Our weekly bite explores the city's food trucks, one at a time, highlighting our favorite mobile dishes and snacks.
The Truck: Old Word Food Truck
The Cuisine: East European and Jewish Comfort Food
Specialty Item: Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich
Worth the Wait in Line? Yes.
The Bay Area has no shortage of fried chicken sandwiches: Cotogna's Friday-only Tuscan version, Naked Lunch's unbattered fried thigh, 4505 Meats' market-veggie-dressed Chicken Yum Yum, and the benchmark that put Bakesale Betty's on the map. Rolling up to the Old World Food Truck for their Chicken Schnitzel-wich ($8), we expected a variation on the same theme, but were instead rewarded with something so different, delicious, and well-integrated it took us by surprise.
Kenny Hockert, who describes himself as "owner-chef-mensch" of Old World Food Truck, set out to make a bahn mi-style sandwich with Eastern European ingredients. The result is something unique. A crisp Acme torpedo roll is dwarfed by the patchwork of large, juicy, and crunchy pieces of breaded fried chicken, topped with a mound of vinegar-and-oil cabbage slaw that cuts the richness just enough. Horseradish mayo is mostly a wallflower, adding a hint of heat but politely sitting in the background instead of assaulting your sinuses. Not being a shlemeil, we opted for the optional chopped liver schmear ($1, liver, onions, sherry, lemon, schmaltz), which adds terrific richness.
The most suprising element, the smoky, toasted caraway seed-infused honey, is what nudges the sandwich into greatness. Not only does it create the wonderful salty-sweet contrast, it also adds some umami-like earthiness to enhance the slaw and chicken. The honey's sticky intensity has the same effect as fish sauce: it perplexes in the first bite, and becomes addictive in the rest.
Hocket's East European and Jewish soul food is a concept that shows how universal comfort food can be. Is this an evolution of the fried chicken sandwich? Hopefully. Sometimes to move forward, we have to look back.