I am a big fan of food truck cuisine. It is my experience that what the typical food truck business saves on overhead (such as inside seating, décor, plumbing and such) can be (and usually is) invested in the quality of ingredients and uniqueness of preparation and presentation. Also, the food truck has the ability to go where the customer is, rather than waiting for the customer to come to them.
New York City is legendary for the street food vendors that serve that vast metropolis, as Johnson City has been ever since Spanqui’s came to town.
“Spanqui” is short for “Spanish ‘Yanqui’ ” as in Ms. Kiecha West, who offers a taste of “Spanish New York with a Southern twist” from a spotless white trailer outside Food & Treasures Antiques on the Jonesborough Highway.
West’s heritage (Spain, by way of New York City) and cookery knowledge can be found in Spanqui’s menu. Her recipes are her family’s, and each has her own unique take on a well-known dish.
Spanqui’s menu is food truck simple: sandwiches, hot dogs, soups, Spanqui’s specials and combos. Also like most food trucks, the menu can change on an irregular basis. West strives for authenticity in her cookery, buying her breads and spices from New York suppliers. My dine-around friends and I found out just how authentic when we stopped by after a day spent with area storytellers.
The Carnivore and the Dieter both hail from “up that-a-way,” and were intrigued about the “Spanish New York” bit. The Dieter ordered a Cuban Panini combo ($7) while the Carnivore chose the Philly Cheese Steak combo ($7).
I spotted an Eggplant Panini combo ($7), and my dining partner decided to try an authentic Sabrett-brand Hot Dog done New York Style ($2.50) adding a Chicken Empanada ($2) on the side.
As West busied herself with our orders, we each spent some time checking out the “treasures” part of Food & Treasures. I discovered the family cookie jar my partner had inherited had a twin, and a sizable cash outlay would be required should we need a replacement for the original. While pondering this, our orders arrived. We all found convenient seats around a nearby umbrellaed patio table and had at it.
The Carnivore’s substantial Philly Cheese Steak had thin-sliced steak paired with plenty of grilled onions and green bell peppers on a fresh-baked hoagie bun, a smear of melted cheese (-Wiz?) holding the mix together. I questioned the Carnivore as to its authenticity and got a slurp and a pleased grunt in response. His side order of potato salad was made with tasty Red Bliss potatoes garnished with chopped chives.
The Dieter’s Cuban Panini featured a marinated pork shoulder that was slow-simmered in West’s special spice mix, then stacked with thin-sliced ham and Swiss cheese on grilled ciabatta bread. Dill pickles and spicy mustard topped this creation, the whole of it well-paired with an excellent pesto pasta salad. The different textures of the crunchy bread, the pickles and the pliant, seasoned pork, ham and cheese nicely complemented the flavor bouquet of the sandwich The pesto pasta was freshly prepared and very good.
My eggplant panini had a properly dredged and fried slice of fresh eggplant topped with melted mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce on grilled ciabatta bread. My meal was positively scrumptious, especially so when sided with the freshest sun-dried tomato pasta I’d ever tasted.
Half of my partner’s Sabrett hot dog got divvied up between the rest of us. Tasting my piece awoke memories of Saturday afternoon baseball games. Savoring the added yellow mustard and mildly acidic sauerkraut, both the Carnivore and Dieter pronounced my partner’s Sabrett hot dog as “New York-authentic.”
Then there was my partner’s chicken empanada. Spanqui’s spice selection infuses the shredded and slow-cooked chicken, which then gets tucked into a dough turnover and deep-fried until golden. The result is a marvelous dish of wonderfully spiced chicken in a light and crunchy turnover. Two of these and a drink are less than $6, an excellent lunch or supper value.
As mentioned previously, the menu changes on an irregular basis, and Ms. Kiecha West also does special seasonal dishes (such as a turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce panini for the holidays) so it is wise to give Spanqui’s a call. Alternatively, you can check out the Food & Treasures Facebook page to see what’s cooking.
Speaking of special dishes, we topped our meal off sharing a Spanqui’s Amaretto & Caramel Bread Pudding ($3.50). “You have got to try this,” my dining partner said, pushing a forkful into the Carnivore’s mouth. “Good?,” she asked. “Mmmm-hmm,” said the Carnivore around a smiling mouthful of bread pudding.
(outside Food & Treasures)
3694 West Market St.
Mon-Fri 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sat 10 a.m.- 3 p.m.
Credit cards accepted