Food truck trend hits Paris, and the results?

Not the permanent truck, FYI...

I remember walking out of my college dining hall in New York to the sight of a dessert truck, but after limitless ice cream and brownies, I couldn’t even tease the possibility.  It was 2008 and little did I know that I would be leaving New York just as the food truck craze would start sweeping the nation.  Oh well.

Hunkered down in a Parisian bistro or one of my favorite Asian restaurants, I wasn’t exactly nostalgic for food from a truck, especially not on typically chilly and drizzly Parisian nights.  I read about them, I saw that Food Network developed a TV show about them, but I had no connection to them.

Then the buzz started making its way around Paris that a food truck was in business, parking at different places around the city and serving up American style hamburgers.  With a French name like Le Camion Qui Fume, literally “The Truck that Smokes” – “The Smoking Truck?” – well I thought I’d see what the fuss was about.

Line cook magic...
I wasn’t expecting much, but when I saw that onion rings were featured on one of the burgers, I did get a little excited.  I called up a few friends and we were set to catch the truck Sunday evening at Pont Ephémère were it was parked for the night.  Upon arriving, a handful of other excited expats were anxiously awaiting the first round of burgers.

The Americans that operate the truck were finishing up some prep work while welcoming patrons and at 7PM they started taking orders – even though they advertised opening at 6, this left enough time to grab a beer.  The prix fixe at 10 euros seems steep for street food, but for a hearty burger, fries, and a table at the adjacent bar, it was quite a deal.

Choosing the burger was a no-brainer for me – obviously I’d take the Barbecue burger with bacon, cheddar, and of course a giant friend onion ring.  The Classic burger seemed like a good choice, as was the Bleu with Fourme d’Ambert cheese and a Porto sauce.  I was tempted by the Campagne with Gruyere and wild mushrooms but stayed with the Barbecue, given that it was the only option with bacon.

The production was quick as one chef laid out the buns while chef Kristin, a California native, flipped the burgers and piled them high with cheddar cheese.  No simple short order cook, Krisin studied at l’Ecole Supérieure de Cuisine Française Ferrandi à Paris.  The credentials got me a little more excited.  The little kitchen dance that chefs are required to master was even more difficult in the tiny truck, and all the more enjoyable to watch as they tossed ingredients in place while even smiling for a photo. 

We did have to wait a bit, though fortunately there the kitchen fireworks to mesmerize us.  Finally it was time to leave the rain and head inside the adjacent Pont Ephémère bar and bite into the burger.  It’s as simple as this: I’ve never had a burger that delicious in Paris.  Despite not asking how we’d like our meat cooked, the result was perfect.  You can dissect it all you want, but the melting of all of the fantastic ingredients in my mouth was entirely worth the wait. 

The current truck is, according to the owner, a prototype and will be upgraded eventually.  Check their website for times and locations across Paris.

Will I become a Le Camion Qui Fume junkie?  It all depends on how close they’re willing to park by my home…

Check out that stage...