Cheese Steak King and Kanak Attack
Come summertime, local foods carts, booths and trailers will spread out across the Rogue Valley's wineries, festivals and farmers markets.
But for now, downtown Medford has something of an outdoor food court: at least five or six units conveniently congregated near Rogue Community College and the Medford library to target students with affordable, globally inspired eats.
Although we can hardly compete with bigger cities' blocks of food vendors, Medford has picked up on the growing trend, and local entrepreneurs continue to come out of the woodwork. Two of our favorites, Figgy's Food Truck and Rocco's Amore, sit side by side Monday through Friday at the corner of Eighth Street and Riverside Avenue.
Rocco's panna cotta with pear, which received generous praise from one of our reviewers in 2011, is still on the menu as are espresso brownies. Two new sandwiches, Italian rolled-meatloaf and meatball, were added to the menu this week. Sandwiches are $8 each and come with Italian slaw.
Except for the signature Cubano sandwich, Figgy's lunch menu changes weekly. All items are made from scratch and reasonably priced around $6. Ingredients are locally sourced and, from May through October, come exclusively from owner Melissa Jones-Hanscom's mother's garden. See www.figgysfoodtruck.com.
I did some cart-hopping this week when the weather permitted and discovered two newcomers: Cheese Steak King and Kanak Attack.
Today is Cheese Steak King's first day at a new, more visible location, 35 W. Eighth St. Until now, the trailer was more or less lost on South Central Avenue.
The King offers nine versions of its namesake, including the original Philly with Cheezwiz, along with six burgers ($5 each), four hot dogs ($4 each) and, in the next couple of weeks, sandwiches made to order. Each special comes with a can of soda and side of greasy, fresh-cut fries. The "authentic" meat and bread come from Philadelphia.
I chose the special, 8-inch, classic New York cheesesteak with fries and soda for $8.95. The sandwich was loaded with thinly sliced rib-eye (not pressed meat), melted provolone and American cheeses and, thankfully, not too many onions. The meat conveyed the marinade without the mess factor.
The King is open from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Call 541-690-4066 to order ahead.
Kanak Attack operates a makeshift kitchen under a canopy at the corner of Ninth Street and Central Avenue and, on Friday and Saturday nights, at the corner of Main and Fir streets. Owners are Mathew Bladek and Justin Ray, the latter from Hawaii's Oahu, which supplies the stand's fusion flavors.
The menu is unique, brief and affordable — just what I look for in curbside dining. There's ramen, Korean meatballs with mozzarella filling and smoked kalua pork, served on a taco for $2, with rice for $3 or with rice and macaroni salad — traditional Hawaiian "plate lunch" — for $6. Kudos to Ray and Bladek, who make everything from scratch, including noodles, flour tortillas and mayonnaise for macaroni salad.
A co-worker spotted the ramen on the menu board and ordered a large, 32-ounce cup ($4). I ordered the taco meal ($6) with two tacos, rice and macaroni salad. The day's rice was gone, so Ray gave me an extra scoop of macaroni salad, which I prefer to rice. Sadly, the Korean meatballs also were sold out.
Unlike most local versions, the pork was more spicy than sweet, and the tacos were garnished with cilantro and pieces of canned pineapple.
The ramen was as basic at it gets — long, chewy noodles in a sesame oil- and chili-infused broth made by simmering pork bones in chicken stock — but as my friend said, "This is exactly the kind of street food you would want this time of year."
— Teresa Thomas