Food Truck Throwdown was perfect for families and foodies alike Food Feed

Five Central Mass Food Trucks To Watch For This…

If you missed the Food Truck Throwdown, let’s just say you missed out on the start of a movement. The event harnessed the concept of healthy, food-driven competition while launching something much bigger than the celebration of great street food. Since 2015, Mark Gallant, owner of the Dogfather food truck, envisioned a city that understood the importance of a well-balanced food industry catering to a wide range of food options and structured to compete with the ever-changing food trends. The Food Truck Throwdown is the tipping point in Gallant’s mission to revolutionize how Worcester foodies eat.

Coffee and Frits during the Food Truck Throwdown
Coffee and Frits during the Food Truck Throwdown.

With over two-thousand people in attendance, Gallant’s Food Truck Throwdown stands to prove Gallant’s motto that Worcester is “food truck-friendly because of its great network of food trucks who can hold their own.”

The curated list of participating food truck vendors epitomized Gallant’s sentiment about the diverse food options in Worcester. From Sabor Latino to the Grub Guru to Big T’s Jerky House, the food was as eclectic as the people in attendance. Here’s a look at our top five food trucks of Food Truck Throwdown 2018:

Big T’s Jerky House and BBQ

This self-proclaimed bbq expert food truck thrives on over 25 years of catering experience. Using “only the best cuts of meat” slathered in their own dry rubs and mop sauces then smoked in a southern pit, Big T’s Jerky House and BBQ was a hit at the Food Truck Throwdown with a consistent wait time. The Texas brisket sandwich was among the “must-have” dishes list at the throwdown.

Cheese Pizza from Anzio’s Brick Oven Pizza
Cheese Pizza from Anzio’s Brick Oven Pizza

Anzio’s Brick Oven Pizza

Providing an authentic Neo-Neapolitan pizza – an American-born favorite recipe popularized in New Haven’s coal-fired pizzeria with the use of American unbleached flour in the dough with a bit of honey for sweetness – Anzio’s Brick Oven Pizza cooks in a traditional Italian brick oven, reflecting the quality flavors in every bit. At the throwdown, the mobile brick oven made for a great slice of cheese pizza but we hear the chicken parmigiana is also a fan favorite.

Sabor Latino

This Latin-inspired food truck was a hit at the Food Truck Throwdown with a sold-out menu by the end of the day. Offering traditional Latin dishes like empanadas, yuca fries, chorizo and Cuban sandwiches, Sabor Latino remained true to its roots with ingredients like cilantro and sofrito.

Chicken Kabob Rolls from the Grub Guru
Chicken Kabob Rolls from the Grub Guru

The Grub Guru

The Asian fusion street food truck, the Grub Guru, served an eclectic range of Asian cuisine. From samosas – a fried pastry with a savory potato and peas filling served with mint and tamarind chutneys – to chicken kebab rolls, the flavors transformed the Food Truck Throwdown experience. According to an attendee, the orange chicken with fried rice was the best dish of the day.

Pangea Cuisines

Promoting healthy eating, Pangea Cuisines specializes in Paleo-friendly foods and nutritious diets. Traveling all around the eastern half of Massachusetts, the food truck has an evolving menu. The go-to dish is the mammoth burger – a juicy, grass-fed burger topped two applewood soaked bacon, American cheese, and lettuce and tomato on a bulky roll or lettuce wrap. This burger is large in both size and flavor.

Over 13 food trucks including Say Cheese, Teddy’s Lunch Box, Patruno’s Place, Scoop Daddy, The Dogfather and the Kebob King – the newest food truck in Worcester – participated in the first Food Truck Throwdown and it left us wanting more.  Oh, and congratulations to the People’s Choice Award winner, Say Cheese and the Judge’s Choice Award winner, Anzio’s Pizza.

Uncle E's BBQ Express
Uncle E’s BBQ Express deserving an honorable mention.
Simjang will open in 2017 on Shrewsbury Street, in former Sweet location. Food Feed

Worcester’s Top 17 Food and Restaurant Stories of 2017

In 2017, Worcester’s restaurant scene welcomed a number of newcomers to the table in our proverbial dining room, which continues to grow at a rapid rate. Ramen bowls, butcher blocks, Szechuan sandwiches, and wine wars all found their welcome here. Still, a few of our biggest breaks bid so long (and in one case, good riddance) to members of the culinary community. Here are the top 17 Mass Foodies stories of 2017:

    1. Sweet ClosesTelevision darling, Alina Eisenhauer announced Sweet Kitchen and Bar’s last day of service in July. The closing marked a new beginning for Eisenhauer who has turned her attention to consulting, private events, and the growth of her YouTube channel.
    2. Broth: The minds behind The Hangover Pub launched a new concept in October called Broth. The adjacent space marked an entry point for ramen in Worcester, toting approachable bowls inspired by American traditions like Thanksgiving. Executive Chef Michael Arrastia explained to Mass Foodies that the inspiration for Broth came during a visit to momofuku, citing his admiration for Chef David Chang.
    3. simjang: Upon Sweet’s exit, the deadhorse hill team unveiled their plans for a new concept at 72 Shrewsbury Street called simjang – a concept dedicated to Korean culture and cuisine. Mass Foodies was awarded the first look inside, where internationally renowned artist Arlin Graff was hard at work on a heartfelt custom mural. Executive Chef Jared Forman gleaned plenty of experience in his three years working for Chef David Chang at momofuku noodle bar and momofuku Ssäm Bar. You can kiss 2017 goodbye and needle deadhorse employees for the simjang scoop as they recreate an original menu from the historic Bay State House hotel on New Year’s Eve.
    4. The Queen’s Cups Relocates to the Canal District: The Canal District erupted with excitement last January when The Queen’s Cups announced that it would be moving to Worcester. Since then, the previous home of Bucky’s Garage has been overtaken with cupcakes, pupcakes, and Mass Foodies’ personal favorite – Matildas. Perhaps the biggest success story of all is that owner Renee King has established 56 Water Street as a wifi-free-zone where friends and neighbors gather regularly to share in one another’s company. Unimaginable!
    5. Nonna’s & STEAM on Ice: In February, Niche Hospitality Group outlined its fast-casual bundle for the Worcester Ice Center as an integral piece of Cliff Rucker’s community hockey vision. A year later, Nonna’s Pizza & Pasta and STEAM Energy Cafe have officially opened their doors (and their parking lots) to the Canal District neighborhood.
    6. Sonoma Checks Into The BeechwoodSonoma Restaurant surprised everyone in May when chef/owner Bill Brady announced that he would be relocating his highly regarded Princeton establishment to the four diamond Beechwood Hotel in Worcester. For Brady, the shift meant a departure from his role at Worcester Technical School in order to keep up with the demands of a full service restaurant.
    7. KummerspeckAll eyes were on Rachel Coit and Matt Mahoney, proprietors of Kummerspeck. Kummerspeck, which translates from German as “grief bacon,” opened in August after a series of local pop ups. The Water Street eatery serves up reimagined comfort food as well as the adventurous offerings of a classic butchershop. Both chefs cut their teeth in Boston’s dining scene, working for famed chef/restaurateur, Barbara Lynch. Coit, former Sportello sous Chef, and Mahoney, former ButcherShop chef de cuisine, eased into the central Mass dining scene with stints at BT’s Smokehouse and Armsby Abbey.
    8. The Rice TruckTeri Goulette first worked her way into our hearts with one of the region’s most popular food trailers, Say Cheese! August marked the purchase of Goulette’s first official food truck, The Rice Truck, inspired by her mother’s famous fried rice recipe.
    9. Sushi Miyazawa: Chef and Owner Norihiko “Nori” Tsukuda boasts 30 years of sushi experience, including his time training with the chef to the Emperor of Japan. In July, Mass Foodies was introduced to Sushi Miyazawa’s modest decor as well as its modest prices. The Chandler Street space seats just 20 customers at a time and allows patrons to BYOB.
    10. Rogers Leaves Niche for Food Hub: It seemed Chef Rogers was everywhere in 2017. As the Executive Chef de Cuisine of Niche Hospitality Group, Rogers forged relationships in countless facets of the community. In many ways, Rogers’ announcement in March that he had accepted a position as Kitchen Operations Manager of the Worcester Regional Food Hub came as no surprise. Given his staunch commitment to the city of Worcester, it was only a matter of time before his humanitarian nature led him down the path to public service.
The Usual on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, MA
The Usual on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, MA
    1. The Usual, The Chameleon, and The Conviction: Someone else exited Worcester’s restaurant scene on the very same day as Chef Rogers, albeit less gracefully. Owner of now defunct establishments, The Blackstone Tap and The Usual, Kevin A. Perry was arrested and charged in connection with using the proceeds of drug sales to purchase and renovate nine properties in Worcester County, including both restaurants. Soon after, The Usual became The Chameleon, which we found shuttered in November. This week, we learned U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman granted government control for sale of both properties. Here’s hoping 2018 brings a fresh start.
    2. Worcester Wine Festival: In October, Worcester’s Inaugural Wine Festival drew over 1,300 attendees to festivities that included a grand tasting, brunches, paired dinners, and educational seminars. Mass Foodies is already looking forward to another round of wine events in 2018 from September 4th-9th.
    3. Mama Roux: Jonathan Demoga’s custom food trailer, Mama Roux, took up residency in The Dive Bar’s beer garden in May. Demoga gained his expertise in southern cuisine while working for the famed Brennan Family of New Orleans. Mama Roux has already built a cult following around its Szechuan Hot Chicken Sandwich which is very particular in its use of Regal Crown Pickles, an artisan pickle producer based in Worcester. The coveted sandwich is made with buttermilk fried free-range organic chicken thighs, doused with szechuan spiced chili oil, and served on a Martin’s potato roll.
    4. JosephineIn November, The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts announced that Chris Rassias of Holden had signed a lease to open Josephine, a new restaurant anticipated to launch before the close of their spring season. Rassias shared with Mass Foodies that the concept would be inspired by the traditional aesthetic of 1920’s theater.
    5. Farewell to Chef Evangelous: In December, Armsby Abbey owner Sherri Sadowski wrote a heartfelt goodbye to longtime Executive Chef Damian Evangelous who will be moving to California with his wife Lauren (Revelry Coffee) in February. Executive Sous Chef Sean Dacey will assume his role as the new head of Armsby Abbey’s kitchen.
Valentino's opening in May on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, MA
Valentino’s opening in May on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, MA
  1. Valentino’s: In April we had hope that the dormant former home of Cafe Dolce would find a rebirth with the ushering in of Valentino’s Press and Pour. While “press and pour” connotes morning for most, Valentino’s hours are geared toward afternoon and evening customers with the exception of Sunday brunch. If Cafe Dolce could make it work in the aughts, we’re sure they will too, but the coffee program absolutely needs sprucing.
  2. Bootlegger’s Folds to Living Earth: We weren’t surprised when we learned in September that Bootlegger’s Prohibition Pub would be closing in favor of a Living Earth expansion. The Chandler Street sign reading, “SECRET ENTRANCE AROUND BACK,” was a little on the nose. Regardless, Mass Foodies is crazy for all-natural, wholesome shopping and as far as we’re concerned, Living Earth is a Worcester institution.
Teri Goulette showcasing her new food truck: The Rice Truck Food Feed

Say Cheese to Debut a New Food Truck Concept…

It’s no surprise that Teri Goulette is frequently in transit; as the owner of the region’s most popular food trailer, Say Cheese, it seems like she’s always on the go. Today, Goulette is calling Mass Foodies from the road on her way to Worcester where she is hoping to obtain the permits for the newest addition to her fleet: The Rice Truck.

If all goes according to plan, The Rice Truck will debut at Brimfield Antique Flea Market on Monday. Goulette’s July purchase marked the first of her food trucks that she can drive, as opposed to a trailer. “We thought we’d have it as a second Say Cheese vehicle. Then, a week after the purchase, the organizers at Brimfield said, ‘Teri, if you know anyone, we’re looking for a truck – we have an open spot to fill,'” Goulette explains. She immediately volunteered herself for the job, promising organizers an original concept for the market in addition to Say Cheese.

Goulette is particularly excited about The Rice Truck because it was inspired by her mother’s fried rice. “It’s a recipe we’ve grown up on. Everyone we know has had her rice,” she says. The fresh concept will roll out exclusively for Brimfield, to start. Goulette admits that the new project escalated quickly. “Trial by fire, really. I won’t even have time to cook on the new truck until next week. But, that’s how we did Say Cheese. We started at a big food truck festival and just figured it out,” she recalls.

When asked if this week is our only chance to experience The Rice Truck, Goulette responds, “If it works out and seems like there’s room for this concept, then we’ll keep it as The Rice Truck moving forward. It could end up just being a Brimfield concept that we use three times per year when both vehicles are in the same place. My original plan was that we could book the second truck as Say Cheese so we’d be able to attend two events at once.”

As soon as Goulette and her eleven-year-old son Jack began putting the plans together, he offered to make her a website for The Rice Truck. She told him to pump the breaks. She recalls, “I said, ‘Let’s make sure it’s a thing,’ and then in the same breath, ‘Wait, maybe we could do a pineapple fried rice!'” The duo has a sneaking suspicion that their fried rice concept won’t be a one-off, but Brimfield will give them a better idea.

Goulette hopes her fried rice can live up to her mother Remy’s reputation. “I did a trial at home. Jack was my taste tester. He Face Timed my mom and said, ‘Nana, Mom’s catching up to you – it tastes the same!'”

Goulette explains that before launching Say Cheese, her friends and family always assumed her concept would include Remy’s famous fried rice recipe. “It’s what I bring to all the parties. It’s what people come to my house for. It’s a special thing that no one else can make. It’s a tribute to my mom AND it’s a kick ass rice,” she says.

Goulette knows that the concept is unique, even for Brimfield. For now, she will offer a Veggie Bowl with peapods, scallions, and beansprouts and an ‘Everything Bowl’ with the addition of bacon and scrambled eggs. “I’d like to get to the point where I can offer a fried egg on the rice – that’s how I like it best,” she divulges.

As for when Worcester will have a chance to try The Rice Truck, Goulette says, “We’re hoping to be at the Worcester Wine Festival in October. That feels like a great opportunity for The Rice Truck’s Worcester debut.”

Teri Goulette, owner of the Say Cheese! Food Truck. Massachusetts Chefs

Teri Goulette Says Cheese!

If I had a nickel for every person who told me they went from a career as a licensed damage appraiser in an auto body shop to cooking and serving food to tens of thousands of people a year, I’d have exactly a nickel. But while Teri Goulette’s journey from checking busted grilles to cooking grilled cheese as the owner of the Say Cheese! food trailer may be atypical, her story offers inspiration for anyone passionately pursuing a dream.

Teri Goulette, owner of Say Cheese!, posing with her mother outside of the food truck.
Teri Goulette, owner of Say Cheese!, posing with her mother outside of the food truck.

Which is what most of us do: dream of Teri’s grilled cheese, probably from a distance as we brave the often impossibly snaking line in front of her truck to get our hands on one or more of the half dozen or so sandwiches Teri’s truck offers. If you’ve been to food festivals and events like stART on the Street, you know what I mean. You may have thought while you wait, “What the hell am I doing waiting this long for grilled cheese?” And then you realize you drooled a little bit as you said that. That’s the hell why: It’s grilled cheese. I mean, who hates grilled cheese? Bad people. It’s one of life’s perfect foods – one that Teri does to perfection. And that obviously grew out of her passion for . . . Brussels sprouts?

Say what?

“I wanted to do fried Brussels sprouts,” says Teri. “The truck was going to be called, ‘Sprouts.’ I was obsessed with the idea in 2012 when I started thinking about a truck. Then I was actually getting serious and looking at trucks and friends and family people kept asking me what else I was going to make. The idea was cute and for a handful of events I would have done well and had a real niche. But I could never make a living and survive off of Brussels sprouts.”

With Sprouts officially dead, Teri began searching for a new vehicle for her vehicle: “We’re Filipino, and my mom has a kick-ass fried rice recipe with a bacon base topped with scrambled eggs, green onions, bean sprouts, garlic, and onions. It’s incredible.” Still it wasn’t enough to serve the rice and the question became what else? Teriyaki chicken? Eggrolls? Teri found herself with a culinary conundrum.

“I had to ask am I passionate about all that? Is that what I want to do?” she remembers. “I had Brussels sprouts, which I was passionate about but couldn’t execute on. I had Filipino fried rice, which I could execute on but I’m not passionate about.”

While the food remained a question mark, the medium was not: Teri wanted that food truck more than ever. Her passion for cooking for and serving people was only growing. She was good at her job but it was not her dream. Eleven years before Say Cheese! she had moved to Shrewsbury from Chicopee to run her brother’s auto body shop. To get friends and family to make the trip east, she and her mom had to make it worth their drive. Food became the incentive: “Filipinos cook a lot,” Teri’s mom says. “We always have friends over. But Teri started cooking gourmet stuff.” Soon, people started asking to come and they started thinking about food as a business. “We thought about a little diner,” Teri says. “We work so well together cooking and making everyone happy. We thought it would be cute. I didn’t want to be in the body shop forever. Eventually I started thinking on weekends I could start a food truck. I was in the auto industry. My other brother is a used car dealer and a mechanic. I knew if I found the truck I could do it. I could paint it. We would have all the resources at our fingertips – totally doable. A diner would’ve been much harder.”

More than a decade and one kid later she finally has her dream, and it was her passion for feeding her family, specifically her son Jack, that led to the menu: “My son can eat soup in any kind of weather. At home I just have to constantly be making soup for this kid, but I needed to feed him more and that became Plain Jane grilled cheese. I got sick of that. Then one night, with the food truck still in the back of my head, I had a loaf of Italian bread, and my mom coming over for dinner. I love cheese like Gouda and blue cheese so I just made cute little grilled cheese sandwiches to go with our soup, and my mom loved it. She thought it was good and different. It soon became a thing. Each time I tried to top the grilled cheese I made before. It quickly became what the food truck should be.”

Teri Goulette, owner of the Say Cheese! Food Truck.In 2015, Teri finally found the perfect truck – actually a trailer that was already its signature orange – and after weeks of tears learning to park it she was ready to roll that spring. Or so she thought. The funny thing about dreams? They can be a little messier to execute in reality.

“Our very first event was me, mom, and my friend at a food truck festival. We had no ticket system. My friend would just take the order and hand them to me. We had never even practiced. Make it stop! We made 187 sandwiches. We thought that was amazing – the most sandwiches that could be made. We topped it at our next event.” Over the course of two days they made 1250 sandwiches, and that’s when Teri knew she had it: “Our line went out from the truck wrapped around in the distance and came back to the trailer.”

These days Teri tries not to look at the line, especially at events where she is already at capacity and working as hard as possible with a crew of five to make those sandwiches happen – to the tune of 20,000 sandwiches a year. Don’t try and wave even if she does turn don’t expect any special attention – Teri’s rule is no one skips the queue. No one. Her mom is already on the truck – what you got?

Since those first days, Teri’s menu has not so much changed as evolved with staples like the Caprese (fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil & balsamic glaze), the Cheddar Monster (cheddar, muenster, & tomato), and Teri’s favorite The Wedge (bleu cheese crumbles, cheddar, bacon, & tomato) always available. There are often specials, but the newest permanent addition outsells them all: the Picklebac (cheddar, bacon, & dill pickles). No matter your choice, every sandwich comes on Tuscan Ciabatta from Jessica’s Brick Oven Bakery in North Andover: “I must have tried dozens of different breads. Then one day I was in my local farm stand in Shrewsbury and I saw the bread. I tried it and instantly I knew.”

Say Cheese! Grilled cheese being prepared in Worcester, MA
Say Cheese! Grilled cheese being prepared in Worcester, MA

What Teri knows these days is exactly where she will be pretty much a year in advance, especially during the warmer months with all the food truck festivals and events. In the winter, breweries keep her business going, and the list she has and will work with – Iron Duke, Medusa, Trillium, Cold Harbor, Honest Weight among them – is testament to the quality of what Teri does.

Yes, Teri wishes she could do more: “I think about how many events we have to turn down because we are booked solid. I never imagined people would be contacting me and that I wouldn’t have to solicit for work. In 2015, I was just looking for places to bring this thing. So the idea of a second trailer kicks around a lot. But I love my crew. We are having so much fun. I am at the right stress level even when it is crazy. I worry that going to two trucks will be the kiss of death.”

And really who would want their epigraph to be “she killed grilled cheese.” So we’ll have to suffer a little wait for Teri’s grilled cheesy goodness. Actually, the word passion comes from the Latin word for suffering. Teri has been willing to suffer for hers and clearly so are we.

Say Cheese! Grilled cheese being prepared in Worcester, MA Food News

Your Grilled Cheese Choices

The Grilled Cheese Sandwich is one of the oldest dishes on record. A great Grilled Cheese is a testament to the power and simplicity of high quality ingredients.

Say Cheese! Grilled cheese being prepared in Worcester, MA
Say Cheese! Grilled cheese being prepared in Worcester, MA

Say Cheese!

You won’t have to go out of your way to track down the Say Cheese! Truck this summer. Owner, Teri Goullete, seems to pop up at every hot spot in central Mass these days, pedaling grilled cheese sandwiches with a smile. Try the Picklebac, made with generous portions of cheddar, bacon, and dill pickles. All of Teri’s sandwiches are served on fresh slices of Tuscan Ciabatta.

Coney Island

Nothing is more Worcester than Coney Island. Known for their hot dogs, Coney Island has stood as a Worcester institution for 100 years. Lest we forget, that “Coney’s” serves up a killer Grilled Cheese Sandwich (we’re sure it has something to do with their magical grill.) Take in the art deco interior and the hand carved booths while you enjoy your lunch.

Armsby Abbey

We never get too attached to anything on Armsby’s ever-changing menu, but given their award winning cheese list, we hope the Grilled Cheese will stick around for a while. Made with a blend of Vermont Cheddar, Roth gand cru, and Manchego, the sandwich is served on thick cut honey-oat bread from neighboring, Crust Bakery. Guests can customize with roasted jalapenos, caramelized onions, roasted mushrooms, or house cured bacon.

Armsby Abbey’s Mac n’ Cheese is made with a world class IPA and then topped with rustic bread crumbs from neighboring bakery, Crust. Food News

Comfort Food Classics

Comfort foods evoke a healthy dose of nostalgia whenever you need a little warmth in your life. Worcester is teeming with comfort classics, ready to pick you up and take you back.

Da Lat’s Mi Vit Tim, or Duck Noodle Soup, is the perfect cure for a gray day. Enjoy the fragrant effects of this steamy treat. Comfort food is just as much about eating with our eyes as it is with our taste buds. A bowl of Duck Noodle Soup offers a vibrant pop of both color and flavor.

VIA Italian Table’s Crispy Pork Meatballs served with a sweet and sour glaze are a comforting snack after a long day at work. Order alongside a glass of the Boen Pino Noir from the Russian River Valley and slip into soothing reflection.

Armsby Abbey’s Mac n’ Cheese is a hearty reflection of the restaurant’s exclusive craft beer and farmstead cheese selections. This flagship dish is made with a world class IPA and then topped with rustic bread crumbs from neighboring bakery, Crust. Now, customers can even add bacon or jalapeños. (Mass Foodies reported that rumor has it that Mac n’ Cheese takeout will soon be available for the first time in the restaurant’s history.)

Track down the Say Cheese truck on one of its stops in and around central Massachusetts to enjoy the distinct pleasure of a gourmet grilled cheese. Order the Cheddar Monster made with cheddar, muenster and tomato, or class it up with the Figgin’ Goat, a melty concoction of goat cheese, fig paste, and fresh arugula.

Dacosta’s Arancini tastes as if it was crafted by your Italian grandmother herself. These saffron risotto balls feature a mixture of fontina and fresh mozzarella that will warm you from the inside.

Next time you’re feeling blue, remember that a little bit of Worcester love is just an order away.