Summer is fast approaching, which for Alaskans means it’s time for long days, taking off the snow tires, and Bell’s Nursery ads on the radio. It also means the reopening of farmers markets and the Spenard Food Truck Carnival.
Held every Thursday in the warmer months, the carnival is a gathering of local food trucks that takes place in the parking lot of Chilkoot Charlie’s. Here you can grab a bite to eat and grab a seat among the card tables provided, or cop a squat under the shade of the iconic Spenard Windmill. The carnival opened two weeks ago, so I went down to get a taste of what sort of foods will be on offer this year. Some of the usual suspects are here: Yeti Dogs, the award-winning hot dog stand usually found in Kincaid Park, Smokehouse Barbeque — a staple of any Anchorage festival — and Glacier Bowl, the poke stand from southside. This time I want to try something new. But before anything else, cupcakes.
At the Spenard Food Truck Carnival, dessert first isn’t a question, it’s a requirement. It you’re going to get hold of the sweet little cakes from Babycakes, get here early, and make it your first stop. I arrived around 11:45 a.m., and by the time I got to the window all but three varieties of cupcake had sold out. Left with only a few choices I decided to try a Frankenstein ($3), a cookie- flavored cake with a whole Oreo in the bottom, and a Peanut Butter Bomb ($3), a chocolate and peanut butter cake dipped in chocolate ganache. At first bite, it’s easy to see why Babycakes is so popular. The Peanut Butter Bomb is rich and moist, and the Frankenstein is topped with a dangerously good buttercream that tastes almost exactly like peanut butter cookie dough, and that I would happily eat by the spoonful. Both were delicious and sure to satisfy any cupcake fan, however I did find them to be a little overly sweet for my taste, and the Frankenstein suffered from being a bit dry. They’re definitely worth going early but I might limit myself to one cake next time.
While my sugar rush sets in, I wander the parking lot and decide what to try next. First up is Mobile Munchies, and something a little unexpected, fry bread pizza. Mobile Munchies is an unassuming little food cart, serving up frybread snacks and Eskimo ice cream. Alongside the usual fry bread tacos, they also offer several kinds of pizza. Being in the pro-pineapple pizza camp, I order a Hawaiian pizza ($10) and slide off to the side to wait for my order. It takes about 10 minutes for my name to be called, which is a little longer than I would normally expect for a food truck. The pizza itself is good. The fry bread is the star of the show here, soft, crispy outside, and not too dense. The sauce and toppings are good enough to make it a tasty snack, but not enough to be something really special. There is not really enough cheese for it to really feel like a pizza, and the sauce is lacking seasoning.
Next up, a basket of loaded tots from Main Event. Main Event’s easily recognizable RV is well known for their bacon jam and brie grilled cheese, but they also serve up other grilled sandwiches as well as fries and tater tots. At this point it’s clear I’ve decided to forgo healthy options, and order a basket of loaded tater tots ($10). Five minutes later I’m given an enormous portion of tots smothered in cheese, sour cream, and bacon bits. It’s just as delicious as it looks, though it’s hard to go wrong with anything that’s swimming in cheese sauce. That being said, there is a good balance of topping to tot, so it doesn’t feel like there the tots are being overwhelmed. The sour cream is a nice addition and brings to mind the flavor of a baked potato. My only criticism would be that the tots themselves, while crispy on the outside, crumbled to pieces if you attempted to pick them up with a fork, making them difficult to eat.
Finally, a plate of red beans and rice from Sa Se Bon. This creole and cajun truck has traditional dishes on offer, including gumbo, jambalaya and dirty rice. I pick up a plate of red beans and rice ($5) which looks and tastes like it could have come straight from Louisiana. A common problem with beans and rice is a tendency for the flavors of each to blend together into one note, but that’s not the case here. The rice is well seasoned, if a little milder than I usually expect from cajun food, and the beans retain their bite without being undercooked.
The Final Verdict?
Most Delicious: Main Event
Again, it’s hard to go wrong with deep fried potatoes and cheese sauce, but Main Event makes an excellent version of it. Flavorwise there’s little to complain about, and I’d happily come back for another basket of these when I’m in the mood for something cheesy and indulgent.
Most interesting: Mobile Munchies
Out of everything I tried, this wasn’t my favorite, but it has sold me on fry bread pizza as a concept. If you’re looking for something a little different, it’s worth giving it a taste.
Best Value: Sa Se Bon
At $5, Sa Se Bon’s beans and rice was the cheapest food item I purchased, but it wasn’t for lack of flavor or quantity. If you’re just looking for an affordable lunch that still satisfies, this one is hard to beat.
The Spenard Food Truck Carnival is held every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Chilkoot Charlie’s parking lot on Spenard Road, just south of Fireweed Lane.