Saturday Night Truck Stop/Back Of The House Brawl
While the Saturday Night Truck Stop is hardly news to anyone in the know, it is a big part of the local food scene worth shining another spotlight on. And since I have a lot of photos from last week, I figured now is as good a time as any.
The brainchild of Jolene Mannina (formerly of Sloppi Jo’s Roving Eatery), the Truck Stop is a food truck festival that runs 10 to 2ish every Saturday night in the parking lot of the original Tommy Rockers on Dean Martin Drive. The lineup of trucks changes every week, but all of the top draws are in the rotation. I know Las Vegas has plenty of food truck gatherings. But the SNTS is a top foodie destination for two reasons.
First, it’s located just off The Strip at a time that makes it a perfect after-work hangout for chefs getting off duty at Las Vegas’ top restaurants. Every week, the parking lot and bar are packed with chefs from Michelin-starred and four- and five-diamond restaurants, just hanging out and blowing off steam. It’s honestly not possible listing the number of world-class, nationally acclaimed chefs I’ve seen at these events. OK, you may not see the big celebrity chefs here all that often. But the place is always packed with the guys who run their kitchens. And for any REAL foodie, that’s a hell of a lot cooler.
That plethora of local talent has given way to the second thing that makes the SNTS great — Mannina’s famed Back Of The House Brawls. Every few weeks, two chefs from top Strip restaurants battle it out in the trucks. Before they see their secret ingredients, each selects a truck they want to hijack for the competition. Jo then unveils the products they’ll be working with, and they go to town. And I can assure you that even though they’re slumming it in the trucks and battling for a Pabst Blue Ribbon trophy, these guys take the event very seriously!
I served as a judge for last week’s battle between Mark LaRusso (Botero at Encore) and Jo Zanelli (Lakeside at Wynn). They each had to choose three of the following six ingredients: fresh octopus; cornish game hen; chicken livers; vanilla beans; pink peppercorn; banana; yuzu; kosho; faro.
Each team created two dishes. Zanelli’s first was a roasted hash of bananas, bacon, portobello mushrooms and jalapeño peppers, topped with pink peppercorn crusted chicken liver and sunny side up chicken egg. His second was a slow roasted Cornish game hen and farro cooked in game hen stock, finished with yuzu paste, red wine vinegar, pork fat, parsley, butter.
While those were great, they weren’t quite good enough to beat out LaRusso. He presented a grilled octopus and sausage salad with yuza and pick peppercorn vinaigrette and crisply potatoes, followed by chicken and waffles with vanilla bean syrup.
At this point, there’s no word on when the next brawl will take place. But the Truck Stop is always worth visiting.
Here are some pictures of last week.I haven’t bothered captioning them, since spotting people is half the fun at this event!