One of the policemen held the lunch I’d just bought at the Gaztro-Wagon — one of Chicago’s food trucks — while his partner leaned over the counter for a quiet chat with truck owner and chef Matt Maroni.
“Thanks for the extra pair of hands,” I said gratefully, stuffing my change in my wallet and juggling my purse and camera, all while trying to size up the situation.
“No problem at all,” the officer replied with a friendly smile. “Happy to help.”
It looked like I’d gotten my food just in time. The officer handed me my lunch bag once I was organized, then he and his partner headed down the street, and I struck up my own conversation with Maroni.
“So when will you be back in the neighborhood?”
“Apparently, never,” he said, eyeing the retreat of Chicago’s finest.
Now, I’m not sure what exactly happened. Maybe the Gaztro-Wagon doesn’t have the right kind of permit to sell in certain parts of downtown? Hard to say. After all, according to Twitter, it was the truck’s first official day of operation.
But whatever the case, Maroni and his cashier immediately began to pack up shop. They were nearly out of food anyway, but that didn’t seem to be the only driver for their speedy exit. And if Maroni is serious about never parking near Millennium Park again to sell his wares, that’s a crying shame!
That’s because his food is fantastic — a welcome break from a seemingly endless parade of mediocre lunch options from fast food chains and company cafeterias. He’s cranking out some quality gourmet food — this is not your typical taco truck. The line alone is testament to peoples’ desire to try something new. By the time I spotted the Gaztro-Wagon parked on Randolph and Columbus Friday, the line stretched half way down the block and the menu options were limited because several of the “Naan-Wiches” — Maroni’s signature sandwiches — were already sold out.
Still, I decided to hold my ground. I was hungry, and everything on the Gaztro-Wagon’s menu sounded infinitely better than a Subway sandwich. When I got to the front of the line (police officers in tow), the sandwiches were sold out entirely, so I ordered what was left — a chilled red pepper soup, a baby greens salad with feta cheese, pecans, and piquillo pepper topped with a sweet lemon vinaigrette, and a diet Coke.
The food was fresh, light, and quite frankly the best lunch I’ve had in awhile. For $15, I felt like I got a meal worthy of a downtown restaurant in half the time. Although I’m not inclined to spend that much on lunch everyday, I’d certainly splurge of the Gaztro-Wagon occasionally. There’s a certain satisfaction in enjoying a good chilled soup in the park on a lovely day especially when everybody else is eating something mass produced and wrapped in paper.
Maroni is elevating the food truck game in a way that grabs attention and satisfies taste buds. If I hadn’t already been a food truck fan, he would’ve convinced me to be one. I appreciate anyone who brings flavor to the streets, so here’s hopin’ Maroni does whatever it takes to park downtown again!
Want to find the Gaztro-Wagon? Check out its Web site or follow @wherezthewagon on Twitter.
5973 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60660