Photos and Words by Susana Alvarez
Some of the greatest movements are born in the streets: graffiti art, photojournalism, break dancing, but food? That just seems unsanitary! of another world! a clandestine business that claims street corners and alleyways from New York to Bangkok! Before everyone jumped on the clean-eating bandwagon, before carbs were cut and calories trimmed to 100 per package, and before eating had to be “guilt-free” street food was the avenue to some of the best food in the world. Zesty, succulent kabobs, fire-roasted vegetables and steaming soups permeate the polluted streets to lure passersby away from the city and into mom and pop’s kitchen.
I’m convinced, and will boast, that the best tacos in Mexico are made on the street. Thin, floury tortillas are rolled and heated over a cazuela, their warmth cradles the delicately diced meat or further melts the cheese of a real quesadilla. The freshest fruit is cut and sprinkled with lime and salt. Even amidst France’s pristine culinary culture, I preferred my crepes made by the local street-vendor.
Nutritious and satisfying street food use to be tougher to stumble upon in the U.S. (Hot dog and pretzel stands are no match for the health conscious.) Today’s food vans, however, offer edgy options like sweet potato fries and portabella mushroom sandwiches. Such was my lunch of choice at the Clover food van, posted from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. in front of Boston University’s College of Fine Arts.
Clover prepares portable breakfasts and lunches for the frenzied college students rushing down the Comm Ave catwalk. With such options as oatmeal with fruit compote (which really tastes like apple crumble), you can let go of the calorie count without having to forgo a nutritious breakfast. During the noon lunch rush, Clover keeps it simple with rosemary French fries, sweet onion soup, a soy BLT, or a pimento grilled-cheese sandwich. The menu rotates weekly, but the prices stay fixed and rarely dip into the double digits, -so the spare $5 bill next to your trusty debit card really will suffice.
Bon Me (featuring Vietnamese cuisine) and Roxy’ s Gourmet Grilled Cheese also take residence on Comm Ave. Bon Me takes over Clover’s parking spot from 3-7p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, and you can find Roxy’s mustard-yellow van there on Friday and Saturday evenings between 5 and 8 p.m.
Roxy’s stands out by redefining the this diner staple. Their Winter Classic Melt, stuffed with Vermont cheddar, roasted eggplant, white bean ragout, and artichoke purée is certain to keep you warm. An homage to Fenway’s mascot, The Green Muenster contains Muenster cheese, homemade guacamole, and apple wood bacon. For those of us who don’t like our grilled cheese meddled with, the Rookie Melt Vermont cheddar and vine-ripe tomatoes is the classic standby.
Street food beckons a break in any diet regimen, but these three food trucks make it possible to cheat without the guilt.