Keep on (Food) Truckin’
With an abundance of choices for diners, food trucks keep cuisine on a roll in Southern Maryland WRITER: CAROL HARVAT
The food truck craze has rolled into Southern Maryland serving barbecue, seafood, ethnic foods and desserts.
No matter what your palate desires, these chefs on the go were already serving up their cuisine at fairs, farmers markets, firehouses, store parking lots and neighborhoods. But during the recent public coronavirus health threat these trucks were able to adapt quickly to challenges facing the food service industry.
After all, curbside delivery service was what they were already offering.
With major events canceled and businesses closed, these meals on wheels were able to head into neighborhoods and other public areas and serve up some fine food while some restaurants were closed and folks were under stay-at-home orders.
Normally, most food trucks stay in one location, setting up shop near large offices and businesses. During the pandemic most of those were no longer open; the trucks were forced to move around. The best bet then, as well as now, to find out where they set up is to use social media.
Whether seeing a food truck along a Southern Maryland byway or following one on Facebook to find its location, stop by for a sample. The choices are abundant, often innovative and creative, and the chefs are eager to show off their culinary talents.
The Boylan family food truck, I’se Da Bye — named for a Newfoundland, Canada, greeting — parks at Sneade’s Ace Hardware in Lusby and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The morning-hours spread includes French toast, breakfast buckets, sandwiches and burritos with eggs, tater tots and homemade sausage from Miller’s Country Market. Later in the day, choices range from Kickin’ Chicken, Philly beef or chicken cheese steak, BLTs, to the Belly-Full Burrito.
Chris Boylan, wife Wendy, his mother Nellie and son Shane, a recent culinary school graduate, create their own recipes and rotate their menu. “We’ve taken off like gangbusters,” says Chris, who started the business five years ago.
Jeremy Plemons, owner/chef of County Manners, creates a menagerie of gourmet tacos and sliders; smoked pork with tomatillos, sweet chili shrimp, smoked calamari chorizo and Portobello mozzarella.
“This isn’t your ordinary food truck,” he says. A corporate chef for years, Plemons branched out on his own and has regular spots in Mechanicsville, Indian Head and White Plains.Saturday’s Choice Seafood, which has parked at Millison Plaza in Lexington Park for eight years, fries seafood and steams a popular butter and garlic crab with the crab shell off making it easy to eat. Enough for four, the large, spicy Louisiana boil is loaded with shrimp, crab, clams, mussels, crawfish, sausage, corn and potatoes. “I make my own sauces and spices, and do the cooking,” says Tim Dean, a third-generation waterman who started cooking seafood to sell his locally caught fish, crabs and oysters.
Ruddy Duck Food Truck specialties include a Brewhouse Smash (similar to a Big Mac), chicken or pork burritos, tacos or bowls, and other pub grub. They’ve recently put a second truck on the road, The Real Studio that offers healthy alternatives.
“It’s all fresh and health-supportive foods; immunity, heart and weight management supportive,” says Lisa Kelley, who creates the recipes and runs the kitchen. She nourishes her customers with a variety of macro bowls that have a balance of protein and fat and consist of vegetables, nuts and whole grains. Cold pressed juices are also on the menu. “It’s a great way to get vitamins and minerals into your body quickly,” she says
Chicken is king for Kick’N Chik’N, which regularly parks at the main county government buildings in Leonardtown and La Plata. Robbin and Kelvin Young own the truck and do all the cooking.
“We like to keep it mobile so we can serve more of the community,” Robbin says. Their menu includes fried chicken, wings and tenders, as well as chicken stir-fry, and chicken with teriyaki, lemon, and BBQ, bourbon or buffalo sauce.
Craving pizza or Italian food? Try Nicoletti’s, Fredy’s Brickwood Pizza or Pizza Hotline. They stop at neighborhoods and firehouses and participate in events around the tri-county area. Pizza Hotline’s family business started in 1984, and Nicoletti’s Pizza has been family-run since 1981, and both now have successful food trucks.
Have a Cajun and Creole hankering? Myra’s New Orleans Cuisine serves authentic cuisine like jambalaya, gumbo and rice, and poor boys with shrimp, oysters, crawfish or catfish. Her truck normally sits on a lot on H.G. Trueman Road in Lusby.
How about some Caribbean fair? The Jamaican Grill, which has spots at Patuxent River Naval Air Station on weekdays, cooks the classics.
“We have most of the traditional Caribbean foods,” says Latasha Hevi. Her husband Yao and Latasha prepare jerk pork and chicken, curry chicken and Jamaican sides like red beans and rice with spices and coconut milk. “My customers love the jerk chicken.”
Barbecue and all the fixin’s
Here in Southern Maryland, both barbecued and smoked meats have long been a popular staple. Local food trucks jumped on the wagon, so to speak, to barbecue (broil and roast over a fire on a grill) and smoke (using flavored wood chips and coals to slowly cook) a variety of meats and fish.
With regular hours at Tractor Supply Co. in Huntingtown, Cutty’s Rock ’N Ribs barbecues and smokes ribs, pork butts and beef brisket, and cooks other Maryland favorites.
“Everyone has their own cooking style,” says Natalie Holland, owner and chef, along with her husband Dean. They’ve had the business since 2009. At last year’s Calvert County Fair, Dean started smoking meats for customers, and it was an instant hit.
“That smell just draws them in,” says Natalie, who makes the side dishes. “I cut cabbage, peel potatoes. I do it all by hand, no packaged food. It’s a lot of around-the-clock work.”
Smoker’s Delight BBQ uses locally source meats from Maryland and smokes with select hardwoods. Pitmaster Brian Israel brings flavors from different states. There are St. Louis ribs, Texas-style brisket and North Carolina pulled pork.
“We’re an all-American, full-service barbecue,” he says.
Smokey Oak BBQ usually parks in Charlotte Hall on Route 5, but the truck also sets up at wineries, neighborhoods and festivals. Ryan Sager and his wife Jessica make all the sauces and spice rubs, and grill and smoke their meat products using a smoking trailer latched behind the food truck.
“We’ve practiced our recipes over the years, and have finally nailed them down,” he says.
The smoker, which smokes brisket, baby-back ribs, chicken and even whole hog, is the main attraction. Ryan sometimes smokes 40 to 50 full slabs of ribs a day.
“We have people in the parking lot waiting for us to pull up. People love us,” he says. Green and baked beans, or garden, potato or macaroni salads accompany the plateful of meat.
Mating the hog and the crab
The Crabby Hog BBQ and crab cakes make an unlikely pair. Chef and owner Chris Willis says, “I’ve always been a fan of barbecue, and I grew up in Harve de Grace, so I’ve always made crab cakes.” Willis, who has 20 years of professional chef experience, said he has kept his same crab cake recipe.
He too smokes meats, which is a favorite way for Willis to cook. He calls his sandwiches “sammiches,” a slang word for a big sandwich. Crabby Hog’s menu includes smoked ribs, brisket, turkey and chicken, North Carolina pulled pork, crab cakes, fried fish and other gourmet fare.
At first, Crabby Hog was just a clever name, but at a beer festival a few years back a guy adamantly asked Willis for the Crabby Hog sandwich, which was not a menu item. Willis made a special pork and lump crab sandwich. Now it’s a popular menu item, says Willis, who is the culinary instructor at North Point High School in Waldorf.
There’s a festival for that
Publisher’s note: The Maryland Food Truck Festival event at Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum has been canceled. “We are sad to announce that due to COVID-19 restrictions, we have had to cancel the 2020 event. Please stay safe and we will let you know as soon as we are able to secure a 2021 date. Many thanks.” reads a message from festival organizers.
Food truck vendors are growing in popularity all across the country. Local events often bring many of them all together in one place.
The Maryland Food Truck Festival is expected to roll into Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum in St. Leonard from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 12.
More than 25 trucks are expected to serve up a variety of cuisine. Throw in beer, wine and spirts, live music, a car show, local artisans and vendors, an area just for kids with moon bounces and waterslides, and fireworks and you have an outing for the entire family.
Purchase tickets at marylandfoodtruckfestival.com.
As of press time, the event was still scheduled. Check website for updates. •