While the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books might be best known for its ability to draw in world-renowned writers, artists and musicians, its curated selection of food vendors can provide the perfect gastronomic complement to literary talent. With 17 different food trucks that will be parked on USC’s campus, here’s just a few from which to grab a bite.
Once a small food tent in a Long Beach-based farmers’ market, Belly Bombz serves patrons, Korean wings, bowls and fries. This gourmet cuisine caters to a broad audience with its ability to satisfy both hardcore wing enthusiasts and newcomers brimming with intrigue. The wings are the main focal point, as Belly Bombz offers boneless and bone-in options for meat lovers. Crispy tofu is an alternative for vegetarians. Spice levels showcase the complete spectrum, starting with sweet wings like soy caramel to hot wings like sriracha lime. The truck also combines a few ingredients to create unique wing flavors. Bomb dust mixes together a spicy Memphis BBQ dry rub with a sweet flavor, while zombie blends a roasted red bell habanero with buffalo sauce. The bowl portion features three meat options to pair with rice and greens — spicy Korean BBQ pork, soy garlic chicken and short ribs. On the side, customers can choose among garlic, bomb dust and spicy barbecue pork-loaded fries.
L.A. Cousins Maine Lobster
Since its humble beginnings in 2012 with a single food truck in L.A. Cousins Maine Lobster is a world-renowned business that rose to fame after being featured on the ABC television show “Shark Tank.” Expanding into 20 different trucks scattered across 13 cities in the United States, co-founders and cousins Jimmy and Sabin offer customers a wide variety of delectable seafood options. The menu is split into three main categories: rolls, bisque/chowder and specialties. The lobster rolls are their signature item, with two styles relating back to the founders’ roots — Maine, chilled with a touch of mayo, and Connecticut, served warm with butter and lemon. Similarly, the soups are available in two options — New England clam chowder and lobster bisque (both $6 per cup and $7 for a bowl). In the specialties section, one can find a wide range of items — ranging from lobster grilled cheese, shrimp tacos and lobster quesadilla. And rounding out the list, one can supplement their main entree with a side of tater tots or a whoopie pie for dessert.
Bringing Armenian flair to the festival, Hungry Nomad is one of the only trucks that will serve Mediterranean cuisine. The establishment serves homemade dishes the family has made for generations, evolving to incorporate Californian elements in the recipes. Sandwiches, wraps and salads encompass the majority of the menu. The chicken pesto and blue cheese steak sandwich are just a couple of the choices featured, with the blue cheese option “guaranteed to put a smile on your face” by the owners. Vegetarian options fill up nearly half of the menu, including items such as the avocado stack sandwich, the za’atar feta wrap and the fattoush salad — Hungry Nomad’s best selling item. On the side, baked za’atar chips are seasoned with a mixture of several Mediterranean herbs and hummus comes in heaping quantities, perfect to use as a dip for pita bread.
Boasting 100% raw, all-natural ingredients and 20 flavors, Palazzolo’s Gelato provides customers with one-of-a-kind creations. The company was formed to create “the finest gelato and sorbetto this world has ever tasted,” free of artificial ingredients such as fillers, pastes or powders. Its current menu offers a wide assortment of flavors, ultimately satisfying any palette. Looking for something rich and creamy? Triple dark chocolate, bourbon caramel pecan or cappuccino chocolate swirl can handle that. Something fruity? Fresh strawberry, mango sorbet or banana caramel praline can satisfy that spot. A more lighthearted flavor? Chocolate chip cookie dough and peanut butter cup can immerse one into delectable nostalgia. And there are various unique combinations to try, with toasted coconut almond fudge and Mexican chocolate chipotle appealing to the adventurous.
Rice Balls of Fire
Having by far the most experience of the five food trucks, with past establishments in the Bay Area, Guam and South Korea, Chef James Parker’s Rice Balls of Fire offers Asian fusion cuisine. Mixing together a plethora of cultures — Korean, Japanese, Hawaiian, Mexican and American — the extensive menu presents more than 30 items. Entrees come in various forms and sizes. Sushi burritos are packed with typical sushi ingredients, from sashimi tuna and salmon to various vegetables. Tater tot dishes fuse Asian cultures into the fried potatoes, creating concoctions such as bulgogi, kimchi and pork belly tots. Grilled cheese follows the same route, combining similar ingredients to make items such as bulgogi and pork belly grilled cheese. In a separate section, the menu unleashes a handful of particularly unique oddities, such as SPAM musubi, Korean BBQ burrito and spice popcorn KFC. Topping off the menu, fresh watermelon, slush boba and milk tea boba drinks can help quench anyone’s thirst.