Chicken kebab in a kind of gyro
One thing about East Village’s Quartyard: they have a good turnaround of food trucks. Tonight it’s this flashy Ford F-350 towing a trailer into the space off Market Street where people, dogs, and bars and eateries form a courtyard.
This food trailer is called Street Chef. The guys inside are Yamac (pronounced “Yamuch”) and his son, Cooper Bilginer. Yamac (Cooper says the name means “cliff” in Turkish) turns out to be a Hyatt chef who wanted out of corporate cooking and into family cooking. He got this beautiful monster rather than spend a fortune on a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
F-350 tows state-of-the-art kitchen trailer
They’re from Oceanside, and that’s mostly where they operate, but they’re making forays down here to the Deep South to see how the land lies. They’ve only been going for about four months. Before Oceanside? Greece and Turkey. So, natch, the main choice is gyros and kebabs.
The back of the kitchen is one big ad
“Here, take this,” says Cooper. He’s leaning out of the little order window with a huge flashlight in his hand. “We’re looking at a spotlight for night places like this.” So, by flashlight I’m looking at the choices. Just about everything costs $9.99. The gyro (“classic or BBQ”) with tzatziki sauce and coleslaw, BBQ or buffalo “wild wings,” fish and chips with coleslaw, a gyro melted cheese sandwich, a feta burger with French fries, and a chicken kebab with two skewers, tzatziki sauce, salad, and pita.
Yamac and Cooper
That feta burger looks wicked, as does the gyro melted cheese sandwich. I like that they’re fusing Cali and Med cultures. But they do one thing here other Mediterranean food outfits don’t: they bring the kebab to you with the chicken still on the bamboo skewer, instead of just a bunch of chicken chunks.
So I go for the chicken kebab. Nice to know a Hyatt chef is cooking your dinner, out here in the warm night. While I’m waiting, I go down to the Quartyard bar and get a Dark Side Imperial Stout beer. It's from Knee Deep, a brewery up Sacramento way. It’s 11% ABV, so you only get a 12-oz. glass. But it’s nice and sweet.
Best moment? Towards the end, getting into the balsamic-soaked pita bread. Soft, liquidy, and rich with perhaps a bit of tzatziki in there. At the last minute I add a tranche of baklava ($4) to go with it. The baklava’s probably just a production model, but it’s nice and juicy too. Goes well with the Dark Side.
Really, food trucks are getting better and better. Of course, Yamac must have paid a lot more than many chefs could afford to set this operation up. But it definitely looks like it’s paying off. Check online for daily locations or call 760-453-3722.