Monday, April 12, 2010

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.

Barcelona OnTheGo
(949) 939-6798
Various locations in OC, check website or Twitter

Park Avenue - Stanton


At 6:23 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

Well we do live in Southern California and with the car culture here, it makes sense that food should be mobile too. But I agree that following these trucks takes a lot of preparation and planning. And then there's the waiting. But I have to admit, I would visit Barcelona On The Go if I happened to be in the area and my Twitter account happened to be on. Those empanadas look mighty fine.

At 8:11 PM, Blogger Cookie Sleuth said...

I tried the tortilla and steak last week when the truck was in Irvine. Delicious! You're right that the guy running it is super friendly.

At 9:28 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Ha, mobile stuff is never fun after a while! Haven't visited Kogi yet even now. It is funny that you mention food trucks this week- I saw a Thai Cuisine food truck in Las Vegas last week. Did not snap a picture of it though.

At 11:00 AM, Blogger Bill said...

That was gourmet out of a roach mobile. This is something I would definitely try.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Exile Kiss said...

Hi elmomonster,

Thanks for the FYI. This looks wonderful. I hope we get a truck like that in our area soon. :)

At 1:38 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

You went! Yay! Glad you enjoyed. I've still only tried the steak chimichurri and fries and the lentil soup. But Anita's having the Yelp event tomorrow at Main and Von Karman from 6:30 to 9. Croquette and empanada and paella this time for me (and Steve).

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous JB said...

It's amazing you can choose from such a breadth of gourmet fare (steak, paella, and more) from a lunch truck. That's the real story of these things...they're not just one-superb-thing-sold-from-a-mobile-truck -enterprises.

BTW the steak + fries + lawn clippings looks great!! Chimichurri doesn't look watery!!

At 5:46 PM, Anonymous Mahesh said...

Initially I thought its a truck chase,, but after following Esteban and his cool spanish tapas ( as you call it - new age) truck for a while, he seem to have a fixed schedule. on Tuesdays he parks by my work, Michaelson and Von Karman by USC. On Fridays he parks by Jamboree and McArthur - across to Google building. Monday and one other day in between - by Main street. so its not a big chase after all. I hope this helps. :)

At 11:13 PM, Blogger brekkie_fan said...

was wondering what your (specific) thoughts were....and yes, I'm a GROUPIE!

btw - you need to eat more lentils!

At 7:02 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


You make a good point. Ours is a car culture and trucks like this fits right in. And you gotta appreciate how even though they are mobile, they've chosen to stay exclusively to OC.

Cookie Sleuth,

Need to try the tortilla and also the croquettes. And that strawberry thing sounds insane!


Wow! A Thai food truck in Vegas! Wild. That's some balls when Lotus of Siam is there, arguably the best Thai in the US. I'll need to Google search this to check it out.


I'm still waiting for a French food roach coach! Escargots On A Roll, they should call it. And one items should be escargots on a roll (as in a baguette).

Exile Kiss,

I think you and I are both hoping to see a ramen truck. Or perhaps a yakitori truck?


Yes! It was our conversation about it that spurred me to go. The food was good; the hospitality, even better. Won't be able to make the Yelp event, but I'm sure it will be a blast. I overheard Esteban saying there was going to be music and stuff? Fun!!!


Tell me about it. I don't know how BOTG, heck even Alebrije's manages to put out the menu that they do. And each dish is distinctive...not like they're just rearranging ingredients at Taco Bell.


You are so right. I didn't notice until I finished the post that just this week, BOTG has put up a schedule on their website, and it seems set in stone, or at least the same week-by-week. Now, if they only did dinner more than lunch.

brekkie fan,

I loved it! Thanks again for meeting up with me! And do I look like I need more lentils? HEHE!

At 9:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tried Barcelona OnTheGo and it wasn't worth the drive. The food seemed overpriced for the portions. I love the food trucks but will not be visiting Barcelona OnTheGo again.

At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Marvin | BurntLumpia said...

Anyone who can make a good paella out of a roach coach must really know what they are doing. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around some of the great "gourmet" food being served on trucks nowadays. There must be some crazy prep work going on outside of the truck beforehand!

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Trucking Factoring said...

This Barcelona food truck looks great. Haven't seen one like this. The food looks tasty.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Sorry about your experience. But now I'm curious what your fave food trucks are.


There must be lots of prep those empanadas! But the paella was apparently being prepared right there, johnny-on-the-spot. Would still love to see a Filipino truck. Maybe a halo-halo truck. It should be called "Hello Halo-Halo". *rimshot* ;-)


Yes it does.

At 6:49 PM, Blogger Exile Kiss said...

Hi elmomonster,

Ramen Truck? Hm... I worry about how good the Ramen really could be. :P Yakitori Truck would be great, except the Line would be miles long (since it takes so long to grill Yakitori :).

At 12:17 AM, Blogger edjusted said...

Thanks for making me feel old. :P Yeah, 10 years ago I might've been up for chasing a truck around to get a damn taco or empanada. Now...not so much. But sign me up if there's ever a ramen truck!

At 8:54 AM, Anonymous Johnny Automatic said...

I'm with you Elmo. I think ultimately this is just a fad. My problem is I eat when I am hungry. So I know Kogi is near me like late Tuesday night. But you know, I'm rarely hungry at 10:30 PM on Tuesday. It's all backwards that I should be the one adapting my life to fit their schedule. That's the whole idea of restaurants being a service. THEY are there and ready to serve YOU when YOU want to eat. Can you imagine if all retail worked this way? I need to go to Trader Joe's but first I have to figure out where the hell it is right now.

At 1:57 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Exile Kiss,

Yeah. Yakitori would probably a bad idea. I'm imagining how smoky it would get in there. Carbon monoxide poisoning! I certainly won't be the first to apply for a job doing that.


Yes, we're on the same wavelength. I'd like to think that's why "older" is always paired with "wiser".


Darn tootin'! Agree with you all around. And that was a great and hilarious example you made. Again I quote Homer Simpson: "But I want it now!"


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