Saturday, April 10, 2010

Street Food Review: Marination

I have a taco stand fetish. I love street food, when it's good. Luckily for me, we are entering a street food Renaissance in Seattle, spurred on in part from our competition with our southern sister Portland. Portland, as any foodie will tell you, is way ahead of Seattle for street food. Yea, yea. To that I say go to Portland if you want to marry it so much.

My thing with street food is that I dream of driving one of those kitchens on wheels someday. The only thing holding me back is not a thing. It's my husband Eric. Everytime I start waving Craigs list ads under his nose he says, "Stop! You are just trying to add one more thing to your plate to make yourself crazy."

He's right. We don't have time for the Smokin' Pete's BBQ Roadshow....yet. Once the book events slow down and we get through this summer of catering, you can bet I'll be putting that barbecue truck back on the table.

In the meantime, I'll just have to enjoy the many solid vendors slingin' thier savory vittles on the street right now. We tend to stick to street fare of the Mexican persuasion. It's kid- and pocket-friendly grub, and far enough from barbecue that it's a different dining experience.

But after Seattle Magazine named Marination Best Streetfood of 2009, putting their sliders on the cover, I had to try it. Honestly, I don't know how I've missed them. They park in Fremont every Wednesday and were named best street food in America by Good Morning America. Best in the whole star-spangled country? Really? This I had to try.

We walked along the canal in Fremont and easily spotted Marination in front of the Indoor Sun Shoppe, due to the long line. I cursed myself for going right after the Seattle Magazine article came out. I never go to a place after a review because everyone else and their cousin Billy Bob are there.

I also cursed myself for being starving with hungry children going to this place right after a review. What was I, a rookie? I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly the line moved. Check one for Marination.

Now for the menu. At 1pm-ish, a few things were out for the day. I understand this and do not get peeved when this happens. As a restaurant owner I know that you a) can only predict so much what people will order and b) actually want things to run out. This means that product is moving. Product moving = fresh product. I wish more people understood this. The reason McDonald's doesn't run out of stuff? Because they have a MASSIVE FREEZER.

Themed as a Korean-Hawaiian cross, Marination has a very simple menu. Tacos, sliders, and a few other items like kimchi quesadillas. We'll get back to those in a minute. Both sliders we tried - Kalua Pork and Spam, were tasty.  The Spam was surprisingly tasty. It was a single thick grilled slice topped with a tangy non-mayo slaw on a soft dinner roll. The kalua pork slider, though good, needed a bit more meat. At $2 a pop, I don't expect more than a mouthful, but this was more like a capful. A bottle cap. Still, it was nicely seasoned pork.

The unavailable tacos were their miso-ginger chicken and a kalbi pork. Both sounded good and I can see why they sold out. (I didn't want to try the "sexy tofu". No matter how you dress it up, it's still tofu.)

What they did have was a spicy ground pork, so we ordered two. The tacos were topped with the same fresh, tangy slaw and served on the classic two mini corn tortillas. I like a spot of cheese with my tacos and thought a few crumbles of queso would have been nice, but the pork was moist and seasoned perfectly.

Lastly, we ordered the much buzzed-about Kimchi Quesadillas. Hmm. I've got to say this item was a bit of a buzz kill for me. It tasted kind of fishy, and while it was too spicy for kids, it barely hit the heat-o-meter of kimchi-ness. It was also a wee slimy. I didn't like the mix of textures between the kimchi and the cheese. It felt like I was eating something that the marketing department made up before testing it out in the kitchen.

Marination, you gals don't need a gimmick.

That item aside, I thought Marination did a lovely job both in execution of their menu, especially on the wave of a review, and in the flavors they chose. Plus, their truck is totally tricked out. I salivated for that as much as I did for their food.

I'll be back. I'll try to take better photos next time (like I said, we were all hungry and one of us had to hold two cranky kids back from the food and the canal, while the other took the shots).

And maybe someday, I'll be waving to Marination from my own truck, heading to the day's location.

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