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Friday, July 22, 2011

Le Truc: Burgers on the Bus

Posted By on Fri, Jul 22, 2011 at 10:20 AM

The bleu burger. We'd need three-dimensional photography to capture its juiciness - PHOTOS BY W. BLAKE GRAY
  • Photos by W. Blake Gray
  • The bleu burger. We'd need three-dimensional photography to capture its juiciness

In one sense, Le Truc is one of the most stable food "trucks" in San Francisco. The owners pay rent to Wells Fargo bank to park what's actually a converted schoolbus in its lot at 470 Brannan (at Fourth St.) all day every weekday.

le_truc_menu_350.jpg

Perhaps it's natural, then, that Le Truc should have a chef change, just like completely stable restaurants. Many food trucks simply cease to exist when a founder leaves. But when original partner Hugh Schick walked away, the remaining partners brought in Jessie Rivas, a former executive chef from Potrero Brewing Company.

Rivas and new sous-chef Tevye Nieto have put more salads on the menu. But the emphasis remains meat sandwiches, particularly burgers.

And a special feature remains that because Le Truc is actually a bus (is that a bad French thing?), you can sit inside on comfy benches and watch the crew make your lunch.

Tevye Nieto, Gustavo Rojas and Myles O'Mahony work in Le Truc's kitchen.
  • Tevye Nieto, Gustavo Rojas and Myles O'Mahony work in Le Truc's kitchen.

When we saw Gustavo Rojas pressing down on the patty for our bleu burger ($9), we worried that he would crush out all the juice. We were wrong: Juice ran freely when we squeezed the bun, and kept doing so almost to the end of the burger. This was one of the juiciest burgers we've had in a while.

click to enlarge Dining inside
  • Dining inside

Co-owner Blake Tally later 'fessed up about why. Partly it's because the grill is very hot, and partly because the burger is spiked with cooked, chopped bacon, which is not listed as an ingredient.

"The bacon has a lot of grease. It has its own fat content," Tally said. "That comes out when it's cooked at high heat."

We didn't taste the bacon, but we did like the bleu cheese, pickled onions, and Granny Smith apple and wholeseed mustard compote that weren't hidden. Mainly, though, we liked the juiciness.

click to enlarge le_truc_tacos_550.jpg

We also tried a taco special: Butt King, which thankfully referred to the cut of pork used, and Baja shrimp ($8 for 2 tacos). The Butt King tasted most strongly of another unlisted ingredient, coconut milk, though we might have expected that from the listing of "Thai curry." We liked the Thai/Mex mashup. The grilled Baja shrimp taco was colorful and fresh, with plenty of shredded vegetables.

What we liked most of all was sitting in the bus watching the guys work. Myles O'Mahony, the prep guy who's a musician in his night job, was friendly and informative even before we introduced ourselves. Le Truc is a lot like sitting at the counter before a pristine open kitchen, only on a schoolbus.

O'Mahony says Le Truc sometimes does catering and uses its limousine license to provide beer and wine for people at those events, as long as they don't step outside the bus.

click to enlarge le_truc_550.jpg

"We used to do Off the Grid but we didn't make enough money there to justify it," O'Mahony said. "We do events if somebody pays more than our daily take here."

Judging by the constant stream of customers, that take must be reasonably good. Le Truc shows up at 8:30 ("ish," Tally said) to sell bacon tacos and steak and egg sandwiches for breakfast, another unusual feature. Yet we can't handle imagining the crushing disappointment on the face of a regular customer who expects Texas tacos for breakfast and shows up -- on a day when Le Truc has a catering gig -- only to find the Wells Fargo parking lot holding nothing but ordinary cars. Le Truc might seem stationary, but it still packs up every night and drives away.

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W. Blake Gray

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