From Korean beef tacos to creme brulee, much of America has seen an upsurge in a new breed of gourmet food trucks.
And Newark has been no different.
Taco and vegan food trucks have taken spots in downtown Brick City in order to cater to residents and harried office workers. Some have slick marketing plans with glossy menus and Twitter accounts. Others are more humble, with simple printouts of their menu on sidewalk placards or taped on the trucks' side.
The new food trucks join older ones that have developed loyal followings and many positive Yelp reviews. The older trucks serve anything from chili hotdogs to virgin pina coladas to residents or clubgoers hungry after a night of dancing. They congregate on Bloomfield Avenue near Branch Brook Park or Broad Street in front of busy barber shops.
Others serve students near New Jersey Institute of Technology or next to University Hospital, where patients' families and workers seek a respite from hospital cafeteria food.
All in all, there are many nosh options in Newark. Here, a brief overview of just some of the offerings that make Brick City a hotspot for food trucks:
Location: Lombardy Street and Lombardy Place
Hours: Weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Prices: From 75 cents for a buttered roll, $1 for a cup of coffee, to $6.50 for an egg white breakfast platter
In a quiet corner of Lombardy street and place, an area dominated by asphalt parking lots, the food truck TNT Roast serves a steady stream of office workers and residents.
The cheery owners Ron and Debbie Tucker, Hillside residents and retirees, started the truck in October last year as part of a long-held dream to cook and serve food.
Ron Tucker, 60, was a corrections officer and trained chef while his wife Debbie, 65, was a financial analyst for Time Warner. They had recently retired when they started the food truck.
"I discussed with my wife," said Ron Tucker. "Does she want to own a restaurant or a lunch truck?"
The truck won out because of the lower overhead, both of them said. Ron Tucker fixed up a food truck during his free time, kick-starting their dream.
Since then, the couple has served a wide array of breakfast options, sandwiches, homemade soups and chili, hotdogs, and chicken wings. They even have the truck outfitted with a rotisserie roaster.
They are most famous for their breakfast oferings, which range from egg sandwiches to French toast served with eggs and sausages or thick slices of bacon.
"We are good for breakfast. The breakfast is a killer," Ron Tucker said. "Everybody loves us."
Even when it rains, they still get customers, Tucker said.
"The best way to have a good business is to have a good, clean truck and good customer business," he added.
Location: Mulberry Street near Market Street, usually parked in front of TD Bank
Price: From $1 for salsa to $8 for a carne asada quesadilla
Taqueria Autentica was one of the first new breed of gourmet food trucks in Newark when they started serving up delicious, authentic Mexican-style tacos in downtown a few years ago.
"In June 2009, we opened a farm stand at the Montclair Farmers Market because we just weren't seeing a lot of authentic Mexican food in New Jersey," wrote owner Michael Natiello in a message. "And, later that summer, we continued with the stand at the Summit Farmers Market. The next logical step was a food truck."
Natiello was previously a lawyer before he started the food truck.
"I started a food truck because it was a legitimate way to gain credibility and fans before opening a restaurant. Banks generally don't lend money for restaurants anyway," he said.
The menu offers delicious beef, pork and chicken tacos. The truck even serves vegetarian options, such as zucchini and nopalitos, a taco filled with cooked cactus and fixin's like black-bean paste, onions, poblano and salsa. Other menu items are quesidillas, tortas, salsa, guacomole and spicy Mexican pudding dessert.
"The favorite thing of customers is probably the carnitas (pork) taco," Natiello said. "It is sweet from the orange rind and salsa verde. Spicy, salty, and ideally will have an appealing crunchy bark."
If you can't make it to Mulberry, Taquería Auténtica recently opened a restaurant in Bloomfield at 1035 Broad Street, which features an expanded menu and chef specials such as sustainably harvested wild salmon and scallops.
Location: On Bloomfield Avenue near Lake Street
Hours: 10 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Sunday to Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Prices: From 90 cents for a canned drink to three hot dogs for $4.50
On a late night, go to Bloomfield Avenue near Branch Brook Park and you will be almost guaranteed to see a line at JJ's, one of the most well known and beloved hot dog trucks in the city.
Established in 1971, the truck has been serving dogs with their famous toppings to countless Newarkers. Toppings include sauerkraut, onions, relish, cheese, potatoes, mushrooms, cole slaw, baked beans, sweet peppers, bacon bits, and homemade chili with a spicy kick.
The food is inexpensive. You can buy one hot dog plus a topping for pocket change at $1.70 each. Each additional topping is 20 cents each. Cheese nachos are $2.25.
On a recent afternoon, Nelson Narvaez was in the truck serving customers. Their most popular item is a chili-cheese dog, he said.
"We get a line every night," he said. "Sometimes we are out here until 4:30 a.m."
They get customers from all over northern Jersey, he said. Park visitors and some sports spectators come by for a fix.
Narvaez said he's also gotten customers who race straight from Newark Liberty International Airport and make their first pit stop at the truck.
Narvaez said his most memorable customer was Bill Cosby, who came to get a hot dog several years ago after Mayor Cory Booker told him to get one.
"I will never forget that," Narvaez said.
PETE'S ONE STOP PINA COLADAS
Location: Bloomfield Avenue near 3rd Street
Hours: 12 p.m. to 8 or 9 p.m., or as late as 12:30 a.m. most days; not open during rainy days
Just down the street from JJ's is a trailer festooned with a grass canopy and pictures of pina coladas. A retractable belt stanchion controls the inevitable crowds that congregate late at night for a cool drink.
The trailer is Pete's One Stop Pina Coladas, which has been in business for about three years, according to Michael, a worker behind the counter.
"We come out every summer," he said. "We come out every April and shut down in November."
Besides virgin pina coladas, the trailer serves strawberry daiquiris, burgers, shish kabobs, empanadas, soda and bottles of water.
The frozen drinks are made fresh on the spot with several powerful Vitamix machines. A small van with a generator keeps the equipment going.
Michael claims they are the first pina colada stand on Bloomfield Avenue, which has seen a number of pina colada businesses come through. Pina colada stands are popular in other parts of the city.
At night, the stand experiences "crazy lines," he said.
"Tell everybody to come by and get a drink," Michael said.
Got a favorite food truck in Newark? Tell us in the comments!