Despite recent pieces in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Chef Alex Pope is not about to rest on his laurels. Last month he rolled out a new food truck called Pigwich, that will be permanently parked behind his Local Pig butcher shop. Located in a secluded part of the East Bottoms, you would not think this is a hot destination…but you would be wrong.Pigwich

Since opening a year ago, the Local Pig has attracted carnivores in droves; it’s rare for there not to be a line to buy cuts of beef, pork, duck, rabbit, lamb or chicken, as well as eggs, a wide range of homemade sausages, and even tamales. All meats are hormone, steroid and antibiotic free, the quality of which is reflected in every bite. Purchases are attractively boxed and come with cooking instructions if requested.P1010205

Now Pope has parlayed this success into a sandwich shop on wheels (or a pedestal to be more precise), putting his mouth-watering products between slices of fabulous bread in innovative and delicious ways. Staples on the menu include a double cheeseburger (the truffle aioli kills it), cheesesteak, a Banh Mi with Thai meatballs, and even falafel for non-meat eaters. Daily specials run the gamut from a pastrami reuben and porchetta to a cuban sandwich.P1010208P1010207P1010209

Courtyard seating is available for those who can’t wait to dig into one of Pope’s luxurious creations, or who just want to enjoy some fresh air before hightailing it back to the office.
Pigwich on Urbanspoon

Driftwood KC Food Truck

A new food truck to check out….Driftwood KC. Full disclosure, it’s run by my nephew and his wife. But that doesn’t mean the food isn’t terrific! 

It’s actually more of a trailer and though mobile, is normally parked at 101st St. and State Line, in the lot just to the north of Office Max. There’s a smoker in the truck (but fortunately closed off from the rest of the work space to contain the smoke) and if you take a peek inside, the interior is spotless. Brian knows what he’s doing. He’s a graduate of the Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, and upon returning to his hometown staged at Le Fou Frog, and then went on to work at Cafe Provence and Cupini’s.

The menu is purposefully small. They want to get the basics right before introducing daily specials. Judging from the steady stream of customers the day I was there, many of whom were repeat visitors, he’s already there.

Offerings include a chopped brisket sandwich piled high with with homemade BBQ sauce, honey lime slaw and pickles,  Italian sausage with pickles, slaw and mustard, and meaty, tender ribs. Each can be served with or without incredible housemade French fries, lightly seasoned, skins on and perfectly crisp. Brian makes a thick blue cheese bacon aioli for dipping which has chunks of bacon goodness in it, though the fries need no embellishment. French Fries are one of my favorite food groups, but I’m very particular and don’t eat them mindlessly. Driftwood’s are easily are some of the best in town.

I loved seeing camp chairs positioned near the truck so you don’t have to eat standing up or in your car. That’s my one showing-my-age-pet peeve about food trucks–I’d rather eat in a more civilized manner rather than just scarfing my meal down, juggling food in one hand drink in another.  They even provide sunscreen and bug spray if you want to go sit on the grassy hillside! 

Driftwood is just getting started, but judging from the rocket rise of “Likes” on Facebook since they opened,  it’s already been discovered. Expect to find them at events around town in short order.

Driftwood BBQ on Urbanspoon

Prairie Fire Oven

I first met David White and sampled his pizza while attending Art in the Vines at the Somerset Ridge Winery in Paola Kansas. Prairie Fire Oven is similar to a food truck in that the oven is on a trailer that hitches to a car or truck, but a separate fold up tent is part of the operation. It’s set up at each site and becomes command central. That’s where orders are taken, ingredients are put on the pizza crust, and finished pies are handed over to their expectant customers.

The oven is primed with cherry and oak fired wood and, according to White, the oven itself is the same as the type used at Pizza Bella, so you know you’re going to be getting a restaurant quality product. At 800 degrees, each pizza bakes quickly, getting the char that I love.

White acknowledged that he doesn’t make the dough himself, but it is made locally,   shaped and delivered. The crusts are chewy, but thin enough to fold.  David uses fresh and gourmet ingredients to create delicious pies.

We sampled several of them: The Queen, a traditional Margarita pizza with tomato sauce, basil, mozzarella, sea salt and olive oil; The Somerset Truffle pizza, undoubtedly given that name because it was served at the Art in the Vines; and a pear pie with sliced pears, gorgonzola, mozzarella,  Parmesan, tangerine balsamic vinegar, arugula and roasted walnuts. The truffle pizza, with mushrooms, mozzarella, spinach and truffle oil was my favorite. I intended to just have one piece since we were on our way to dinner, but I absolutely couldn’t resist having another.

David travels around, mostly in Kansas, but he’s trying to find a way to make his presence felt on the Missouri side of the state line.

Follow Prairie Fire Oven on Facebook to find David and his fine pizzas.

Prairie Fire Oven, Inc. Mobile Wood-Fired Oven on Urbanspoon

Westport Street Fare

Aaron Confessori and Richard Wiles are busy men. They own Westport Cafe and Bar, the recently opened Boot, and they are operating the Westport Street Fare, a food truck parked at the corner of Westport and Pennsylvania in the parking lot just to the west of Harry’s Bar and Tables.

The truck serves up mostly Mexican fare with a bit of a global flair. The menu is very straight forward. There are five fillings–spicy pork, chicken confit, Korean short rib meat, seared mahi-mahi and crispy tofu, and four vessels for enjoying them–in a burrito (with rice), as a quesadilla (with cheese), as a torta (with avocado, mayo, Pico de Gallo, lettuce and chipotle crema), or in a corn tortilla to make a taco.

The mahi is marinated in soy and pineapple, and topped with sliced cabbage, avocado, pico de gallo and chipotle crema. The short ribs are crispy chunks of meat, marinated with Korean seasonings, including sake and pear. The pork is marinated with three types of dried chiles including chipotle, guajillo and pasilla. The chicken filling combines confit chicken (which they use for their hash at brunch at the Westport Cafe) with hash browns and roasted tomato vinaigrette.

I have sampled all of the offerings and loved everything I ate, in every format. However,  I am especially partial to the pork torta; it has to be one of the best sandwiches in town. The rolls as well as the tortillas are made at Carniceria y Tortilleria San Antonio and are still warm when delivered. The Korean short rib tacos are special, too,  and the flavors will really grab you.

There’s typically a ramen special with housemade noodles, pork belly and short rib. You’ll need the chopsticks they give you to pick up the big pieces of pork belly and short rib that are floating in the soup.  It’s all very soothing on a chilly night, but it might not stay on the menu in the heat of the summer.

Richard and Aaron wanted to keep the menu simple and it works beautifully.  The one addition I would make is to add chips and salsa.  The fiery red salsa and smooth avocado tomatillo salsa that accompany each item are homemade and, while the offerings don’t need embellishment, I really wanted  some chips to dip into those little containers.  It was really hard to throw out even one drop, because the heat and texture of both have me thinking the salsas are as fine as you’ll find in Kansas City.

The little courtyard is strung with lights that make the area festive, and there’s a ledge that goes around the fence so after you pick up your food there’s a place to land while you eat it. Rich said that at some point they may add stools for outdoor dining. At the moment, no beer is served, but they make their own sodas. I sampled the lemon lime and it was perfect for putting out the fire in my mouth from the salsas.

The Westport Street Fare is open Thursdays-Saturday nights, from 7 pm to 3 am. Yes, you read that right. Aaron says a big wave of customers come in the wee hours of the morning, undoubtedly after rolling out of one of the nearby bars. But those of us who aren’t up that late can grab a bite during its more civilized hours of operation. It really doesn’t matter when you go…just go.





Indios Carbonsitos

I’ve definitely joined the food truck craze, and have been trying to sample as many of the vendors as I can. Just like not all restaurants are the same, neither can food trucks be lumped together. I prefer those that are a cut above the rest, with either upscale (as is the case at Port Fonda), or at least unusual fare, beyond the food trucks of old that stick to hot dogs, nachos and burritos.

Indios Carbonsitos is in the latter category. Not upscale, but certainly interesting…and tasty. Yes, they have hot dogs and nachos, but the nachos are made with barbecue sauce, so certainly not typical. The fare is billed as MexiQ, a concept I could embrace, though I didn’t try those nachos.

The truck is usually in Kansas City, Kansas, though it does venture out to festivals and the like. I found it via Facebook one weekend when it was at Park Place in Leawood.

Having heard about the pork sandwiches, that’s what I ordered.

They are known as Tortas Ahogadas, consisting of pork on a soft roll and smothered with a spicy or mild sauce. I ordered it spicy, but it was mild enough that I wondered if they had given me the wrong sauce. I decided it did have a bit of a kick, but not enough to require a glass of water to put out the fire. The pork was tender and not at all fatty; it had some beans mixed in with it and was topped with slices of avocado and chopped onion. Definitely a substantial meal, and a bargain at $6.

Other menu items include tacos, gorditas, Mexican hamburgers, hot dogs, and BBQ tamales.

For now, this is a part-time job for owner Andrian Bermudez, but he hopes to someday be successful enough to drop his day job and pursue his passion full-time.

Indios Carbonsitos on Urbanspoon

Port Fonda food truck

Wow. What a treat. I stopped by the Port Fonda food truck last Saturday afternoon to sample chef/owner Patrick Ryan’s Mexican fare, cooked to order at the truck’s stove.

I had been reading for months about Ryan’s project, a retrofitted airstream trailer. And this is not any old trailer. The interior is wrapped with gorgeous wood and has a chef’s table to match (more on that below.)

The truck is only open on weekend nights, with the exception of Saturday afternoons when you can usually find Port Fonda in the Rieger Hotel Exchange and Grill parking lot for about a 14 hour stretch. During the day the menu is limited to a few items, but when evening comes another handful of offerings take shape in the kitchen, ranging from tacos to tortas (Mexican sandwiches.)  With our ever-increasing reliance on social media, the best way to discover where the truck will be parked and what will be on the menu is to follow Port Fonda on Facebook or Twitter.

I had the great fortune of going to Port Fonda on a day when they were serving chilaquiles– tortillas layered with  a tomatillo/habanero sauce and chorizo verde,  and topped with a fried egg.

I’m a big fan of Frontera Grill in Chicago, and when I heard Ryan used to work there, I knew this was going to be good. Even with high expectations, it blew me away. I haven’t been this excited about a dish since I first had a pizza at Pizza Bella and dreamt about it that night.

Ryan nailed the salsa. It sang with the roasted flavor of the chiles and had a marvelous kick to it. The tortillas had been softened by the sauce but weren’t soggy, as tends to happen if the dish is allowed to cook too long. And the egg was perfectly cooked, its runny yolk melding with the other ingredients to complete the happiness in my mouth.

The pozole was also authentically prepared. Red chile base, chunks of hominy, topped with radish and lime. A hearty and warm soup for a chilly, dreary day.

I wanted to try a taco and the only one they were serving that day had a tripe filling. For those unfamiliar with tripe, it’s part of a cow’s or pig’s stomach and is the main ingredient in a traditional Mexican soup called Menudo. Not a fan of Menudo, I was not overly enthused, but I ordered it anyway. It came in crisp strips and had I not been acutely aware of what I was eating, I may have mistaken it for meat. It was simply garnished, as are most street tacos, with pickled onions and just a touch of sauce. Not my favorite taco ever, but worth sampling.

Within the truck is a cozy table for 6, with a U-shaped banquette. The dining room (known as el comedor) is available by reservation only on weekend nights. Ryan is offering a 3 course meal centered around a pork shoulder and served with all the fixings to roll up in tortillas. I’m excited for that experience– based on my initial visit to Port Fonda, it should be a blast.


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Port Fonda on Urbanspoon

Fresher Than Fresh Ice Pops

No need to wait until snow cone season. You can get Fresher Than Fresh ice pops in a freezer case at Hammerpress on Southwest Blvd. They are similar to the old-fashioned push-ups we used to savor in the summer, only these are made with awesome, fresh ingredients and nothing artificial.

I tried the lime mint, but so many other flavors beckoned me.Watermelon basil, chocolate banana and sea salt, blackberry and lavender, espresso, and Meyer lemon. No matter which you pick, expect a jolt of cool.

Look for the Fresher Than Fresh truck to start rolling soon. It can be found in the garden at 17th and Summit or in the Crossroads on First Fridays, and is the best way to get your snow cone fix.  Just check their website for days and hours.