Sunday, November 22, 2009

Gastro Cart: A Really Good Idea

Gastro Cart is the new culinary adventure of former Table 6 cooks, Mike Winston and Bryan Hume. The vision is simple: to make original hand-crafted food and sell it on the street. The food is not simple, however, and therein lies the genius of this otherwise unassuming food cart on the corner of 18th and Curtis.

Bryan and Mike with their good idea

I don’t know how else to say this, except that, "This is a really fucking good idea." Maybe it’s just my bias, being a long-time fan of buying and consuming food on the street. I like food that fits in my hand and that can be shoved in my mouth with minimal need for utensils. Food that may take many napkins to wipe clean from my body, but where those napkins are decidedly not cloth. Food that comes wrapped in tin foil or that is served in one of those small, red-checked cardboard trays. Food that is satisfying. Gastro Cart, in its early weeks of existence, has been all of that.

And back to the genius part: it is entirely original, hand-crafted and fresh-made. And among the inspired items that made it to the first Gastro Cart menu include a gyro. The gyro description is as follows: roast lamb on naan with a guajillo-mint foam, Napa cabbage and taziki. I have to say, that while excited by the very idea of this cart, I was a little skeptical about taking a classic like the gyro and flipping it around so much. All too often places try and make a simple, traditional and delicious dish into something new, and end up with a neo-post-modern mess. But I had faith, and it was the first thing I tried.

That looks nothing like a gyro...

The meat was shredded instead of shaved. The naan was essentially a pita, albeit a really good, fresh and clearly home-baked pita. The guajillo-mint deal was fortunately foam-less by the time it made it to my plate and was just pretty much a sauce. It was very good too, and sort of captured the chopped tomato part of the gyro but also with a slight, smoky kick; and the mint played in perfectly with the taziki. The lamb was cooked amazingly well. It was butter soft and rich with flavor. And the bread was warm and delicious. It was a really good sandwich. It actually was a really good, uh, gyro. Well done.

1/4 of the gyro

Well, ¾ of the way through the gyro I was pretty much full, but I needed to try the taco with kim chee, its description being the siren song that made me rush across town over lunch as soon as possible. In Aurora, where I work, there may be more kim chee (I say kimchi) per capita than in any other part of the metro area, but nowhere can you find something as crazy as a kim chee taco. With all the Mexican and Korean places in Aurora, you might think it would have happened by accident already, but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t. So for a half-breed Asian-American like me who loves tacos more than his Mexican wife (I mean more than she likes tacos—not more than her), a kim chee taco is a wildly chaotic experiment in culinary fusion that I would never want to miss.

It tasted pretty much how one might expect a kim chee taco to taste--like kim chee. It also had 1000 Island dressing on it and apparently is Gastro Cart's twisted take on a Reuben. I didn’t think of Reuben when I ate it. I actually didn’t know (and still don't know) what to think about it. But it worked. It actually worked really well. The chicken flavor was good, and not overwhelmed completely by the kim chee, which was the star; and the 1000 Island dressing gave it a nice creamy texture that for some reason pulled everything together (like I said, I'm still trying to figure it out). Another bonus is that in a couple more months the kim chee will be house-made. Impressive.

As we enter the winter months and Gastro Cart is in its infancy, the young duo is determined to get out everyday. As I talked with them one midweek afternoon, we discussed their future as street food purveyors and a slow crescendo of excitement built between them as they speculated on the months and years to come.

"We have a ton of lamb stock."

"Yeah, I’d like to do a consommé."

"Sure, we could have to-go containers."

"And put up a wall here for the cold," motioning around the side of the cart, and they continued their back-and-forth about future dishes and construction.

Whatever it ends up being, I have a feeling it will be well-thought out and executed. And fresh. Currently the only things they don’t make from scratch are the tortillas. I don’t know why (tortillas are pretty easy to make), especially considering they make their own ketchup. That’s right, at Gastro Cart, that is homemade ketchup in your 1000 Island dressing. And delicious homemade pickles, served whole, as well as chopped up in the quinoa salad. Which brings me to another point. I pretty much hate quinoa, and I think that non-Peruvians that say it’s good are generally lying. But these guys seem to genuinely like it, and I will admit, that the quinoa salad at Gastro Cart was OK, though I think it’s mostly because of the homemade pickles. What I really love are those pickles.

And what else does the future hold?

"We’d like to get a roach coach."

"Yeah, to have a deep fryer." And you could see them both have a little daydream moment about the world a deep fryer would open up.

"And a few other carts."

I can see it now. A food-cart revolution. Most good food cultures have solid roots in the street, and Gastro Cart's Mike Winston and Bryan Hume are going in reverse to bring restaurant craft and execution onto the street. Like I said, it's genius.


18th and Curtis.
Or on Facebook.
Sun night on 
Colfax and 
Marion
Gastro Cart on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

  1. Clearly the writer of this blog is unaware of the roach coach revolution started by Roy and the Kogi trucks in LA. Kimchee tacos are not original, Roy has been doing entire korean bbq menus in a taco for years now. I know of high-end grilled cheese trucks and many other very cool concepts going on. Eitherway, I am still very excited to try this and I am glad that its made its way to Denver. But your foodblog will seem less hokey and totally not in the know if you paid attention to the largest trends going on in the hottest food markets in the nation.

    JJ

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the heads up, and point taken --I actually have read about those trucks in L.A., so maybe I should have given credit... but it's L.A. after all. Also please know that while I've never been called hokey, many people would say I am very much "not in the know", much less anywhere close to being up on any food trends.

    ReplyDelete

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