Carmel Valley: Gourmet food truck trend gains momentum
By Karen Billing
The gourmet food truck trend has hit Carmel Valley. Often parking on the business section of the community on High Bluff Drive in the lunchtime hours, the trucks bring a unique alternative to running out to grab lunch, often times with some pretty tasty selections you wouldn’t expect to come out of the back of a truck.
In San Diego, the food truck fleet has grown to include about 27 different mobile eateries, although not all have made Carmel Valley a frequent stop in their rotation.
The Tabe BBQ truck has stopped by, serving up chicken, beef, pork and fish tacos on warm tortillas stuffed with veggies and topped with their special salsa.
Like some kind of adult ice cream truck, the Sweet Treats truck has also been spotted in Carmel Valley, satisfying late afternoon cravings with brownies, cheesecakes, cupcakes and cookies from local vendors such as Cupcake Love, Heaven Sent and San Diego Desserts. They also serve specialty items like strawberry shortcake parfaits, cake pops, cappuccinos and chocolate milk.
One truck that has made Carmel Valley a weekly destination is MIHO Gastrotruck. The truck has been visiting Carmel Valley since January to a “very, very positive reception,” said co-owner Juan Miron.
“It definitely exceeded our expectations right from the beginning,” said Miron, who pulled their frequent Little Italy stop in favor of Carmel Valley on most Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Miron started MIHO a year ago in May with his partner Kevin Ho. The pair wanted to put their own spin on “street food” like burgers and tacos by offering food made with fresh, local and thoughtfully sourced ingredients.
“We were inspired by the philosophy of farm to table, that’s always been what we’ve been passionate about and that’s how we live our lives,” Miron said.
Last Wednesday the MIHO Gastrotruck swung into High Bluff and within a few minutes a long line of hungry customers had formed on the sidewalk.
“People that work in that area want a different option,” Miron said. “They want to eat healthier and they want it to be affordable and quick.”
The offerings are far from just hot dogs and chips: last week MIHO was serving up a strawberry salad with candied walnuts and goat cheese, tofu lettuce wraps and pork belly banh mi on a baguette with fresh, local farm veggies.
For some in line it was their first time trying out the truck, wandering out from their nearby office buildings, like Alan Ebright, who just heard about the trucks from a co-worker and decided to give it a try.
Others, faithful customers that Miron likes to call “HOMIs,” traveled to Carmel Valley from quite a distance.
Chris Wheeler drove from his office in Sorrento Valley with a handful of friends—he follows where the trucks are headed online.
“I like the simplicity of it and I think it’s better (than going to a restaurant) to be honest,” Wheeler said.
One of MIHO’s biggest HOMIs is Jane Rieger, who drove over from her office at Intuit on Camino Del Sur.
“It’s worth the drive,” said Rieger, who follows the trucks on Facebook and said MIHO is the only one she goes to. “There’s always something delicious.”
Last Wednesday’s lineup included one of her favorites, their burger. But Miho’s is not any old basic burger. Called the burger au poivre, it’s made with grass-fed beef, truffle pepper aioli, sautéed local mushroom, local arugula and aged sheep milk cheese on a local brioche bun.
“I’m a super picky eater. At home we eat all organic and my husband is a gourmet chef,” Rieger said. “They’re doing this local, organic and super tasty food out of a truck for heaven’s sake!”
Dave McIntyre, who serves on the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board, has expressed concerns about the trucks parking in red curb areas and making turns dangerous for drivers on the road.
Miron said that they aim not to park in the red curb areas and have even moved their location further down High Bluff to accommodate some construction parking in the area.
Miron also answered concerns about the safety of their food—no food is kept on the truck save for the two hours they are serving lunch, the rest it is stored in the kitchen they rent. They undergo three health inspections a year and follow “every regulation by the book,” he said.
The best way to know when MIHO is coming to town is to follow them online—they have 2,744 Twitter followers. Another great way is to sign up for their weekly newsletter, on their website, mihogastrotruck.com. The newsletter lets HOMI’s know about the menu for the week—Miron said they change it frequently to keep it “fresh and interesting.” However they always have their burger, a second protein option, a vegetarian option, salad and fries.
Follow the daily locations of all gourmet food trucks in San Diego at facebook.com/sandiegofoodtrucks.
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