Barcelona OnTheGo - Orange County
Barcelona OnTheGo embodies everything that excites and infuriates me about this whole food truck craze.
The part that frustrates is the thing that makes it unique: it's mobile.
Call me lazy, or old fashioned, or just old; but I'm exhausted. I've grown tired of all the logistics involved with just grabbing a bite at these new age food trucks. The Twitter tracking. The Google map locating. The line waiting. The unpredictable parking. It's just a lot of work.
It speaks to my short attention span and impatience that my favorite food truck is Alebrije's, an old-school lonchera which does not have a Twitter account. Why? It's always parked at the same spot on Cubbon Street in Santa Ana from morning to night, there when I want it.
I admit, the first few times I caught up with Kogi, the one that started it all, I enjoyed the chase. It was a fun, silly adventure. But with repetition comes ambivalence, then indifference, then annoyance. If the Coyote ever caught the Road Runner, he wouldn't be so eager to jump on top of that Acme rocket to do it again, and again, and again.
To eat at Barcelona OnTheGo, it took planning and a half hour of driving. Later, when I got back to the office, I was spent.
But with that said, food trucks offers something a brick-and-mortar restaurant often doesn't: accessibility and a real relationship to the people who make your food. It's particularly true with BOTG, which is helmed by a charming fella named Esteban. He and people like him are the reason I'm still on board with the idea of it all.
He is the consummate people person. He has groupies (you know who you are!). He'll shake your hand, ask you what you like and genuinely care whether you are enjoying his food. He knows every customer by name. And by the time I finished my lunch, he knew mine (though not that I was food reviewer) and I learned more about his cooking than if his was a standard restaurant.
For instance, he volunteered where he bought his seafood (H-Mart), how much the saffron he uses for his paella costs (too much), and what kind of box he keeps it in (tin, with a lid).
He even offered me a half-portion of paella on the house when he conceded that he ran out of it when I first ordered. And it was one of the better paellas I've had in a while, with the rice a firm toothsome texture, the shrimp well-cooked, the mussels briny, and the chicken slightly overdone. Each grain of the starch was practically glowing yellow with that costly saffron.
To finish the grilled flat-iron steak I ordered, he slathered an herby, oily chimichurri as green as lawn clippings. The dish revealed Esteban's Argentinean roots before he told me himself. And the fact there was hand cut fries on the side meant that I was essentially eating French brasserie steak frites out of a paper basket and while standing.
I used the excess chimichurri to dab on the bitten end of my empanada, which featured chunks of white meat chicken and was so hot off the fryer it singed my upper palate. Same with a steaming styrofoam bowl of a light but spicy lentil and smoked ham soup. I stole a sip from Brekkie Fan, who ordered it with her sandwich. It seemed silly to eat it in 80 degree weather, but then, so is gourmet soup out of a roach coach.
Whatever you may think of this food truck trend/fad/craze, ultimately the question you have to ask is this: Would I like the food if it were served in a restaurant?
With Barcelona OnTheGo, I would actually like it better.
Various locations in OC, check website or Twitter
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