Believe it or not, some of best restaurants in Chicago can be found roaming the streets on any given afternoon. Despite strict city-mandated regulations, Chicago food trucks are a strong and vibrant bunch, offering cuisines from around the globe. Whether you're searching for a lobster roll, empanadas, dumplings or some of the best tacos in Chicago, there's a Chicago food truck out there for every craving. These mobile eateries pop up at summer festivals and park near notable Chicago attractions all summer long. Track down the best Chicago food trucks by visiting vendors' Twitter pages for live updates or checking out chicagofoodtruckfinder.com.
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Best Chicago food trucks
Though this food truck now boasts two brick-and-mortar locations (inside Revival Food Hall and in Lincoln Park), it's always exciting to see the bright red truck roving the city. Order a grilled cheese with sautéed spinach and caramelized onions or the truffle B.L.T., a massive pile of crispy bacon, arugula, tomatoes and truffle aioli between two slices of Texas toast. It's huge, but you shouldn't miss out on the sides—we're particularly fond of truffle aioli-topped fries.
Great lobster rolls are hard to come by in Chicago, so it's a surprise that one of the city's best is available on wheels. The Happy Lobster truck serves "happy" rolls, with mayo, butter and spices, while "angry" adds some feisty heat from giardiniera. The meat is tender and lightly dressed, so the sweetness comes through. Both are available in whole or half sizes, so you can save space for a marvelous whoopie pie brought in from Maine.
You can't miss this bold red truck, which is a regular at street festivals throughout the summer. Customers pick their vehicle (tacos, bao, sliders or a bowl) and select a protein (chicken, pork belly, ribeye or tofu). Every menu item is dressed up with delicious house-made marinades and signature sauces. Can't decide? Go with the Piko Sampler, which includes a chicken taco, ribeye slider and pork belly bao.
Got a sweet tooth? Stop what you're doing and track down this traveling doughnut shop. Beavers offers the cutest miniature doughnuts in boxes of four, nine, 15 or 35. Free sugar toppings include cinnamon, powdered, granulated and chocolate. If you want something more indulgent, spend a bit more on the signature toppings, with options like s'mores with chocolate and marshmallow sauces plus graham cracker crumbs.
The best truck fare is something you can easily eat on the sidewalk, with zero utensils and minimal mess. That's why empanadas are perfect, particularly those from 5411, which also has several permanent locations. The empanadas are baked, so they're nice and flaky and come stuffed with fillings like ham and cheese, malbec beef and caramelized onions and Parmesan. You'll need a few to make a meal, so be adventurous—and tack on a side of chimichurri dipping sauce.
Three Legged's lineup of tortilla-wrapped goods is bolstered by a selection of traditional Mexican appetizers and super-fresh salads, like the frisée, which is loaded with pork belly lardons, quail egg, capers and pepper. Still, the real star of the show is the tacos, with funky options like achiote tofu, polenta, fried chicken and lengua.
Döner, the traditional street food of Turkey and Germany, isn't easy to find in Chicago, but luckily DönerMen does a damn good job replicating the dish. Its chicken Dönerbox (which places spit-roasted chicken on a bed of fries and toppings) is excellent, and the currywurst, grilled sausage doused with rich, tomato-y house-made curry sauce and served with fries, is also terrific.
You can't miss this truck—it's enormous and painted like the Italian flag—or its long line. The wait is worth it, though, since the pizzas are excellent Neapolitan-style pies that come topped with flavorful ingredients, like the margherita, which is tied together with a drizzle of olive oil and grated Parmesan.
Food trucks aren't all French fries and pizza. When you need a clean break, the Corner Farmacy specializes in farm-fresh, sustainable food from local producers—think cold-pressed juices, addictive breakfast sandwiches and spicy shrimp gazpacho. Ingredients are sourced from nearby farms in Michigan, Indiana, Iowa and beyond, which means the menu switches with the seasons.
Even though we're Chicagoans through and through, we can't deny the draw of Detroit-style pizza squares. The husband-and-wife duo behind this truck must agree—they quit their day jobs to make their trucking dreams a reality. Track down Five Squared to snag a square slice of 'za in flavors like cheese, pesto, pepperoni and sausage. The couple also specializes in dreamy skillet cookies and rice crispy treats that put the packaged stuff to shame.
Owner and chef Benoit Angulo has been making arepas since he was 9 years old—so you know he's the real deal. La Cocinita offers Venezuelan, Latin and Mexican favorites, including tacos, "burri-tacos," bowls and arepas that are filled with your choice of braised chicken or pork, roasted sweet potatoes and black beans and black beans and queso fresco. Complete your meal with guasacaca (Venezuelan guacamole) and a bottle of sugary Mexican Coke.
No matter where it's parked, Tamale Spaceship makes a statement with its silver exterior and luchador-masked employees. As you might suspect, they aren't serving your run-of-the-mill tamales; these puppies are stuffed with fascinating ingredients, like confit duck with dried fruit mole, roasted beets with goat cheese, and tender pork with tomato-habanero sauce.
Fact: There's nothing more comforting than a warm grilled cheese sandwich. The version you ate as a kid gets a serious upgrade at the Toasty Cheese Mobile Eatery, where you can order flavors like the Michaelangelo with Italian beef, caramelized poblanos and onions, giardiniera, provolone and honey. Your 6-year-old self is very jealous.
One look at these beautifully decorated cupcakes and you won't be able to walk away empty-handed. Pastry chef Anna Wu bakes her confections from scratch using only the best ingredients, with crave-worthy flavors like s'mores, matcha tea and red velvet. Everything is made by hand the night before, so you'll never end up with a stale cupcake.
The Loop isn't exactly known for tacos, so it's nice when trucks like Aztec Dave's pull up. The Mexican truck serves tortas, tacos and burritos, stuffed with a choice of skirt steak, chicken or al pastor. The double corn tortillas hold a respectable amount of beef, and the tacos come with onions and cilantro. The daily lunch specials make it easy to get your fill without breaking the bank.
The Korean-infused menu incorporates other Asian aspects into its dishes, like Thai chicken basil dumplings. There are also pillowy "baowiches," like crispy fish with house-made sriracha tartar sauce and pickled jalapeños. But it's the spicy kimcheesy rice balls—arancini stuffed with cheddar and kimchi and doused with jalapeño-sriracha mayo—that you need to order.
This truck takes wood-fired pizzas on the road thanks to its super-hot portable pizza oven (900 degrees, to be exact). From a glass window, guests can watch as the dough is stretched and topped with crushed San Marzano tomato sauce, mozzarella and toppings of your choice. Pizzas take just 90 seconds to bake, so you'll be chowing down in no time.
Craving Korean food? Locate the Bop Bar truck and choose from loaded menu items like bi bim bop, a bulgogi burrito and spicy chicken atop glass noodles. The bright yellow truck is a regular at festivals and a staple around the downtown area over the lunch hour.