with a scoop of the intense malt. If you’re going to walk around town with ice cream running down your arm, make it the good stuff. Multple locations (pococarretto.com)