On the evening of Saturday, August 10, I attended Anchorage’s first ever Food Truck Challenge in the parking lot of Chilkoot Charlie’s. The event featured nearly a dozen local food trucks, each dishing up a wide range of samples alongside their staple menu items. The event, sponsored by Anchorage Night Out and organized by Angel Howard, was a chance for people to come out and experience the growing food truck culture of Spenard and downtown Anchorage.
Pulling together an event for the first time is always a challenge, and there are always going to be hiccups along the way. Some of the lines were a bit long, as food trucks struggled to keep up with the steady stream of costumers looking for their free sample. There was no beer garden, as was being advertised, only a complimentary beer ticket for those interested in redeeming it at Chilkoot’s. There was also some initial confusion among patrons as to what the sample process was, but once a few brave souls started presenting their punch cards, people began to file into line. None of these were really event killers (even if I really was jonesing for a beer garden) and can be easily remedied for next year.
The real center piece of the event was the food, and it was as diverse and delicious as I would have expected from such an event in Anchorage. All of the samples were more than generous, and by the time I was done visiting all of the vendors, I was stuffed.
Vendors from Boom Ba Laddy’s and Boombai Thai mark tickets and hand out samples at the Challenge
Some trucks chose to focus on a single dish, like the warm and gooey Bacon Gorgonzola Bombolina from Wheel Good Food. This bite size treat was a bread dumpling stuffed with cheese and bacon, fried, and served with a side of green apple balsamic reduction. The combination of salty bacon in melted cheese with the sweet and tangy sauce was a great starter for the evening. It won my own personal award for uniquely blending savory and sweet into a bite size package.
The warm and gooey Bacon Gorgonzola Bombolina
Fishalicious was another popular choice with the crowd with their Alaskan Smoked Salmon Cake Sliders. These tasty morsels started with a bite sized Copper River smoked salmon cake that was piled with slaw and flakes of salmon, coated with a light roasted red pepper sauce, and presented on top of a slice of Hawaiian sweet roll. It was a beautiful presentation and very scrumptious, even if I had a little difficulty getting it all into my mouth.
The soul warming smoked salmon patty from Fishalicious
Some vendors offered a variety of samplers from off of their regular menu. The Burger Box was dishing out quartered up versions of their signature burgers. I had a go at the Spicy Burger, a beef patty topped with pepper jack cheese and jalapeno peppers. This burger definitely lived up to its name and I was not disappointed.
Burger Box’s Spicy Burger (L) and the deliciously rich Boom Ba Laddy (R)
One of my personal favorites was Boom Ba Laddy’s namesake dish, a baked potato topped with shredded and melted nacho cheese, grilled onions, bacon, and barbecue pulled pork (pause for a moment and let that sink in). I’ll fully admit a cultural bias towards this dish, as it sounds like something you’d find on a local menu in my home state of Mississippi. I didn’t cast my vote for this one, but it was certainly a close second and I would hit this truck up any time for the full meal.
Alaska Street Eats was another crowd favorite and a People’s Choice Award winner for the night. I tried their take on gumbo, but it left me a little disappointed. Growing up in the shadows of Cajun Country, I’ve had great gumbo and it’s a dish that I love to prepare myself. The roux was a little too thick, the seasonings bland, and the green onions were overpowering. It didn’t deliver the flavor punch that I expect from a Cajun dish, but the people around me seemed to enjoy it.
The gumbo from People’s Choice Winner Alaska Street Eats
One truck that really delivered on Cajun flavor was Urban Bamboo. Their Blackened Sushi Roll was made with creole mustard hollandaise and served with a side of Bourbon Birch Pork Skewer. It was another People’s Choice winner and my personal favorite by far. The combination of lightly blackened rice with the spicy sauce was a unique and appropriate blend of Japanese and Creole/Cajun cuisine. The skewer was tender and juicy and soaked my taste buds in tangy goodness.
Last, but certainly not least, were the desserts. Tiers from Heaven handed out bite sized morsels of heavenly sweetness. I went for the Zach Attack, a honey whisky chocolate cupcake with raspberry cream cheese filling and a honey whisky vanilla buttercream garnished with bacon and lightly drizzled with butterscotch. It was a bite size cavity causing explosion of sweet awesomeness for sure, and not something for the faint of heart.
(Above) The salty sweet Zach Attack from Tiers from Heaven
(Below) A sampler from Carmen’s Gelato including Chocolate Banana, Espresso, and Limoncello Cheesecake.
As good as the Zach Attack was, my favorite dessert cart was another People’s Choice winner, Carmen’s Gelato. They were scooping up to three of their locally made, locally sourced artisan gelatos. I made my own Neapolitan style sampler with a combination of Chocolate Banana, Espresso, and Limoncello Cheesecake. It was a sweet and creamy way to finish off a thoroughly satisfying night of local food revelry.
If you didn’t make it out to this year’s event, don’t despair. Hopefully it will return bigger and better than ever next year, but in the mean time you can always catch these trucks around town and in Spenard at the Food Truck Carnival on Thursdays, or at the Spenard Farmer’s Market on the weekend. You can also check out my full gallery of photos here.
Until next time, keep dishing it out Anchorage!