Bring empty belly Saturday, Oct. 5, to the third annual Food Truck Festival on Main Street, where you'll find four city blocks of moveable feasts — from Third to Seventh streets — from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Between bites, there will be things to do for the whole family, including shopping at Etsy Little Rock vendors, listening to music, watching street performers, turning the kids over to Heifer International's Children's Plaza and, last but not least, drinking cold brews from three beer gardens. Here's another plus: No food and drink tickets to get in the middle of you and the chow. The Downtown Partnership is also selling chances to win "A Year of Fun in Downtown Little Rock," which will include tickets to The Rep, a VIP tour of Heifer, museum memberships, a prime downtown parking space for a year, VIP Riverfest tickets, free ice cream from Loblolly Ice Cream, tickets for two to the Junior League of Little Rock's Holiday House Ladies Night Out" and two three-day shopping passes.
The grub, of course, is the big draw. There are 25 food trucks and carts participating; here's a rundown of some of our favorites:
Southern Gourmasian. It's only been operating for about two years, but in that time it's become something of a Little Rock food truck legend. Gourmasian's blend of Asian flavors like lemongrass, ginger, and sriracha sauce with Southern classics like dumplings, fried chicken, and pulled pork doesn't sound like anything that should ever work in the real world — but the recipes coming from the back of the bright yellow truck emblazoned with a red dragon defy all expectations and deliver outstanding food time and time again. Expect the lines to be long at this truck, but rest assured that the food is worth the wait.
Banana Leaf. After a summer spent in their native India, the Banana Leaf crew is back and ready for action. Egg lovers will be drawn to their wide variety of dhosas, while those who crave a little spice won't want to miss the crispy Chicken 65. Banana Leaf also provides several excellent vegetarian dishes, giving non-meat-eaters a place to find something delicious to eat.
Green Cuisine. It's the only truck in Little Rock that focuses solely on vegetarian and vegan food, but everybody can find something to love here. Pay special attention to the grilled pimento cheese and veggie quesadillas, as these dishes will prove that meat isn't necessary to make something delicious. This truck has developed a well-deserved reputation for quality food — high praise indeed here in meat-loving Arkansas.
Sugar Shack. Taking sweet to the street — Little Rock's first dessert truck offers some of the finest confections around town. Sure, you'll find the ubiquitous cupcake (which they do exceptionally well), and cookies, brownies, and bars, but passing up one of their mini bundt cakes is nothing short of food crime. You'll find them in an assortment of flavors — apple, hot fudge, lemon — but don't miss an opportunity to sample a peach bundt with ginger cream cheese frosting. It's divine.
Waffle Wagon. It might be the new kid on the food truck block, but the Waffle Wagon is quickly becoming one of the most popular trucks in town. With dishes ranging from buffalo-style chicken and waffles to cornbread waffles with purple hull peas, these waffles are a step above what might be found at the local IHOP. The Waffle Wagon menu rotates, so expect surprises like brown sugar and peach waffles or savory dishes made with fancy stuff like imported prosciutto.
Taqueria Jalisco. No gathering of food trucks would be quite complete without the granddaddy of all food trucks — the taco truck. Little Rock boasts a fairly sizable fleet of mobile tortillas slingers, but Taqueria Jalisco stacks up with the best of them. Of course, there are the classic street-style tacos — meat, onion, cilantro, and salsa — but you'd be amiss if you never sampled their fine tamales or substantial tortas.
Eat My Catfish. The appearance of Eat My Catfish at this year's festival is a return to the Saline County eatery's roots. Although located in a brick and mortar building now, the Eat My Catfish crew started out in the back of a small red trailer, slinging hot fish filets and spicy mud bugs in a small vacant lot in Benton. Word of mouth about the excellent food from the truck allowed them to move into more permanent digs, but they've kept the truck, and everyone attending this year's festival will be happy they did.
KBird. Thailand boasts some of the finest roadside eats on the planet. Fortunately for Arkansas, kBird is doing their darnedest to bring an authentic taste of Thailand to our streets. Here you'll find a respectable version of pad Thai, red or green curry, fried rice, and more. They're dishes decorated with the incomparable seasonings and spices of Thai cuisine — basil, hot peppers, peanut, coconut milk, and lemongrass. Just be sure to save some stomach space for their popular ginger cookies for dessert.
Le Pops. Summer is slowly fading away, but there's still nothing quite as refreshing as a frozen treat from Le Pops. No one does ice pops at this level in these parts. Committed to using local fruits and berries whenever possible, the Le Pops people have created a product that's simple and pure. Look out for the sweet and slightly sour strawberry-balsamic or creamy salted caramel. Truthfully, there's not a bad pop in the pack.
Lobolly. Not content with merely selling and scooping from their South Main Street parlor in the Green Corner Store, the Loblolly team regularly takes their artisanal small-batch ice cream to the streets. You'll find them selling their unparalleled product by the pint, and they'll also have a selection of handcrafted sodas, lemonades, and teas, each using only natural cane sugar. What flavors should you expect? Chances are if it's in season, you'll find Loblolly incorporating it into their products.