There's a certain kind of food that tastes best eaten while standing in a concrete parking lot under the gleam of streetlights.
It's caloric and greasy and sometimes messy. It goes down better with a cocktail or cold beer.
You can find an Omaha version of it every night in the Old Market starting at 10, but don't expect something you'd find on a state fair menu.
What Localmotive Food Truck serves is original street food. It's crafted to be portable but doesn't skimp on creativity. It's street food for the thinking person.
The dish at the heart of what Localmotive does is a fried ball that the owners have named a “rounder.” Rounders are a treat to eat and an impressive feat of cookery.
A rounder looks like an oversized hush puppy: a big fried ball. But inside it's filled with any number of ingredients: Eggs and ham. Green chile and pulled pork. Sausage and gravy. And my favorite, a Reuben sandwich. Yes, you read that right.
Rounders come served in groups of three with an accompanying dipping sauce tailored to the flavor. How the chefs at Localmotive turn the distinct flavors of a Reuben into a small fried ball is beyond me, but I'm sold on the concept.
The Reuben rounder had a bit of sauerkraut, a bit of cheese and a pile of shaved-thin corned beef encased by a crisp-chewy golden exterior. The dipping sauce is, of course, a take on the classic Russian dressing.
We also liked the spicy pulled pork rounder, though not as much as the Reuben. The pork inside, shredded and soft to the bite, is blended with hominy, onion and Jack cheese and comes with a bright green chile salsa for dipping.
The rounders we tried came to us piping hot and grease-free — the perfect late-night appetizer that doesn't require silverware.
Omaha native Patrick Favara, who owns Localmotive along with Omahans David Burr and David Scott, said each rounder is made by hand. Favara spreads the house-made sourdough on a sheet, cuts it into small squares, stuffs each square and then pinches it shut. Rounders are cooked to order.
The best sandwich we tried was the Italian hot beef, a recent rainy night special. The truck has a special menu item every evening.
The hot sandwich, smothered in salty, rich beef gravy and seasoned, sauteed red and green peppers and onions, is the kind of thing you might find at a greasy spoon, but better. Each bite of tender beef almost melted in our mouths, and the gravy combined with a rich beef and tomato jus made the sandwich's soft roll pleasantly soggy. It was delightfully messy.
Favara said the staff dreams up the nightly specials.
“We try to provide a great deal of variation and include as many local, seasonal ingredients as possible,” he said in an email. “Often, we take ideas that you would serve plated in a restaurant and adapt them to a street-style format.”
That's definitely the case with the steak frites sandwich, which had me at hello. Steak frites in its traditional form is a personal favorite. Localmotive's version takes the frites and stuffs them right on top of the medium rare slices of steak, a stroke of genius. Served between two slices of French bread and smeared with black pepper aoili and tomato, the sandwich had an irresistible savoriness.
A soft cooked egg made a pleasant guest appearance on the “B.E.L.T.” sandwich, Localmotive's take on the classic BLT. Served on just slightly crisp focaccia with a hunk of cheese baked into the top, the sandwich came filled with salty bacon, seasonal fresh tomatoes, lettuce, a light mayo-like aioli and the egg. It's a simple but tasty sandwich with special touches especially good in this late summer heat.
The slow-roasted turkey, served on bruschetta, seemed like the healthiest of the items we tried. Served on French bread with alfalfa sprouts and mozzarella cheese, it didn't skimp on the smoky-tasting meat and was a nonfried option that still filled us.
When you eat at a food truck, there's not a lot to say about atmosphere. Localmotive does park in the Old Market, though, so there's something to look at while you eat. The truck's one regular daytime service takes place on Saturday mornings during the Farmers Market. We visited the truck around 10:30 or 11 p.m. on two weeknights, and there wasn't a line. But on Friday and Saturday nights, there definitely is, and customers can likely expect a bit of a wait for their food.
Service at the truck is friendly and prompt, and prices are right: both our late night dinners clocked in at $23 for two sandwiches, rounders and either drinks or a side of fries.
The side of Parmesan fries we tried were the one item we didn't love, though we probably should have eaten them first instead of last. By the time we got to them, they had cooled down enough to be a touch soggy. I've had Localmotive's Parmesan fries before — they have cheese along with truffle oil and come with a house-made chipotle ketchup — and liked them much more than I did this time.
It was a challenge for this 30-something to wait until 10 p.m. or later for dinner, and I found myself wishing that Localmotive opened earlier each night.
Favara said from the beginning the goal of Localmotive was to provide a quick, quality food option for food industry people, like cooks and bartenders, who get off work late at night. Since they began, they've catered events and served lunches on a periodic basis. “We may do evening dinners at some point,” he said. “Just not yet.”
To put it simply, Localmotive serves good late night food for the right price. Taking low-end food to a high-end level isn't always easy, but they make it look like a cinch.
On Friday, Sept. 20 Localmotive will be at the Whole Foods Food Truck Roundup from 5-7 p.m. Chicago Dawgs and Island Seasons food trucks will be there, too, along with musicians and activities for kids. The Omaha location of Whole Foods is in Regency and the event takes place in the store's parking lot.
Like all food trucks, the owners have a brick-and-mortar kitchen where they prepare the food before it's served from the truck's mobile kitchen.
Localmotive will make all its sandwiches without bread for gluten-free diners, and its French fries are gluten-free. Vegetarians won't feel left out: there's meat-free rounders and at least one meat-free sandwich on the menu all the time.