The concept of the permanent food truck rally that is À La Cart brings with it one great advantage over other food truck gatherings. Yes, there is available seating, something that is often nonexistent unless you haul your own lawn chairs. And much of that seating is inside a pavilion, which not only offers said seating — at tables! — and shelter from the elements but also has a bar serving an impressive array of craft beers.
Nice things all. But the nicest advantage is something I didn’t realize at first. Something was missing here from other food truck rallies, and its absence makes À La Cart all the more enjoyable. The mostly permanent location allows the participating trucks to operate on electric power and leave their loud, smelly, gasoline chugging generators off.
So that artificial turf that serves as a central lawn around which the trucks are circled seems like a little patch of heaven.
À La Cart (the name is more clever with the missing e) is a new addition to the Milk District and sits on a patch — with parking — behind the popular Se7en Bites. There are some permanent trucks, that is, some vendors that are there every day, and there are some that participate on a rotating schedule.
Four trucks — trailers, to be more precise — were on hand the evening I visited. That’s not a lot compared to other truck events, but they offered a nice array. And their proximity made it easy to wander around and peruse the menus of each before making a selection.
I decided on a selection of empanadas from Adão, a Brazilian truck, and a Picahna platter from Steak It Easy, also Brazilian. (There was also Mexican and poke options.) The man at Adão handed me a pager, saying it would take about eight minutes to prepare the empanadas. The woman at Steak It Easy said about 10 minutes, with no pager. While I waited, I visited the pavilion.
The structure is tidy and has plenty of seating at long communal tables. Garage door walls open on to the central lawn, which also has tables with umbrellas. I looked over the selection of craft beers, chatted with the lone bartender about the properties of a couple of IPAs that caught my attention, and settled on the Southern Tier imperial IPA to sip while I waited.
I finished my beer (refreshing) and walked back to Adão just as the man was preparing to buzz my pager. My steak was also ready.
The empanadas are available individually priced, or you can get three for $10, which I thought was a good bargain. Interestingly, each turnover had a piece of paper with a number on it that corresponded to its menu listing. That was so I could know which empanada was which.
I think I would have been able to figure it out because each was pretty distinct. Of the three, I liked the beef and blue cheese filled one the best, although all of them were good and flaky. The provolone with a bit of sausage was good, too, but the chicken with bacon, chopped finely, seemed to have soaked up too much of the oil.
The Picahna was grilled to the requested medium rare and sliced into bite-sized bits. I chose the chimichurri to give it a little oomph, but I also liked that the piece of foil the meat was wrapped in had captured some of the juices. I poured them over the meat when I had replated it. The dish came with a choice of side. My choice of fries was a good one.
I like À La Cart. It’s a smart idea, and the Milk District is the perfect location. It’s nice to have a permanent food truck locale and even better to have one where you can sit and sip a cold beer.
À La Cart is at 609 Irvington Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-776-4693.