By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Oct 07, 2023 at 10:01 AM

Looking for new spots to try? During Dining Month, Lori Fredrich is dishing out must-tries in 20 different dining categories, from brunch to BBQ and everything in between. Here's what she's recommended so far!

While I love a relaxed dinner at a full-service restaurant, there’s also a certain charm about grabbing a quick bite from a local food truck to eat al fresco or take back to the office. And I’ve grown increasingly impressed by the quality of fare that’s being served by mobile operations in recent years.

It's definitely tough to narrow down the list of great food trucks to only five, but I’ve given it my best effort. In the end, these trucks showcase not only the diversity of cuisines you can find on the move, but also the quality and ingenuity of their intrepid entrepreneurial owners.

Don Pastor

Tacos from Don PastorX

Center Street, Riverwest, (262) 595-7827

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When it comes to taco trucks in Milwaukee, there are many worth patronizing. But when it comes to al pastor, the flavorful pineapple-scented pork at Don Pastor is some of the best I've found. It's tender, beautifully marinated and cooked on a trompo, a technique which is not only traditional but ensures tender, beautifully flavored meat. 

And yet, this food truck's riches do not end with tacos. Don Pastor's menu features a wide range of offerings from quesadillas and burritos to their one-of-a-kind pizza birria (you just have to try it).  But I'm a sucker for their amazing tortas. They're filled with flavorful meat, refried beans, queso, lettuce, tomato, avocado and crema, and they're so good I find myself craving them at the most inopportune times.

Most days of the week you'll find Don Pastor parked at the intersection of Center and Pierce Streets in Riverwest.

Dooby Dogs

The Jerry
The Jerry

Boone & Crockett
818 S. Water St.

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I love a no frills hot dog as much as anyone.  But, thanks to Dooby Dogs, I’ve also embraced the joys of dogs that are a bit more… creative.

Step up to the Dooby Dogs truck and you’ll find a menu filled with creatively topped Nathan’s all-beef hot dogs (or – if you’d prefer the trendier TikTok famous term – glizzies), all named for members of The Grateful Dead.

I’m a bit partial to The Jerry, which is a fine take on the Sonoran hot dog with lettuce, beans, bacon bits, tomato relish, a drizzle of avocado Tabasco and aioli and a topping of crispy onions and cilantro. It’s not only textural, but the combination of flavors is darn delicious.

However, if you’re looking for something more “traditional”, opt for The Billy topped with arugula, kraut, a drizzle of mustard and topping of pickled mustard seeds and dust (Chef Ciohon’s delicious housemade spice blend). Or get your Chicago-esque dog fix with The Bobby (topped with pickles, jalapenos, tomato relish, mustard, red onions and celery dust).

Speaking of dust, don’t ignore the addictively snackable dusted fries, which you can get with queso or loaded up with queso, beans, bacon bits, avocado Tabasco, sour cream, jalapenos, scallions, cilantro and shredded cheese.

Las Virellas

Tostones and Carne Frita
Tostones and Carne Fritas

Zocalo Food Park
636 S. 6th St., (414) 544-2175
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I’m a sucker for folks who have a great story. But it’s even better when the food they make is delicious. Such is the case for La Virellas, the Puerto Rican fusion truck that took up residence at Zocalo this summer serving a menu of churrasco, mofongo, arroz con gandules, jibaritos sliders and more. 

If I had to recommend just one thing to try it would be the mofongo combo with delightfully garlicky Puerto Rican shrimp and carne fritas (flavorful, tender pork, fried until crisp). The mofongo itself is among the most flavorful I’ve had, made from soft plantains, plenty of garlic, chicharrones and chicken broth.

Of course, the best idea is to sample some of everything. Head to Zocalo with friends and order Las Virellas “El Batey,” a sampler platter that feeds four to six with pernil (pulled pork), chicharron de pollo, tostones, sweet plantains, fries, arroz con gandules and bolas de queso (fried mozzarella balls with guava sauce). Top it all off with a round of their delicious (zero proof) Pina Coladas. They’re delicious.

Modern Maki

Bucks Sushi Burrito
Bucks Sushi Burrito

Zocalo Food Park
636 S. 6th St., (414) 748-6808

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There’s something special (and maybe more fun) about eating sushi in the open air, unconstrained by etiquette and the confines of tradition. And that’s part of what makes Modern Maki a must try.

The other part? Their offerings are simply filled with flavor. You’ll find a mix of sashimi and sushi that run the gamut from simple to creative. There are also sushi burritos, appetizers (think: gyoza, fried shumai and edamame), and combos that allow for sampling multiple items. 

I’m fond of the sushi burritos, which are easy to eat on the go (and unlike some seaweed wraps, they’re not chewy or tough). Try the Bucks Roll filled with salmon, ahi tuna, avocado, cucumber, asparagus tempura and eel sauce. It’s fresh and fun and filled with umami.  Pair it up with a Ramune Blue Hawaii, a blue Japanese soda that tastes a bit like cream soda with a citrusy zip.

The truck also just rolled out their seasonal ramen offerings including a less common shrimp udon with soy-based broth, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, boiled egg, nurutomaki, scallions, tempura crunch and two shrimp tempura with spicy aioli. Since I missed out on trying the ramen last year, I’m eager to head back for what I hope is an offering as equally compelling as the sushi. 

The Truck Stop

Smoke House Birria Tacos
Smoke House Birria Tacos

The Garage
1709 N. Arlington Pl., (414) 837-4194

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When longtime food truck owners from RollMKE and Pigtailz got together to form The Truck Stop, it was a concept made in comfort food heaven. And the deal may have gotten even better since the concept moved over to The Garage last spring. After all, there’s much to be said for having a stable food truck location that comes complete with a gorgeous patio and bar service.

If you’ve never paid a visit, there are plenty of great reasons to give it a try, from the indulgent brisket grilled cheese (braised brisket, cheddar, provolone, muenster, peppadew peppers, caramelized onions and arugula on 9-grain bread) to mouthwatering crunch wraps, crispy griddled tortillas filled with a choice of protein plus crunchy tostadas, lettuce, queso fresco, fresh pico and chipotle cream.

But they also do a truly stellar job on their unique riff on the more traditional birria taco featuring oh-so-Wisconsin beer-brased beef, Oaxaca queso, cilantro, onions and a side of smokey consomme. Available as a special on Tuesdays only, the smoke house birria tacos are worth their weight in deliciousness.

PS: You’ll also find brunch-worthy breakfast burritos, tacos, burgers and more on Sundays between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Pair them up with a great Garage bloody or mimosa and you’re set to go.

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.