Food-truck culture in Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon, is very different from food-truck culture in Los Angeles. Here, trucks are mostly mobile and, aside from some creative paint jobs, they're less about aesthetics. In Portland, trucks and carts are often stationary and gathered together in food parks; in Austin, folks set up shop in cute little trailers and put out tables and chairs and never move.
Baffo Street Food, which is a new truck in the Arts District, reminds me a lot of Austin and slightly less so of Portland. It's tucked down a little breezeway between two buildings on Traction Avenue, and it's not going anywhere. It's not really a truck at all but rather a vintage Airstream camper that's been retrofitted to act as a kitchen. It shares a space with another Airstream belonging to the Giving Keys, a jewelry company that employs people transitioning out of homelessness. Tables and chairs are set up surrounding the Airstreams, and it all feels very Austin-ish.
Baffo's owner is a friendly Italian dude named Matteo, and his menu is a little bit Italian and a little bit Californian. Though he technically opens at 9:30 a.m., I was the only breakfast customer on the day I visited, and most of the food is more geared toward lunch, with around eight sandwiches, as well as a short smoothie menu.
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Thinly sliced prosciutto comes on fluffy, stretchy ciabatta with a fried egg, Parmesan, sundried tomatoes and pesto. There are croissant sandwiches, bagel sandwiches and a towering burger. Some of the best offerings are thanks to the very good Italian tuna used, such as the sesame bagel with tuna, alfalfa sprouts and avocado. Everything is $6 to $8, which is pretty damn cheap for decent-sized servings and food of this quality.
Most of the time I'd take L.A.'s roving food vendors or neighborhood taco trucks over the twee charms of Austin and Portland. But Baffo is a lovely option for an affordable, delicious lunch, and it gives the city another facet to its ever-expanding street-food offerings.
Baffo Street Food, 836 Traction Ave., downtown; (323) 702-8005.