Having street smarts is critical to living in New York City. That's especially true if you love food and are looking to digest as many different global cuisines as possible. Street Spice Food Truck's Chef DaRel Daniels (www.streetspicefoodtruck.com), who moved to Charlotte from Brooklyn back in 2008 to study at Johnson & Wales, takes international fare to heart. But Southern comfort foods and American classics make his stomach grumble, too. He needs a daily dose of bacon cheeseburgers and a side of fries never hurts. The menu's Spice Street Bowl serves any of the truck's signature sliders over curly fries.
Daniels, 29, opened the food truck two years ago with a focus on sliders that give a nod to international influences.
Last May, he picked up two awards at South End's Charlotte Food Fight for his Brazilian Churrasco Steak Slider.
The slider, featuring flank steak that's grilled and topped with a crispy plantain, comes to life with chimichurri, a green sauce from Argentina.
The menu features four other sliders, including the Middle Eastern Falafel, Hawaiian Teriyaki Chicken, Bacon Cheeseburger and Cajun Crabcakes. If you're in the mood for something sweet, the Banana and Nutella Wontons are your best bet.
Look for Daniels' truck, with an Uptown Skyline image on the side, at upcoming food truck rallies and be sure to taste test his grub at this year's Charlotte Food Fight, where he plans to defend the titles of "People's Choice" and "Chef's Choice."
Creative Loafing: Sliders, fries, mac and cheese and Brussels sprouts are comfort foods and all-American classics. But there are international influences on the menu, including the falafel burger instead of a more traditional veggie burger and Banana and Nutella Wontons instead of a more traditional dessert. What made you decide to mix it up?
Chef Daniels: The menu focuses on the food that I like to eat and the food that my fiancée likes to eat. The regional food that I grew up with in Brooklyn was so diverse. People from all around the world were sharing their foods and there were all these Middle Eastern markets and Chinese markets and just so many different ethnicities in one place. I like to bring out some of those influences and flavors and diversity in my food truck.
For folks who like cheese, there are a lot of options on the menu — from Mac and Cheese Bites and Smoked Gouda Mac N Cheez to Street Spice Fries, which are topped with smoked gouda cheese sauce. What made you go goo-goo for gouda, as opposed to other types of cheese?
The smoked gouda we use has a meaty, bacon-like flavor, but you can use it without meat to create something that's still a vegetarian option. I like the smokiness and the complexity of the flavor of smoked gouda, rather than any of the other cheeses. It has a meaty undertone without the meat.
You and your fiancée, Brooke Barber, work together on the food truck. What's it like to share those duties in such a small space with someone you see all the time?
We stay in our lanes. I'm the chef, so I'm in the kitchen and she helps me with the business management part of it. She definitely takes a big interest in how we're perceived by the public. We handle our roles well and we cross paths to make sure everything is done in a unified voice. It's been great. I have no complaints.