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Review: Food Truck Tuesday at NewBo City Market
First impressions as patio weather gets underway
CEDAR RAPIDS — Over time, there’s something I’ve noticed about people in states like Iowa, where the seasons are as temperamental as my cat.
Yes, we share an affinity for certain dishes that other regions furrow their brows at — gas station breakfast pizza, chili with cinnamon rolls, and unreasonably large pork tenderloins topped with comically small buns.
But more than that, we love to eat outdoors whenever possible. We don’t take the weather for granted, and we optimize punishing conditions whenever possible — a form of “Iowa nice,” I suppose.
If you’ve ever said “it wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the wind” in one of the country’s top wind power producing states, I’m talking about you.
With the last frost date of the season probably behind us, food trucks are out, too. Like us, they squeeze every bit of productivity they can out of each summer.
With NewBo City Market’s Food Truck Tuesday now underway, here’s a taste of the first week’s offerings and a glance at where you can find food trucks circling their wagons as the mercury continues to rise.
Chana Masala at The Full Bowl
This Indian dish was touted as “a house favorite,” and I can see why.
This bowl, beautifully presented with accents of bright green atop a hearty mound of rice and shades of cooked brown, was my favorite dish in the first week of NewBo’s weekly food truck gathering.
Offered with a choice of sweet mango chutney or spicy mint chutney, I took both — half on each side of the plate. In the interest of science, I scooped a mixture of both with my first bite, where both flavors waltzed into my mouth to see who would get my attention first.
The mango’s sweetness was concentrated and pungent in a great way, almost like it was pickled for just a few hours.
The spicy mint chutney was described as “medium” spicy. It was a bit prickly to the taste buds, in the same way you might get with a verde salsa. The mint makes it cool enough that, unlike other types of spicy food, you have assurance at hand that the sensation is only temporary. Quite refreshing.
When folded into the pleasing texture of chickpeas, browned onions, tomatoes, garlic and ginger, meat eaters may forget that they’re eating a vegetarian dish.
Jerk chicken taco, macaroni and cheese at Caribbean Kitchen
After more than 10 years in business, Caribbean Kitchen has been undergoing a rebrand at the juncture of soul food and Jamaican cuisine.
Now, I figured, is the perfect time to try one of owner Patrick “Jamaican Pat” Rashed’s signature meats again.
Topped with chunks of cucumber, tomatoes and corn, it’s one of the healthiest tacos I’ve seen in a while. The Jamaican version of flatbread, roti, has a perfect golden hue, displaying an early summer tan in May.
Immediately, the jerk chicken punches through as the muscle man at this beach of warm flavors. Freshly shredded chicken has a tinge of what some would call spicy — I call it flavorful. It’s about the level of buffalo chicken spice, but with the overtones of jerk spice. Not bothersome to the palate, even if you’re sensitive.
If you go:
NewBo City Market’s Food Truck Tuesday runs every Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 1100 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids. The event will continue through Aug. 29, including the July 4 holiday.
Although a full list of this year’s participating vendors is not yet available, last year’s vendors included Loosies, Smiley’s Soup and Sandwiches, O’s Grill, Caribbean Kitchen, La Reyna, Grandma’s Root Cellar, The Full Bowl and Aroma Pizza.
For Iowa City food trucks, check out the South District Food Truck Rodeo’s inaugural food truck event from 4 to 8 p.m. June 10 in the parking lot of the new South District Market, 947 Highway 6.
The crispy roti gets a slight elasticity from the fresh chicken’s moisture, making it pliable as I work through the large taco. The chicken managed to make me ignore everything else garnishing the taco, but that roti made sure I remembered its name.
The macaroni and cheese I opted for — it was my second choice since they were out of my personal favorite, the rice and beans — isn’t gloppy in the way you may have come to associate with a “good” mac and cheese. No doubt starchy, it knows its place as a side dish, providing the cheese without dominating your stomach.
Philly cheesesteak sandwich by Smiley’s Soup and Sandwiches
Upon delivery, the roll has a healthy saturation of juice from the freshly grilled meat and cheese. The meat has a glisten you expect in an American delicacy.
The meat is salty, but not too salty. It’s relying on its friend, a blend of sliced cheese and a partially soaked soft roll to tell you what a good bite it is.
Onions have the right balance of caramelization with some crunch left in them. To my disappointment though, there wasn’t enough onions or peppers. I had three single slices of peppers on my relatively large sandwich.
If you’re not as big on vegetables, that might work well for you.
Peanut Thai wrap by Grandma’s Root Cellar
By far, this was the most colorful and fresh option I tried on the first food truck day.
Multiple layers show you there’s more than one way to crunch under a tortilla. Peanuts, green beans, green peppers and lettuce produce an audible symphony with peanut sauce as the conductor.
The peanut sauce is mild, coagulating a strange partnership of ingredients like red beans and cabbage — all with seemingly contrasting textures. Cucumber on the finish adds a mild refreshment to a light, vegan option.
Grandma’s Root Cellar provides a regular, robust source for vegan choices at NewBo City Market with its stall inside.
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