Sometimes it's the little things that make an eatery stand out. In the case of the Black Forest Chew-Chew Gastrotruck, the name's memorable enough, but that's not why I'm going back. I'm returning for their Spanish roast beef sandwich — or, more specifically, the walnut-romesco sauce served on it. Owners Deanna and Dodd Johnson's take on the Catalan (northeastern Spanish) sauce tastes nutty and rich with peppers, with just enough spiciness to notice.
On a sturdy roll with plentiful roast beef, garlic aioli and pickles, it's a quality bite, even if $8 feels a touch stiff with no side. But it covers everything a sandwich basically needs: substantial protein, something creamy, a little bite, crunch, and hearty bread of appropriate chewiness, finished with a little something special. It's hard to complain.
When we visit the truck at Storybook Brewing — bless all food trucks that post the week's schedule in advance — we get another something special with our tater tots, themselves wholly passable. A truffle aioli, one of five options, bears flecks of real truffle — Italian-exported and bought via Amazon. There's no shortage of fungal flavor in this sauce.
"We're creating something a little elevated," Deanna told the Indy when we spoke in November, around the time the truck opened. "It's not just a food truck." The Johnsons have a combined total of 50 years in restaurants and catering, with Deanne building her chops around Sacramento, California, and Dodd getting his in Austin.
On first visit, we're told they're out of a blackened Mahi-Mahi sandwich that catches my eye. The menu does change from week to week, minus a few items, adapting to customer tastes and what's being served where they set up. So instead, we get the South in Your Mouth burger. Deanne hyped us up for the 1/3-pound patty and its pimento cheese during that same conversation in November. No surprise, the beef's beefy, and the plank-thick strips of bacon from Peyton-based Big Red Bacon delight. But it's a big, fatty bite before the pimento cheese comes into play, and the meat tends to slip out of the bun and back into the box as a consequence.
The bacon plays better in the Boxcar Burger's bourbon-bacon jam. With cheese and pickles, it gets the job done.
We also enjoy the limited-run al pastor burger, which sees a pork and red chili patty under grilled pineapple and onion-cilantro slaw. Does this dish gain anything by transforming from a taco into a burger? No, but I'm too busy chewing to complain.
We're pretty happy with the nuts-and-bolts aspects of the food overall. And the little twists like local bacon, romesco and real truffle add panache that makes the menu a little more interesting. But the Gastrotruck doesn't really read as more than just a food truck. It's a solidly good food truck, but there's nothing that majorly elevates it. I don't think that's a problem, though, when the food comes plenty tasty with a little something interesting.
Deanne also told us that the truck would "try to bring people a taste of the world that's approachable and affordable." In that much, that's a mission they've accomplished.