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Southern food truck falls short of 'great'-ness

Appetite

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Chicken and waffles take no unexpected turns.
  • Chicken and waffles take no unexpected turns.

Forgive me, but I'm compelled to talk a little about our reviewing process as it pertains to my visit and attempted subsequent stops by The Great Southern Food Truck. It's one of the newest additions to our mobile scene, largely plugging into the brewery circuit, and brought to us by Georgia transplant Jason Ledford and his notably genial wife and service assistant Allison.

I tried to make our standard two trips to the business last week, succeeding in a Monday evening jaunt to JAKs Brewing Co., but failing in both a Wednesday booking at Storybook Brewing and Friday a night date for The Gallery Below. Problem was TGSFT amended its initial Facebook schedule to say "Woops! We're at Storybook Brewing on 12/7, not this Wednesday." Too late, I'd driven to find Rocky Mountain BBQ working the taproom.

And on Friday, as a light dusting of blowing snow made a downtown art walk miserable in between stops, TGSFT posted: "Due to the weather conditions, we're so sorry to report that we will have to cancel our service." A blizzard it was not, but alas no chicken tenders and fried Twinkies for us. And prior commitments during the week prevented me from hitting other destinations to which the truck did make it.

I can say the critic's dilemma — as food trucks have nearly rivaled brick-and-mortar spots for new openings locally — relates to just such difficulties pinning them down inside of a personal life and newspaper's deadline. They're a bit flighty by nature. And for some, they're not necessarily even a primary destination or lure; they just happen to be the requisite bites-on-site when folks go drinking.

Peripherally, until City Council permits meter spots and non-prohibitive parking rules, these eateries do appear relegated to the shadows and odd street corners and parking lots. To expect a truck scene as rich as LA's and other big cities' in this climate amounts to naiveté. Which isn't to say diners should lower their standards and trucks shouldn't achieve culinary excellence — a few locally have.

My problem with TGSFT — scheduling aside, and why I've just spent more than half this space not talking about their food — is that there's little interesting to say about a small menu that reads half like a snack bar and kids menu while otherwise failing to elevate or creatively spin regional staples like jambalaya or trendy revivals like chicken and waffles (with Harlem roots, actually).

The former lands on the dry side, modestly seasoned with a little holy trinity essence but little else past sausage flavor. The buttermilk-fried chicken's well-breaded and moist on the latter, but supported by generic waffles and thin, not-real maple syrup. A chicken salad, on special to replace a catfish and grits plate that we're told wasn't available due to a lack of fresh fish, arrives on iceberg with commercial dressings from the bottle, like ranch, not even house-made. (Truck culture should equal craft culture — I can buy this in a grocery deli.) Banana pudding also smacks of the out-of-a-box, synthetic, Laffy Taffy-channeling variety, complete with sogged Nilla Wafers.

I too hail from the South and can affirm this isn't a model representation of our cuisine, instead more of a mishmash of comfort foods. Yes, standalone the chicken's quite beer friendly and good, but this is supposed to be the "Great" Southern Food Truck. I'd like to see Ledford's prior decade of kitchen experience show more swagger than fried stereotype.

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