Chicago Food Truck Finder

blogging the Chicago food truck scene

Upcoming Food Truck Events

There are so many upcoming events from May 1st through May 5th, I thought it warranted a blog post. (Also, many farmers markers will also be opening this weekend so be sure to check out my Chicago Farmers’ Market Finder)

Thursday

  • Tap This at Fischman Liquors (from 5-9). Featuring Virtue Cider and Cheesies Truck (including gluten-free sandwiches)
  • Food truck rally at The Garage. Featuring Jerk 312 and The Salsa Truck (not completely sure of the lineup yet)
  • Uncubed Job Fair. 2-5 1446 W. Kinzie w/ Gino’s Steaks Truck

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Monday

The City of Chicago Food Truck Rally at Daley Plaza from 11-7. Featuring these trucks:

Grill Chasers

Last week I had a chance to go to the launch party of a new food truck Grill Chasers. This food truck will be based in the suburbs (out of the same commissary as Toasty Cheese) and will serve up organic grilled chicken, vegetarian skewers, and comfort-food sides. I am excited to see a truck that makes food-sourcing such a core part of its mission.

My favorite items? The grilled chicken wings, homemmade BBQ sauce, and kale slaw were definitely the highlights for me.

Other tidbits of info:

  • There is a new pizza truck coming soon: The Pizza Via. It will also be based out of Greg’s commissary, along with three other new trucks.
  • Greg let me know that he will be debuting a new menu in early May in his Toasty Cheese truck, which will feature among other things, a duck confit poutine!!!
  • There will be a monthly food truck festival in the Burbs. See here for more information

Auto-pilot

From March 22 through March 29th, I will be drinking sweet rum drinks in 84 degree weather near the ocean without internet access. In the mean time my site will soldier on. It automatically pulls data in from twitter, google calendar, as well as a beacon product (which no one uses). I also manually enter in data I see on trucks’ websites, facebook, emails, etc. The latter is usually done to project a schedule on my site so you can see a truck’s weekly schedule and plan your lunch accordingly.

While I’m gone, I will obviously not be manually editing my schedules, nor correcting any items that automatically get added to my site. Since the twitter parsing can some times lead to wacky results, I’ve added a confidence indicator on my website to every stop that’s added (I added this last week but have been tweaking the algorithm as I’ve seen it perform). You can also hover over the question mark next to the confidence level and it will show you how the stop came to be on my site.

Thanks for using this site and see you on the flip-side.

Hiatus

Dear Food Truck Owners,

The data that gets put on my site is collected by your twitter feeds,@uchinomgo’s twitter feeds, google calendar feeds, emails, websites, etc. Some of it is collected automatically (via twitter parsing and reading your public calendars) and a lot of it is added by me sleuthing around on your websites.

I will be out of the country for a week with no access to internet (from March 22-29). During this time I will be tightening up how stops get placed on my site as to avoid bad data getting added. I could really use your help to assure that during this time truck stops get added correctly. Here are some things you could do to help me (also see this):

1) From March 22 – 29th, you need to use the hashtag #ftf whenever you specify a location on twitter otherwise your stop will not get added to my site or included in any of the tweets to my chiftf_ twitter accounts. So instead of this:

We will be at Clark and Monroe for lunch today

do this:

We will be at Clark and Monroe for lunch today #ftf

See, that was easy.

2) Try to avoid using two locations in one tweet, for example

Sorry Adams and Wacker, we are at Clark and Monroe #ftf

My site isn’t that smart and will pick the first location it finds, so it will put your stop at Adams and Wacker. Ordinarily I’ll spot a tweet like this and correct it on my site, but I’m not going to be here.

3) Try to use times. “11-1:30pm” or “until 3:00” or something like that. If you are a lunch truck and don’t specify times, I just assume you are going to be at a spot for two hours from 11:30 to 1:30 (ok it’s a bit more complicated than that, but that’s the basic gist)

4) If you want to take all your stops off my site for a day, just use “off the road” in a tweet (currently, this sends me an email which validates that that is your actual intention before I click a button and have your stops removed, but during this week my site will just remove all of your stops)

5) I currently manually add your schedules I get in email or day-of on twitter. My site will not add your schedule stops for the day while I’m gone. If you want to post an advance schedule, use a public google calendar and send me the URL to it. Currently Flirty Cupcakes, Chicago Pizza Boss, Baby Cakes, and Cupcake Gangsters are the only trucks that do this.

Thanks again and let me know if you have any questions

Eating Paleo(ish) From Chicago Food Trucks

For the most part, when I’m not eating an occasional donut from The Doughtnut Vault or a sandwich from The Fat Shallot, I try to stick to a paleo-ish diet (my version of paleo includes small amounts of rice, potatoes, ancient grains, legumes, and booze, but I try to avoid processed foods, including anything made with soy or wheat flour, dairy, and sugar). Translating this diet to food trucks can be difficult (especially since most food trucks have some version of meat/veggies contained within some kind of grain-based bread/tortilla/empanada/bun etc.), but here are some options that I’ve found are satisfying and delicious:

  1. The Big Shish is the best food truck for paleo-ish food. I really like their grilled steak platter. To stay truly paleo: ask for “no pita, no bulgur, and extra grilled veggies instead of the salad option”. The meat is marinated in balsamic vinegar. I haven’t seen them since early December, so they might be in hibernation…

  2. Windy City Patty Wagon – Get their ½ pound burger, minus bun and cheese, with bacon and chipotle mayonnaise (yeah, the adobe sauce probably has sugar in it, but it’s worth it). I usually get the bun but don’t eat it, since the burger is served in a pretty thin cardboard box, and the bun usually soaks up some of the juices so the box doesn’t get juicy.

  3. La Adelita – Calabacitas. This is a vegetarian entree that is basically sautéed squash and other vegetables with mexican herbs and spices (this dish has corn in it, which true paleo dieters don’t eat). Comes with beans and rice (I know these are not technically paleo either, but I eat them any way since they don’t affect me too negatively). Also, try the Ghost Beef platter or the Texas Chili when he actually has it on the menu.

  4. The Jibarito Stop – Bisteca en salsa – steak in a salsa. Served with rice.

  5. Jerk 312 – The Jerk chicken, minus the bread and fritters.

  6. Husky Hog BBQ’s brisket chili is delicious. Ask for no muffin (or give it to your coworker like I do) and no cheese. Also, get the collards as a side. You can also get their brisket without a bun. It’s about 5oz., which isn’t a huge portion but it’s doable (I find the chili to be a better portion for the same price).

  7. Meatloaf-a-go-go – Yentl Lentl – This is a black-bean based meatloaf cupcake with black beans and veggies (no meat or gluten).

  8. Caponies Express – The grilled chicken salad, minus the blue cheese. This is a pretty conventional salad. I’m not sure the dressing is compliant, but I usually carry around a bottle of olive oil-based vinaigrette with me.

Android Updates

I’ve made a few improvements to the Chicago Food Truck Finder Android application so that it now includes background sychronization and notifications.

Background synchronizations poll schedule data periodically using Android synchronization framework. Before this change, the application just retrieved schedule data from the server when the application was launched or the user pressed the refresh button. Now, syncs are done on a configurable interval in the background regardless as to whether the application is running.

The second feature that I’ve added, is the ability to receive notifications when you are near a food truck. This will popup a notification when you are within ¼ of a mile of a food truck, listing which food trucks you are near. You can enable or disable this notification from the settings dialog. By default, this is off.

Finally, I’ve made some small UI changes to push it in line with website UI (such as displaying “estimated departure” for active trucks).

This will be the last release of the Android app that will support Android versions less than 4.x. In the next release I am going to totally revamp the UI and notifications to support functionality only available in 4.x (and I don’t want to mess around with the compatibility libraries since less than 5% of my users are using this app on the 2.x and 3.x Android versions).

Liquor, Beer, and Food Trucks

There are several events to look out for this week if you enjoy the combination of beer and food trucks.

Tonight, Windy City Patty Wagon will be at Printers Row Wine Shop grilling up burgers from 5pm-7pm.

Tap This! Featuring Great Divide will be Thursday Jan 16th at 6pm and will feature 5411 Empanadas and Pierogi Wagon. Fischman liquors is at 4780 N. Milwaukee in Jefferson Park.

The Windy City Patty Wagon will be at Warehouse Liquors on Thursday Jan 16th from 5pm to 7pm. The following day, they will be at Tighthead Brewing Co in Mundelien at 4pm-9pm. The following night they will be at Temperance Beer Co in Evanston from 4-9 grilling up their delicious burgers.

Also doing the brewery circuit is the Chicago Pizza Boss which will be at Church Street Brewery in Itasca on Friday from 5pm to 7:30pm. The following day, they will be at Solemn Oath Brewery from 12pm-3pm, then they will be at Urban Legend Brewery in Westmont from 5pm-7pm.

On Sunday, Jan 19th, Babycakes will be at the Temperance Brewery taproom from 12-2.

Ninja Blocks Fun

Spent the train ride into work today writing some Node.js code that sets the eye color on my Ninjablock based on how many food trucks are currently on the road in Chicago. Backup…what? Ninjablocks are awesome little computers running ubuntu that you can attach to wireless sensors and actuators in your house. You can query the sensors and actuators using a basic REST API. They also have cool little eyes, which you can programmatically change the colors on.

I set this code to run on a cron job every 15 minutes. It queries the Chicago Food Truck Finder via its rest API for the current trucks on the road, then sets the lights accordingly.

If you’d like to build something on top of the food truck finder, let me know, I’ll give you an application key. I may eventually require oauth credentials, but not yet.