The sacrifices I make for you, dear reader, knows no bounds. I visited five food trucks, so you didn’t have to. I’m keeping track of the hours in case I’m sentenced to community service in the future, so I can tell the judge that we are all square.
The C-U food truck scene is strong as ever, and the places I visited did not disappoint. The five trucks include: C&C Kitchen, Piato To Go, Smith Burger Co., Tacos Locos, and Big Thorn Farm and Brewery (rural Georgetown).
I am (and have been) a huge fan of Chef Curtis McGhee, and I was introduced to his food when he had his brick and mortar location in Rantoul. When I heard it was closing, I about went into cardiac arrest, but I soon found out he was keeping his food truck and catering business. Crises averted! Home base for C&C is 401 E Park Street in Champaign, but they do move around, so follow them on Facebook.
I ordered the rib tips and potato salad ($12). Rib tips can sometimes be a risky order as the quality and meatiness can vary by restaurant, but not at C&C. These rib tips came packed with a lot of meat and full of flavor. These rib tips were super tender, and the sauce was excellent.
The potato salad was also excellent. The texture of the potatoes was perfect, and the seasoning was on point. Chef Curtis varies his menu daily, but I’ve eaten enough of his cooking that I confident you will enjoy your visit.
Piato To Go
Sometimes I walk up to a food truck and have a difficult time making a decision. I have my “If you know what you want, please go ahead of me” speech pre-planned, but that was not needed with my recent Piato To Go visit. When I saw Dancing Pig, I didn’t even need to see the ingredients to know I would love it.
I had the Dancing Pig ($8) and fresh squeezed lemonade ($3). The sandwich was pulled pork with bacon, cheddar, and cherry chipotle barbeque sauce on grilled sourdough bread. Let’s talk about this fabulous bread first. The bread was thick like Texas toast and grilled on the flat top with butter to a perfectly crispy outside yet soft center. The pulled pork and bacon were tender and tasty, and the cherry chipotle sauce offered a great contrast to the savory meat. So why would a cheap ass like myself pay $3 for lemonade? It is that great. If you have never treated yourself to freshly squeezed lemonade, please give this one from Piato a try.
Smith Burger Co
You know you are in for a treat when you see items on the menu like bacon mac attack, chili cheese ripper, Rocky Balboa, and (are you kidding me?) white cheddar poblano mac and cheese. I opted for the melt ($8.75) and a side of fries ($2).
The melt was a double beef patty with sautéed onions and mushrooms, Swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing on Texas toast. This was so good; all other patty melts are playing for second place. The Texas toast was grilled on the flat top with butter. Two great-tasting beef patties were covered by a generous amount of gooey cheese. The grilled onions and mushrooms were the perfect companion to the beef and cheese. The thousand island dressing really finished this wonderful sandwich.
My wife wanted to sample just a bite, and of course, I agreed. Next thing I know, that sandwich was cut in half, and she staked her claim. It was really that good. The fries were fried perfectly, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside and were seasoned very well. No ketchup was needed with these fries. If you are a ketchup fiend, I won’t fight you about it, but give these fries a try on their own.
I can’t do a food truck article and not include a taco truck. Tacos are the perfect food truck item. They are made quickly, very portable, and easy to eat standing up outside or sitting in your car. I have driven by Tacos Locos so many times on Cunningham Avenue in Urbana and always tell myself I’m going to stop. I finally did and was not disappointed.
I ordered three tacos ($1.99 each): el pastor, carne asada, and chicken. Each taco came with two flat top-grilled corn tortillas, onions, lime, and cilantro. You also get two dipping sauces: reddish orange and green. All three of the tacos were very good, and the tortillas had a perfect texture and great flavor. My favorite was the el pastor because I’m a pork junkie, but the carne asada and chicken were very good. I would recommend going with your usual meat preference. The reddish orange sauce was really good but very hot. If you don’t like your sauce too spicy, the green sauce was mild. You can’t beat the value of three tacos for $6 plus tip. Don’t let the value fool you; these tacos are top notch.
1302 N Cunningham Ave
11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Big Thorn Farm and Brewery
Ok, so this food truck is a bit of a drive, and they stay put at their location, but I was so impressed with them that I had to include them. Big Thorn is located on a beautiful farm and boasts a gorgeous tree house bar.
The bar offers wonderful views of the woods and has very comfortable wooden director chair style bar stools. Their beer is very good, but we will focus on the food.
I had the mango habanero pork tacos with a side of rice ($11). The pork was cooked and seasoned really well. Lots of fresh veggies added a nice crunch, and the corn tortillas were grilled which added so much flavor. Finished off with a wonderful lime crema and cilantro, these tacos are top shelf. What really surprised me was the rice. First, it was super fluffy and a perfect texture, and the rice was finished with lime crema and cilantro. This rice was so good I’m seriously thinking about just telling them to give me a monster bowl of it next time. They also have house made pickles ($1) that were excellent and served with pickled onion.
Editor’s Note: Big Thorn’s food truck is currently on a short hiatus, but the truck will reopen soon. Follow the farm and brewery on Facebook for updates.
Big Thorn Farm and Brewery
14274 600 North Rd
Th+F 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Sa noon to 9 p.m.
Su noon to 8 p.m.