One of the great advantages of food trucks is that owners are on the truck daily. This brings a tight bond between the owner and their hungry patrons. Since many of us only get that small time between ordering and grabbing our food, I wanted to help bring us together. That’s when I got the idea, Behind The Wheel. Gets me back to telling the story and further enjoying – being around food trucks. This week I highlight Czech This Out.
I originally wrote this for Ethnosh Raleigh. With the event taking place November 12th (today), I wanted to focus on this food truck today. Hopefully, this post and pictures will inspire you. Look forward to see you at Lucky B’s (609 Tucker Street, Raleigh) tonight at 6:00pm.
It’s 2001. I’m finishing up grad school and planning for my rite of passage trip to Europe. In my research, one city is hitting every college kid’s radar. It was the storybook city of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. I can’t recall why it was so popular? Though for me, it was more than just following the cool kids and what was hot. It was about finding my heritage.
Unfortunately, I did not make it to Prague, because it was still a long distance to travel from Western Europe and I wanted to maximize my visit across the Atlantic. Plus, I wanted to honor the area more than just an overnight stay.
When I heard Czech This Out was hitting the Triangle streets, I knew I had to make an opportunity to check it out. It was opportunity to explore and understand my heritage.
The truck’s owner, Ivo (pronounced e-vo), is a Triangle mobile food scene veteran. Many will recognize him selling hot dogs on the busy Fayetteville Street in Downtown Raleigh. It is the job he started when he decided to permanently live here. His admiration for North Carolina started with a visit with friends to the Wilmington area. They traveled the East Coast and soon he decided he wanted to settle in the United States. His first stop was New York City to study English. After realizing that New York was intense, he decided to return to an area he enjoyed, North Carolina. Then an opportunity came, while selling hot dogs in Raleigh. The stand’s owner decided to move back home. He then bought the stand and served as an owner-operator.
While he enjoys seeing his regular customers and making people happy, he wanted to sell food from his native land. Since he was comfortable with the mobile food model, he decided to buya trailer in Florida and brought it to the Triangle. He then added Jara (pronounced Ya-ra), a chef from Klara (a former Czech restaurant in Cary and Raleigh), to his team. Jara has cooked for over 14 years and enjoys cooking his native cuisine. When you start talking about the cuisine, both he and Ivo get excited about showcasing their home cuisine. And Ivo is very passionate that he wants everyone to leave his truck full and happy.
For those that have not had Czech food, like me, you’ll discover similarities to German cuisine. The truck’s current menu has kielbasa, potato pancake, chicken schnitzel, and apples strudel. While all these items are non-vegetarian, Jara mentioned he can make items vegetarian on the fly. And soon temperatures will be colder, so soups and goulash will appear on the menu. This is the meat and potatoes of Czech cuisine, as there are more colder months than warm months in the Czech Republic.
While everything is good, I thought the chicken and potato pancake was outstanding. The chicken has a sauce similar to hibachi and sautéed vegetables. The pancake is lightly breaded with a nice crispy texture folded over these items. Then a Czech-style ranch aioli is drizzled on top. The condiment is something that is used on everything. Even if you don’t like ranch dressing (like me), you may want to give it a whirl.
The other item that has to be a must is grandma’s recipe, apple strudel. The truck has an oven on board, so this item is baked here. The end product looks like loaves of baguettes sprinkled with powdered sugar. Still hot, the bread is cut into slices and served with fresh whipped cream. Everyone needs to order this.
The truck has been on the streets a few weeks and has already gained popularity. In fact, Ivo hinted that truck is already known amongst NHL players. Czech players have attested to the authentic and have mentioned to other to check this out.
How to find them?