It’s the end of the month and therefore another installment of Travels with Frenchie, the monthly food series in which a trio of culturally mismatched San Antonians explores the city in search of dining adventure. As always, the culinary vice squad consisted of: Frenchie (aka Fabien Jacob, celebrated local sommelier), Carlos the Bike Mechanic (aka Carlos Montoya, a man who eats only obscure fruits and grilled meats), and me (occasional vegan and known street-food enthusiast). For our guest this month we were joined by Dr. Michael Cepek, socialite anthropologist and expert on the Cofán people of the Amazon.
The last time the team was joined by an anthropologist, we struck gold with our discovery of the now legendary Moroccan Bites. This unlikely partnership continued as we tried the new Moroccan-owned gourmet food truck called Wheelie Gourmet. No discovery can be claimed here due to their massive PR blitz over the last month. The “discovery” was more personal as I’ve been promoting mobile street food for the last four years. In fact, Wheelie Gourmet seems like something I envisioned back in 2008 when I prophesized the coming of a colorful food truck that would run on biodiesel (See “An open letter to SA’s CIA,” February 13, 2008).
Reality and messianic food-truck mythology collided on a recent Saturday at a packed farmers market at Pearl Brewery. By noon, Wheelie Gourmet already had a long line of customers. We were curious what their approach would be. Wisely they kept things quite simple, with about four or five sandwiches and Belgian fries. We tried four of them — the vegetarian, salmon, chicken tagine, and gyro. With fresh bread, sauces, and vegetables, there is a clear emphasis on quality. And to make things equally simple, I’ll give away the ending: we were all quite impressed with Wheelie Gourmet.
Like Hiram Bingham first setting eyes on Machu Pichu, Dr. Cepek claimed the veggie sandwich as his own. He was happy to find a tasty handmade soy patty hiding beneath a canopy of spinach and red bell peppers. The dark and seedy bread had a stretchy and chewy interior, but he commented, “The amount of bread overwhelmed the sandwich.” Still, Cepek felt the other ingredients more than made up for the carbohydrate excess.
I went with the salmon sandwich, with basically the same bread and vegetables, and a hint of dill sauce. Delicious. The salmon flaked off in segments just right. Flavors exploded. It’s worth stating that the menu is not strict Moroccan, but there are subtle spices and flavors that lean in that direction.
The chicken tagine sandwich would be the most Moroccan influenced. Carlos ordered two of these and quickly began flexing his gastric muscles. The tagine is served on an airy croissant roll that I preferred, but Carlos said, “It was a little too soft, and I don’t really eat croissants.” The shredded chicken was tender and came with green olives, red onions, tomatoes, with turmeric and curry. I thought I sensed a hint of fenugreek as well, but let’s not get crazy. Carlos thought the sandwich would bring more heat; instead, the flavors were subtle and aromatic.
Frenchie tried the gyro. “It came with the meat, roasted red bell pepper, olives, and rosemary dill sauce. The meat was excellent and well cooked but the sandwich was missing the spinach, zucchini, and cucumber.” Frenchie brings up an important point — on almost all of our sandwiches at least a few items were left off. Cepek’s veggie sandwich was missing a few pickled vegetables. In addition, the Belgian fries didn’t come with the traditional mayonnaise. We assumed that a steady flow of business that day exhausted their supplies. The irony is that we were at a farmers market with produce everywhere, but they were strapped to keep up with demand.
As we finished our meal, Frenchie talked to the Moroccan owners (in French) and observed their setup. Like a Sherlock Holmes of the kitchen, Frenchie deduced they needed a larger fryer to cook the Belgian fries more quickly. Obviously, they are newly opened and still working out the kinks. None of us were complaining. We’d rather wait 20 minutes for an excellent sandwich than get something terrible in two.
So far, Wheelie Gourmet has been showing up at the Pearl market every Saturday for lunch and somewhere in Stone Oak at night. But the beauty of having a truck is they can move around and bring their wonderful sandwiches to you.•
(210) 370-7692 for location updates