Good food comes from Janesville food truck
JANESVILLE—Food trucks are so trendy in larger metropolitan areas that the Food Network devotes entire shows to them. Some food truck entrepreneurs have become culinary rock stars for their gourmet rebel-on-wheels approach to cuisine.
What is now commonplace in larger cities can be a little more problematic around here.
Last summer, Los Agaves found that its taco truck wasn't welcome in Milton. In Janesville, Chad Measner is dealing with a tangle of city ordinances that make it challenging to conduct business from his Cajun-inspired food truck.
That's too bad because South Padre Streetfood delivers the goods.
I mean that literally: They deliver to your door for $3 if your order is $20 or more. I also mean that figuratively: Measner makes food in that converted RV that rivals many established restaurants in town.
The first time we tried South Padre was in mid-January, during that nasty weekend of icy roads. I felt guilty asking someone to deliver to our home, which meant parking a car on an icy incline. But deliver they did, bringing the hot, delicious goods to our front door.
My husband, Richard, tried the Slap Yo Mamma Gumbo ($5.99 for a bowl), a nicely seasoned soup that wasn't as thick and gloopy as a typical chowder. It was packed with shrimp, fish and crawfish as well as a pleasant punch of heat. South Padre's food is on the spicy side, but at a level that enhances rather than obliterates the flavor.
I ordered the jambalaya special ($9.99), which also brought the heat but had the richness and complexity of flavor that makes the dish a staple of New Orleans dining. The spicy dirty rice was packed with shrimp, mahi mahi, andouille sausage and crawfish and served with a generous hunk of baguette.
Despite several Southern sojourns, bug-like crawfish have never won me over. Richard happily dispatched them for me. South Padre's jambalaya is better than versions I've had at many established Cajun restaurants. It tastes like the real deal.
Our son doesn't like spicy. Fortunately, the truck also offers a good assortment of sandwiches. He enjoyed his Bucky Burger ($8.99) with melted cheese curds and bacon on top. It came with a side of crispy, freshly fried and salted “truck chips.”
Both the gumbo and the jambalaya were on the small side, but the quality of the ingredients and preparation made it worth the expense.
Richard stopped by the truck on a recent Saturday afternoon and brought home an unusually good lunch. The crab and shrimp cakes ($8.99) were two thick, meaty patties of seafood and vegetables crusted in panko crumbs and lightly fried. Served with a nuanced remoulade sauce, they were exceptionally good. You can order them in a po' boy sandwich, too.
Speaking of which, the po' boy ($9.99) is a huge hunk of soft, chewy baguette filled with your choice of Southern fried or blackened shrimp, Mahi Mahi, crab cake or chicken. We had the fried shrimp as our filling with a nice combo of mildly spicy sauce, lettuce and tomato. The truck chips that came with the sandwich disappeared quickly, too.
Richard had a cup of the Don't Be So Shellfish Bisque ($2.99), a surprisingly light concoction made from shrimp stock and sherry with finely diced lobster, crab, shrimp, crawfish and clams. Really delicious.
Knowing my utter weakness for macaroni and cheese, Richard brought home a cup of the lobster mac-n-cheese ($2.99). At first, I was a bit put off by the small serving size, but after the first bite it was clear that this cup packed a lot of flavor. The cheese sauce incorporated lobster broth in its base, making the seafood integral to the dish. Many places would have just stirred some chunks of lobster into a standard mac and cheese. South Padre's version took more effort and used better ingredients.
Our friend Jim is a passionate fan of the Swissconnie ($7.99), a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. He does his best not to eat it before getting to his shop, but he usually gives up and gobbles it in his truck—it smells and tastes too good to wait.
I hope the city accommodates Measner. He's serving exceptional food at good prices and working his tail off to make a go of it. He deserves a fighting chance.
If you love good food, give his delicious South Padre Streetfood a try.
Last updated: 7:10 am Thursday, February 6, 2014