1111 E. Sixth St. 512-939-1927; 61 Rainey St. 512-609-9405, via313.com.
Most people in Austin hadn’t heard the term “Detroit-style pizza” when brothers Zane and Brandon Hunt opened their Via 313 food truck outside East Austin’s Violet Crown Social Club in December 2011.
The truth is, most people in Detroit probably didn’t know the moniker, either. In Detroit, the kind of thick, square slices Via 313 serves are just called pizza. (Don’t worry about this mysterious place called Detroit, they also eat round pizzas like the rest of the world.)
When the Hunts realized their creations were a novelty down here, they slapped the “Detroit-style” tag on the pizza. The move was a blend of marketing savvy and a way to rep their allegiance for their hometown. So is the name – 313 is Detroit’s area code.
In the tradition of the pies in the Motor City, the Hunts bake their pizzas in metal tins modeled after auto-part pans. The squares have bronzed, crispy edges that encompass fluffy, buttery dough. Their secret ingredient to help get that blend of crunch and pillowy suppleness? Likely those jars of Crisco I’ve seen through the trailer window.
The signature Detroiter ($13) buries savory smoked pepperoni under a protective layer of cheese with small cups of natural-cased pepperoni on top. Sauce is added like a rivulet of lava after the pizzas leave the oven, giving a bright, acidic burst to the bite. The pizzas are divided into four squares — meaning each slice is a coveted corner piece — and can feed one very hungry person or two people with tamer appetites. The Violet Crown Social Club location also sells slices of cheese ($3) and pepperoni ($3.50).
Via 313 serves more than a dozen specialty pies. One of my favorites, the decadent Cadillac ($16), blends the salt, sweet and funk of prosciutto, Parmesan, balsamic glaze, fig preserves and gorgonzola. The vegetarian options are highlighted by the Herbivore ($12), which melds earthy crimini mushrooms with the snap of green peppers and briny flavor of black olives. You can create your own pie from a roster of about two dozen quality ingredients you won’t find at industrial pizza places. Gluten-free and dairy-free options are available for an extra $2. Wash it down with a grape-flavored Faygo soda pop from (where else?) Detroit.
The brothers, who worked various pizza jobs as teenagers, moved here about five years ago lured in part by Austin’s “live and let live attitude,” Brandon Hunt said. Despite their brawny, tatted exteriors, their motivation to go into business for themselves came in part from a tender place. Their mother’s death at 55 inspired the brothers to actively follow their passion instead of just talking about it.
They opened a second trailer in late 2012 at the Red Shed Tavern, which they moved to beer bar Craft Pride on Rainey Street last summer. They are also very close to announcing plans for a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Don’t worry, hungry bar hoppers — the trucks aren’t going anywhere.
1720 Barton Springs Road. 1905 S. Capital of Texas Hwy. 75 Rainey St. 512-827-8479, tapasbravas.com.
Business partners and former globetrotting companions Jed Holdredge, Lisa Choo and Alex Hord started serving Spanish food from their food truck on Rainey Street in summer 2012 and have since expanded to include two more locations. Barton Springs Road’s newest food-truck court, the Picnic, is home to the latest in the growing fleet of silver Tapas Bravas trucks that shine like the business end of an iron emblazoned with a red bull.
An expressive buff-colored aioli and a spicy tomato sauce that tastes piqued with guajillo chilies drape the crispy potato hunks in the Spanish staple patatas bravas ($8). The aioli also comes with the woodland-colored fried Brussels sprouts ($8). The caramelized veggies are as good as you’ll find at any trailer in town.
Also make sure to try the slippery piquillo peppers ($7). Toasted pine nuts ride a wave of tart goat cheese that bursts from the mild electric-colored peppers. A tomato-brandy sauce gives some sweet punch to tender pork meatballs ($7) that could use a firmer sear.
Tapas Bravas serves lunch and dinner at the gorgeous, shaded new facility in front of the Coldwater apartment building, where it’s joined by the excellent Seedling Truck; Ms. P’s Electric Cock (fried chicken); Hey! Cupcake; Hey! You Gonna Eat or What?; and longtime Austin favorite Mighty Cone.
The owners of Tapas Bravas are also opening Tiger Lily, a food truck serving Southeast Asian cuisine, at the Midway Food Park on RM 620. They planned to open Friday.
810 Vargas Road.
This electric-blue, wood-sided trailer with a string of holiday lights sits in the parking lot of Mari’s Coin Laundry just a few blocks from Roy G. Guerrero Park in Southeast Austin.
The trailer opened about five years ago by two sisters is located across from a church and has created such a loyal following that even food celebrity Anthony Bourdain made a pilgrimage. He likely left impressed by the handmade corn tortillas, bubbled by heat and curled and crunchy at the edges. They wrap a selection of tender, juicy meats, including the light citrus tingle of pastor, a succulent and peppery barbacoa and a smoky, firm and deeply flavored suadero, which was described to me as brisket, though I see differing opinions online. The tacos come topped with cilantro and diced white onions, with a chunky, fiery red salsa and a gentler, smoother green chile salsa. And if you get lucky, you might be able to get dessert from a roving paleta man on bicycle.
My remedial Spanish let me down when trying to figure out what guilota were (more commonly spelled huilota), but when I discovered it was quail, I knew I had to return for the enchiladas con guilota ($8). And a good friend reprimanded me for missing out on the barbacoa torta ($5). Looks like I know what I’m getting on my next visit.
There are more than 1,200 food trucks operating in the city of Austin. Some are mobile, some can be found in bunches at dedicated food trailer parks and others have their own spaces in parking lots around town. In this occasional series, I take a look at some of my favorite food trailers/trucks around town. Have a favorite of your own? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org For more of my favorite food trucks around town, visit austin360.com/trailertrio.