Chicago's top food trucks
The sandwich truck serves spins on classic sandwiches, like 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. Hungry customers can 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 everything 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 money 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 onion and Parmesan. You'll need a few to make a meal, so be adventurous—and tack on a side of chimichurri dipping sauce.
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. Calling this truck the boss may be a stretch, but its dishes certainly take charge.
Boo Coo Roux offers Cajun and Creole dishes like hush puppies, shrimp Po' Boys and gumbo. The plates here are bursting with flavor and make a great lunch option if you're looking for fresh, fast seafood. The menu changes weekly, so be sure to check back even if you've visited before.
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.
Tacos are among the best dishes to grab for lunch and La Cocinita does a pretty damned good job. The pseudo-build-your-own options let you pick from tacos, arepas, flour tacos (called "Burri-Tacos") and a bowl with your choice of meat and sauces. We're a fan of the lechon, but they're all pretty delicious. Don't forget to finish your meal with a sugary bottle of Mexican Coca-Cola.
Tamale Spaceship, the silver food truck manned by luchador-masked guys, serves excellent tamales stuffed with tender grilled pork, roasted chicken or confit duck. Each order includes a pair of tamales, so bring a friend to mix and match flavors.
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. For a sauce, choose the pineapple devil, a sweet-hot salsa.
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.
Some of Chicago's top pierogi are available from the roving Pierogi Wagon truck. You can mix and match various fillings, like tangy sauerkraut or creamy potato, then dress the whole plate up with bacon, sour cream and caramelized onions. Bonus: Sometimes there are desserts, like paczki.
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.