1618 1/2 E 6th St
Austin, TX 78702
In Austin it seems as though food trucks have been multiplying faster than the promiscuous stars of “Teen Mom”. Most empty lots and spare corners are now host to trailers hawking various food items, and the proliferation has unsurprisingly resulted in a slew of mediocre options. Somehow, these vendors are under the impression that jumping on the bandwagon and serving out of a mobile venue will turn their fare from lacklustre to distinguished.
In this “oh-god-not-another-mobile-eatery” environment, it’s saucesome when someone gets it very right. It also helps when the trailer in question is run by the sous-chef of the James Beard award winning restaurant, Uchi. Paul Qui originally opened the East Side King trailer at Liberty Bar, but has since expanded to trailers at Shangri-La and The Grackle. The concept is brilliant – take a wildly popular Eastside bar where people are happy to spend an evening drinking, plant in a dedicated food trailer serving quality fare in snack sized portions, and let the games begin. Though they are all but a hipster’s beard length from each other, each of the ESK trailers have their own individual menus, which encourages you to keep trying the various locations. This time, I dined at ESK @ Liberty.
My boy Tommy works at Liberty and he knows how to mix me up an excellent Bloody Mary, so you know I’m already a fan. Liberty is a no-frills bar on East 6th with cheap beer and a great atmosphere. A few tables and couches are dotted around the small interior, and it’s a cool respite from the brutal Austin summer sun.
The real draw at Liberty is the huge outdoor area out back. Rows of picnic tables, strings of lights overhead and on busy nights they open up the back bar so you don’t even have to walk to far to get your drank on. This is where you’ll find the ESK trailer – pretty hard to miss with that paint job.
The food is a modern Austin take on Asian hawker cuisine. Fried brussel sprout salad, peanut butter curry in deep fried buns, beetroot home fries to name just a few dishes. I tried the Poor Qui’s Buns – roasted pork belly, steamed buns, hoisin sauce, cucumber kimchee and green onion ($7). Deliciously salty with sweet imparted from the hoisin, I must admit I was a heretic and did tear off most of the belly fat. These buns are filling and satisfying, and perfect with cold beer.
But it was my friend, Charming L, who taught me the best part of ESK’s Liberty menu, Thai Chicken Karaage – deep fried chicken thigh, sweet & spicy sauce, fresh basil, cilantro, mint, onion and jalapeño ($8) Oh lord! So good! Salty, crispy, moist with a fresh kick from the herbs … it’s sexy chicken.
What I love most about this system is the high standard of the food and the portion sizes. Need a snack? Just order one dish. Want dinner? Order a few. Sitting around having so much fun drinking and talking with friends that you find yourself hungry again at 11pm? Yup, they’re still serving.