When you walk around South Lake Union's many blocks of food trucks, do you see a diverse paradise of densely packed food options, or a libertarian's dream come true? In a recent interview with Business Insider founder and CEO Henry Blodget, Jeff Bezos praised Amazon's South Lake Union campus for inspiring "an unbelievable food truck scene." But food trucks are good news and bad news, like most of the ideas that Bezos praises. On the one hand, they bring multiple food options to a still-developing neighborhood that cannot yet support a panoply of restaurants. (South Lake Union does have some excellent dine-in lunch joints, though, including the Berliner Döner Kebab.) On the other hand, you could argue that the fleet of food trucks descending on Amazon headquarters has an unfair business advantage over South Lake Union's restaurants, which have to invest in property taxes and comply with other regulations that don't apply to food trucks.
Don't get me wrong, I've eaten some amazing meals at food trucks—Now Make Me a Sandwich's The Bad Lieutenant, anything at Maximus/Minimus—but when I eat out, tables and chairs are generally an essential part of that experience. The food at Marination Station and Marination Ma Kai may be exactly the same as the food served at Marination Mobile, but I'll always prefer food I eat sitting down in restaurants to the sliders I scarf down on the curb while sitting among the pigeons and effluvia.
I recently had lunch in South Lake Union, where I saw several old standbys (the Now Make Me a Sandwich truck and the mobile version of Tat's Deli were slinging excellent sandwiches to big lines) and a few new things. I ordered a steak and mushroom pie ($8) at the 314 Pie food truck (314pieseattle.com) and was handed a piping-hot pie in a personal-sized aluminum pie tin—the kind of tin familiar to anyone who's ever eaten a Stouffer's frozen chicken potpie. I sat on a windowsill and dug in awkwardly with a plastic fork. The pie was certainly filling, and the buttery crust was packed full of beef. But there was no complexity to the thing. A more flavorful gravy might have elevated the pie to something more than base nourishment.
Just as it started to rain, I happened upon Taco Time's mobile truck, the evocatively named Taco Time Traveler (tacotimenw.com/taco-time-traveler.aspx). I ordered the sweet-potato Mexi-Fries ($3) and hunched in a doorway with a paper tray of the tiny steaming asteroids. With ketchup, the Mexi-Fries were too sweet, like a tomato-infused dessert. But with Taco Time's peppery hot sauce, the sweet and spicy played off each other perfectly. Only one thing could have made those Mexi-Fries taste any better: a fucking roof.