Raising the Bar: Tel Aviv's Truck Deluxe Offers Way-out Street Fare

When was the last time you ate a hotdog with maple syrup or oxtail nuggets? Truck Deluxe, new at Dizengoff Center, features fun American food at decent prices.

Tomer Appelbaum

Really, I feel sorry for people in the Tel Aviv food business. It’s no longer enough to prepare good food, it also has to be unique. Plus, the location has to be promising and busy. And if we’ve already gotten this far, then the stall or the restaurant should be original in form and in character, and expand culinary horizons. All that, so that we for our part will be able to get there before anyone else, order something, post a photo on Instagram, check it off our to-do list, and go on to the next place that’s the talk of the town.

In that sense, the new bar-stall-fast-food restaurant, Truck Deluxe, meets these conditions, and more. It opened just this past weekend on 13 Ben Ami Street, at Dizengoff Center, which is a place with a great deal of unrealized potential, which has seen better days. Truck Deluxe is in effect a lighter version of the Jaffa restaurant Pundak Deluxe, and like it, offers various barbecue-style meats, but also boasts American street food.

This is a charming attempt to connect with the American “food truck” trend, which began in the 1980s and has been flourishing again during the past decade in the bastions of “cool” on the East and West Coasts, as well as in other places worldwide. And at a time when an increasing number of local eateries go by the name of “meat bar,” if only because they have a bar counter with high stools, the Truck really gives a sense of being a bar – in its design, music, alcohol and human vibe.

What about the food? An impressive menu, first and foremost in terms of quantity. New places usually focus, as they should, on a small selection of dishes, which is supposed to make things easier for the kitchen, as well as maintaining a uniform level of quality. But at Truck Deluxe they are aiming very high: Almost 15 main courses, five side dishes, five first courses, 12 cuts of meat and four different desserts.

Tomer Appelbaum

This modular menu, with a price range between 10 and 50 shekels (roughly $2.50 to $12.50), for the most part, provides a particularly exciting experience for carnivores, who can choose the quantity and type of meat that they prefer. We were happy to dive into our tray containing pieces of smoked goose breast (22 shekels per 100 grams) and pulled pork (22 shekels per 100 grams), oxtail nuggets (39 shekels), and hotdogs in maple syrup (29 shekels).

The goose was very juicy and meaty, properly smoked, accompanied by a crisp pieces of fat that added flavor and were the tastiest aspect of this part of the meal; the pulled pork, with soft slow-cooked pieces, was very nice, as were the oxtail nuggets, which were a fun snack (although the deep frying naturally affects the delicate flavor of the meat).

The interesting hotdog missed the mark somewhat – at Truck Deluxe they enjoy playing with sweet-and-sour, and maple syrup is a familiar and not at all bad addition even to dishes that are not desserts. But instead of leaving slight traces of flavor that would have given the hotdog a twist, the syrup was too strong and made the hotdog too sweet.

Between courses we also sampled two of the side dishes. The French fries were thin and ordinary, but we went for the jack cheese version (18 shekels), which adds melted cheese sauce to the already sinful food; that was a good thing, because without this addition the fries were nothing special. At the same time we also tried the macaroni and cheese (12 shekels).

We continued with the “trailer trash burger” (47 shekels), a hamburger in a brioche with cheddar cheese and bacon strips, which arrived after quite a long delay and was therefore subtracted from the bill.

This is the place to mention to the credit and detriment of Truck Deluxe: Good, pleasant service is no negligible thing during a busy trial-run period, and the service we encountered here – from the hostess at the entrance, to the waiter and the kitchen – was wonderful. Moreover, the large variety of dishes on offer did not affect their meticulous preparation; all the food arrived in the required quantity, quality and degree of cooking.

But that comes at a price: Truck Deluxe, as opposed to its American source of inspiration, is not truly a fast-food restaurant and I find it hard to believe that it will succeed in being one even after the Truck accumulates mileage (for now, it is open all week long, from 7 P.M. until midnight). The number of people it holds multiplied by the amount of food ordered and divided by the small kitchen doesn’t leave much room for maneuver.

In short, if you’re in a hurry after your meal to catch a film at the Dizengoff Center cinema, come early.

At Truck Deluxe we finally had wonderful bacon, prepared exactly right and with the distinct flavor, but in a moderate dosage. We wanted the meal to end here, maybe it should have, but the dessert list provided us with a strange option that had to be checked out: American ice cream with salty caramel and bacon (17 shekels). You can give this piggish addition a miss, indeed maybe you should, because the bacon chips don’t add or detract from the wonderful sweet ice cream, which is perfectly balanced by the caramel.

This is fun food that is well prepared, properly served and reasonably priced, giving Truck Deluxe almost everything it takes to become one of the most popular eateries in the city.