Our weekly bite explores the city's food trucks, one at a time, highlighting our favorite mobile dishes and snacks.
The Truck: Liba Falafel
The Cuisine: Cal-Mediterranean
Specialty Items: Falafel sandwiches and salads; the condiment bar
Worth the Wait in Line? At peak lunchtime, it was a total 12 minutes from the end of the line to food in hand; with smart ordering, yes.
The past few months of exploring the street food scene in SF have taught me one thing: food truckin' ain't easy on your health or waistline. The successful trucks play the pied piper song of salty, fatty, and crunchy foods we crave with enough bold seasonings to stand out among the pods. Gail Lillian's Liba truck shows how "healthy" can be added to that melody with of all things, a salad, and not miss a thing.
With the legion of tacos and pork belly dishes, it's baffling that a salad could be one of the best things sold by a food truck, but the Falafel Salad ($9, three falafel balls, organic mixed baby greens, lemon tahini, herb sauce) is easily one of the best food cart dishes out there. The secret is the DIY salad bar bins. The cheery bright green truck is built to accommodate an array of bins, each holding condiments, pickled vegetables, and toppings to customize your box at the side of the truck, including items such as feta cheese, pickled onions, and braised eggplant. Selections rotate, but the box of field greens and craggy and crunchy falafel are the constant to build on.
Don't skip the deep fried pickled onions that have a wonderfully bacon-like quality, without the oily weightiness, and the rosemary peanuts that had a light coating of the herb to accent without overwhelming.
Despite the wonders the condiment bar provides the salad, it somehow fails with the falafel sandwich ($7, three falafel balls, lemon tahini, herb sauce, flatbread), that requires total deconstruction to create a uniform blend of flavors. Even with careful addition, we kept finding pockets of concentrated pickled onions or salads. It's hard not to compare it to the Sunrise Deli version that made the three falafel balls in the too-large flatbread seem meek.
Oddly, you can add a fourth ball to any sandwich or salad order for free, but it took several trips to figure this out, since we were never told when placing our orders. Why not just make each order four by default? The perception of value-for-the-money didn't make sense until we figured this out.
Regardless of these minor issues, the overall experience is great, with each sandwich handed to you with a huge and genuine smile. Although the volume of food will disappoint some bargain-hunters, those looking for a healthy and quality ingredients in their meal won't. In the pop-synth world of food trucks, Liba plays like a heartfelt harmony in a compostable box.