Remembering Mobile Austin…Fondly

Ah…food out of Airstream trailers. What could be better than gathering around outside a parking lot with dozens of other Austin hipsters waiting for a savory crepe, a slow roasted green chile pork taco, or fried chocolate chip cookies?

For my 30th birthday, I went to Austin to celebrate. In talking with my curly-haired travel companion recently as we reflected on the trip, neither of us really remember what we did. I vaguely remember the Texas History Museum, and learning more about settlers than I ever really wanted to. I remember seeing old friends and trying on expensive cowboy boots. I remember walking by the City Lake and seeking out those elusive South Congress Bridge bats. Other than that, we decided, we were basically camped out at various mobile food trailers around the city, thinking how much we wanted to bring a funky airstream back to SF and start ‘er up.


I’d almost fly back to Austin just to go to Torchy’s Tacos. It’s parked in the South Austin Trailer Park and Eatery along with a burger trailer and a coffee/s’more trailer. Kinda like the county fair…for discerning adults who’re into food. The fried avocado taco was pretty exciting as was the “trailer park” taco made with fried chicken and ranch dressing. Mmmmm, ranch dressing. On the other side of town, the chicas at Flip Happy Crepes are gracious, the crepes rock (sweet and savory, you decide), the set-up is awesome (colorful picnic tables and umbrellas, lots of seating, packed)–it’s a true destination.

And then there must be dessert. To be honest, the cupcakes from Hey Cupcake really weren’t that great. I so wanted them to be. I traipsed up to that trailer around 10 p.m. hoping that magic was soon to be had. But alas… dry cupcakes and marginal frosting. If you’re looking for some bomb dessert in Austin, I do have some words of advice: the Whole Foods dessert bar. Yes, Whole Foods started in Austin so it has many options that your local Whole Foods probably does not. Case in point: a dessert bar. Now we’ve got the salad bar and the hot bar, but serve-yourself tres leches cake with fresh local berries? That my friends, we don’t have. So while it’s not mobile, it’s big-time noteworthy.

So what’s the draw? Why was there a line fifteen deep to order a crepe from an old trailer in an abandoned parking lot? Perhaps this trend reflects a zeitgeist that we’ve eased into: a sense that restaurants are pricey, that really good creative food is happening elsewhere, and there are innovative, energetic people out there that want to bring their creations to the masses. There’s something about gathering outside on a cool spring evening sitting around a communal table with people you don’t know, sharing tastes of a fried chocolate chip cookie. It’s cheap, it supports local businesses, there’s a thrill in the seek and search, and a satisfaction in knowing ya’ just can’t find it at home.

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