It looks like food truck design must be the next commercial art boom. A lot of these guys are clearly paying special attention to how their business gets represented in mural form on the side of their mobile kitchens. Some go with a basic "Name + Main Dish" formula, some add a cartoon mascot. Others go quirky — a mustache on the front, for example.
Chop Soo-ey offers all but the mustache, and manages to sneak in some wordplay and irony as well. The truck features a sinister looking cartoon pig in hachimachi Samurai headband wielding a pair of butcher's knives… ironic because pork figures prominently on the menu. Get it?
Turns out, this is a Cohn Restaurant Group Executive Chef Deborah Scott creation. In other words, a food truck with a résumé.
My first thought is, a food truck must be a profitable enterprise. Otherwise, why would the Cohn group bother? They seem to be doing all right in the traditional, fixed location sense. Their web site even has a button labeled "See All Restaurants", because there are so many it requires a dedicated page to fit them all.
My second thought: we really have embraced pork as a marketable concept.
I found Chop Soo-ey at the Tuesday night South Park "bites" event in the Gala Foods parking lot, the homicidal cartoon pig guiding the way. I probably should have gone for the chop suey on the menu, but I'm a sucker for bizarre burritos, so I opted for the Samurai Wrap, which packages pulled-pork, carrot and cabbage stir fry with lo mein noodles and pineapple salsa inside a whole wheat tortilla.
As a last-second add I ordered the Kobayashi fries, mostly out of deference to Star Trek. Despite the name, these actually have little or nothing to do with Asian cooking. They consist of waffle fries heavily seasoned with Cajun "blackened" spices and smothered with ranch dressing, bacon bits and pico de gallo.
The $8 wrap did literally add something to the noodle dish — a tortilla. But that's about it. I can't fault the ingredients or the inspiration, and the novelty of eating noodles with my hands is not lost on me, but it just never coalesced into something I'd want to eat again.
The fries were even more of a disappointment. The ranch, the seasoning — not disagreeable flavors to your typical salt enthusiast, but nothing to justify putting it all together and charging 6 dollars.
Many of the Cohn restaurants offer something worthwhile: the amazing view at C-Level, the Brussels sprouts at BO-Beau, the over-the-top '50s car fetish of Corvette Diner. Near as I can tell, Chop Sooey's primary advantage is that it could pull up in front of your office building or outside your favorite bar.
Which leads me to my third thought: food trucks couldn't stay cool forever.