There’s a relatively new dining trend on the streets of southwest Louisiana – food trucks. While these mobile lunch vendors have been a staple in larger cities across the country for years, the food truck recently found its way to the lake area and the locals are lovin’ the new dining option. Warning: pickup window lines can be long! But the food is worth it. Highlighted here are some of the trucks you’ll find around town; some well-established and some brand new.
Dat Truck in DeRidder - Gourmet on the Go
By: Mitch Thomas
Shauna St. Pierre Fuselier wants everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy real gourmet food. With a culinary background that includes study at Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco and service under chefs in places like The Crab House on Pier 39 in San Francisco, Bella Luna in New Orleans, and Steamboat Bill’s in DeRidder, Fuselier brings a whole extra level of quality to the street food she serves out of Dat Truck, which started operation in October of 2015.
"I want people to look at me as not just a food truck [vendor] but as someone they can come to and know they can get an actual four or five-star meal, and it just so happens to be on four wheels,”Fuselier said.
Dat Truck, part of Fuselier’s II Boots (pronounced "two boots”) Catering, serves up street food made from only fresh, locally grown ingredients, locally caught fish and seafood, and meats from farms known for humane treatment of animals. Choices include Da Tacos, Fuselier’s most popular selection, made with chipotle shrimp, braised pork belly, Mardi Slaw and cucumber de gallo, and her Loaded Pork Frittes with pork smoked for 15-20 hours and served over sweet potato fries. Her signature item, Dat Burger, came from 2 months of planning and experimentation. Fuselier has even dabbled in her own version of the infamous Luther, a burger served on two doughnuts.
"I just keep coming up with wild and crazy ways to serve street food, but with a gourmet twist,” she said.
Dat Truck currently operates in DeRidder and can be found most days at the Park Terrace Shopping Center. Though Fuselier would love to expand, her dream has always been the II Boots Restaurant, named for the sources of her culinary inspiration -- the "boots” of Italy and Louisiana. Until then, Fuselier hopes to continue bringing the gourmet experience to the DeRidder community.
To find out where Dat Truck will be operating, visitiibootscatering.comor look up Dat Truck on Facebook.
Hi-Licious Food Truck - Authentic Chinese Mobile Kitchen
By: Angie Kay Dilmore
Haili Li came to America from China in 2006. She began her western adventure in Michigan to learn English, then spent time in Missouri, New York, Texas and finally settled in Lake Charles.
When she lived in China, she didn’t cook. Her parents prepared food for her or she would eat at restaurants. After coming to America, Haili became homesick for the cuisine she grew up with, especially very spicy food. She says the Chinese restaurants in America are "really not Chinese.” So she taught herself to cook, with occasional input from her father over the telephone.
Once Haili learned to feed herself, she began cooking for family and friends. It was such a satisfying experience (for both her and her guests), she started making and selling food at the Tuesday Cash and Carry Farmers Market last year. "People like my food. It’s something special and unique,” she says.
Haili wanted to expand her business and thought about buying a restaurant, but the prospect seemed like so much work. She opted instead to buy a food truck and opened for business this past April. She has a few employees who are a big help, but Haili prepares nearly all the food herself and has been working 17-18 hours a day. "I cook original authentic Chinese food. It’s about sharing my culture,” she says. Some of her most popular dishes include her rib plate, shrimp fried noodles, crab Rangoon, and her unique bean salad. She works hard to make healthy food with quality ingredients, always with her customers in mind. "I have so many amazing customers. I don’t want to disappoint them.”
Haili doesn’t consider herself a "chef.” She describes herself as "curious” and "passionate about new things.” She likes to experiment with food and infuses a dash of her own personality into every dish. Haili enjoys the interaction with her customers and the opportunities she’s had to make new friends. She admits her mastery of the English language is "not good.” So for Haili, food is a form of communication.
Rito’s Street Eats – New Truck on the Block
By: Braylin Jenkins
Adding to the fanfare surrounding food trucks in the Southwest Louisiana area is newcomer "Rito's Street Eats." Husband and wife duo Heath and Jessica Stevison will soon make their dream a reality, and the Lake Area makes up a large part of that dream.
Heath told Thrive it was a dream he had late one night that sparked the idea of opening the food truck. With the influx of workers locating throughout the region, he said "The more I pondered on it, the more I recognized the need for another food option."
The concept of Rito's is not a peculiar one by any means, ensuring an immediate fan base with an already dedicated following. Burritos, one of the main items that will be offered on the Rito's menu, are a major staple among Americans in general and many Southwest Louisiana residents, who have adopted Mexican-inspired dishes as a part of their weekly meal selections. Along with a variety of burrito options to choose from, patrons will also have interesting options in the morning thanks to the numerous breakfast sandwiches that will be offered by Rito's Street Eats.
Look for Rito's to open in mid-August and don't worry, the food truck will be at several locations throughout the Lake Area for your convenience. Also be on the lookout for Rito's on Facebook for more exciting details to come.
The Sloppy Taco - Messy, but Good!
By: Angie Kay Dilmore
The Sloppy Taco folks spilled onto the Lake Charles food scene in May 2015. Owner Brett Stutes got a "crazy idea in March 2014 to get a Taco Truck,” says his wife and co-owner Amanda. They brought Brett’s brother Derek on board and attended city events such as Live at the Lakefront and Downtown at Sundown. The Sloppy Taco was a runaway hit from the beginning.
The Stutes expanded their business in January 2016 to include a commercial kitchen and walk-up take out window at 2500 Kirkman St. Their truck can be found at various places around SWLA. (See website for schedule.) Amanda describes their food as "gourmet fusion tacos with a blend of experimental and classic, Asian, Cajun, and Mexican influences.” Their most popular items include the Sloppy Taco (braised pork, grilled steak, grilled shrimp in chipotle glaze, monterey jack cheese, purpleonions,jalapeños, and their house remoulade) and their Ribeye Roll (a ground ribeye/beef chili with black beans, onions, and bell peppers - wrapped in a 12" tortilla withmonterey jack and melted queso cheeses, deep-fried and served with a homemade cilantro ranch.)
What have the Stutes learned in one year of serving tacos to their hungry adoring fans? "The biggest shocker for us is that being a partof The Sloppy Taco hasallowed us to meet so many local supporters, and surrounding ourselves with the BEST taco-people ever!” Amanda says. "We've been extremely fortunate to have some of the coolest and most loyal employees and customers. They've hung with us through all of our growth andtransitions over the last year.”
Find The Sloppy Taco on Waitr App, Facebook (www.facebook.com/TheSloppyTaco), or visit their website, www.sloppytacotruck.com.
Weinie Dogs – Food Truck Forerunner
By: Angie Kay Dilmore
Years before food trucks came on the scene in Lake Charles, there was Weinie Dogs. Kristi Wooldridge bought her hot dog cart in 2011 and headed out to McNeese football games and other events to feed the hungry masses. She says selling weinies from her truck was "a dream.”
"The customers I met became my friends. I knew their names, I knew their orders. In fact, I named most of my menu items after my regular customers. I quickly became known as ‘the hot dog lady’ around town. I would give rides, run tabs, call cabs, hold contests, feed cops free, and even sometimes let customers make their own dogs. Such a fun time.”
For a hot dog shop, the Weinie Dog menu boasts some super fancy food! She offers a Monte Cristo (ham and cheese melt, deep fried with egg, powdered sugared, and a homemade strawberry sauce), LaFrance Fries (her version of poutine, with fresh cheese curds, french fries, homemade brown garlic gravy, and green onions), the Cubeenier (her version of a Cuban, with ham, cheese, pork, pickles, mustard, grilled flat in a sandwich press), boudin dogs, brisket nachos, and a dozen different specialty hot dogs.
Wooldridge says she is excited to see the new food truck trend in the lake area. And she’d like to think she had a hand in their success. Though technically not a "truck,” Wooldridge and her cart were the pioneers who paved the way and enabled the other trucks to set up shop. "I attended several city council meetings, made calls to the mayor, and trips to Baton Rouge to get some [rules and legislation] changed and overhauled. It’s much easier now to open a food truck in Lake Charles than it was then.”
Wooldridge still takes her cart to area events, and a year ago, she started selling Weinie Dogs from the kitchen at Chicageaux Bar at the corner of Lake St. and University Dr.; open for lunch, dinner, or late night. Currently, she is in the process of moving into her own place at 305 W. College St. and is awaiting location approvals from the city government. In the meantime, you can still get your hot dog fix at Chicageaux, on the Waitr app, and various events around town.