One of the highlights of my job is stumbling upon the new and unique.
Sometimes I luck out and discover a mobile foods truck that instantly captures my attention.
How I select the trucks I review comprises a myriad of things. For example, sometimes it’s a particular truck design that grabs me. Other times it’s the crowd gathered at a particular truck or series of trucks.
Then there are other times when I base my decision on trucks based on availability.
Fortunately I didn’t have to invest much thought in searching for today’s selection because when I arrived at the Miracle Mile Arts District of Los Angeles ~ one of LA’s most sought after hot spots for mobile foods, Auntie’s Fry Bread stood out from the pack ~ literally.
Figuring a truck named Auntie’s Fry Bread that specialized in Native American Fusion cuisine was worth investigating.
Before I go on to describe my meal I thought it best to share a little of the history of fry bread.
What is Fry Bread?
Fry Bread originated with the Native Americans who took dough and pressed it flat before frying in hot oil. The frying process causes the dough to puff up like a doughnut, so the best way to describe it is to say it’s a cross between a funnel cake and a pizza. I say pizza because in the case of Auntie’s Fry Bread they top the bread with assorted toppings like chili, cheeses and veggies. There are two ways to eat Fry Bread, you can either eat it flat or folded like a native New Yorker would fold a slice of pizza.
Unlike a thin pizza crust thats always baked, Fry bread is similar in the texture and airiness like Beignets (a popular New Orleans dessert pastry that’s typically dusted with copious amounts of powdered sugar).
Auntie’s Fry Bread traces back more than 20 years to Little Big Horn Days in Hardin, Montana. The creation of long time residents the Koyama family, the donut style bread was used as the foundation for their own version of fry bread tacos. As I mentioned earlier many of these early creations where typically topped with available meat, black and/or red beans and vegetables.
As a matter of fact the family attributes many of those early recipes from their local community of friends and neighbors.
Fast Forward To Today
Later generations of the Koyama family eventually settled in Los Angeles but quickly discovered that traditional fry bread was difficult to come by. Missing the comfort food that they were raised on back in Montana they soon recognized an opportunity to fill a culinary void in their new home and thus, Auntie’s Fry Bread was born.
“We decided it was time to take the family recipe and share it with the big city folk. T.”
Time To Load Up
After making my way to the truck I studied the menu for several moments to see what caught my eye.
While I read I was greeted by a young woman that eagerly educated me on the history of fry bread and offered to answer any questions I might have. After a brief orientation I felt I was ready to make my final selections.
I opted for the Fry bread combination plate that comprised my choice of three Loaded Fry Breads, not at all difficult since they’re only have four options on the menu.
“The Original” – The menu describes this dish as Auntie’s original recipe beef and bean chili made with a blend of spices.
Imagine a dollop of chili spooned on top of a too soft doughy shell, then topping it with a combination salad. That’s The Original in a nut shell. Overall I found it be decent enough dish. The reason why I chose the word decent is because I didn’t find anything particular extraordinary about the flavor of the chili that really wowed me.
Actually I would have expected it to have a little more a kick, perhaps from the seasonings or peppers neither of which I detected. But the primary thing that I didn’t impress me was the salad topping or as in the case of this particular Fry Bread the use of salad at all. Typically the only toppings I’d want on my chili would be cheese, onions, maybe some tomatoes and perhaps a dollop of sour cream.
I typically wouldn’t think to add a salad on top of the chili.
Of course I’m keeping in mind that this “street food” so combining ingredients is par for the course. But in this instance I sincerely felt that the lettuce actually distracts from the main event. The Chili. In essence I would have appreciated a heartier chili that offered a more well rounded and robust flavor and less salad.
Next Up: The Chicken Ranch – Hold The Call Girls
No, I’m not talking about the famous Dolly Parton movie about a brothel in Texas, The Chicken Ranch is the name of my second selection. This fry bread is a combination of grilled chicken that’s placed on top a bed of black beans, again it’s topped with a fresh salad of romaine lettuce and chopped tomatoes before drizzling it with ranch dressing.
I actually thought this Fry bread actually worked on many levels. I found the chicken to be moist and tender, but not highly seasoned. Admittedly I’ve become accustomed to food that pack a great deal of flavor.
Unlike “The Original” in this instance the salad works quite nicely. I felt that the ranch dressing lent a cool and comforting component to the grilled chicken and black beans.
My only complaint here was I felt the black beans were too wet to be served on top of bread that’s mostly air. As you may have already guessed the liquid from the beans soaks completely through the Fry bread making it challenging to eat as a folded taco.
Ultimately I finished it with a fork. The black beans had a nice rich flavor that worked beautifully with the grilled chicken and salsa.
For my final choice I selected the Three Sisters Veggie Fry bread – this one comprises a melody of fresh vegetables like grilled squash, onions, and sweet corn on top of a bed of black beans. To my surprise I loved this dish best. I thought the vegetables were cooked to perfection, they were tender and seasoned perfectly. The combination of the black beans with the light salad lightly dusted with the cheddar cheese all work very well together.
Again the area where I had to take away points was the undrained black beans, I’m sorry but the soggy Fry bread didn’t work for me.
The fourth Fry bread that I didn’t sample was “The Hunter” – this dish comprises barbecue beef that’s topped with coleslaw. I opted to forgo it figuring I’ve sampled quite a few barbecue related dishes lately and thought it time to try new things.
Auntie’s Fry Bread Does Desserts:
If you find you’re in the mood for something sweet then you’ll be in heaven. Auntie’s does a Fry bread that’s truly like funnel cake that you’d expect to find at a fair or carnival.
How It’s Prepared:
After the puffed bread is removed from the fryer you’re given several options of toppings to sweeten it up ranging from honey, butter, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, chocolate, caramel, strawberries n syrup. You can also have it plain (they refer to it as naked) I must warn you the bread by itself is not sweet so unless you plan to dip it in hot cocoa, you might want a topping.
On the day of my visit they didn’t have cinnamon sugar or chocolate the two things I would have selected, so I opted for honey. The warm honey worked nicely in this instance, I was pleased.
Another thing I want to point out is Aunties dessert breads are larger than the Fry bread tacos, coming in at a full eight inches in width compared to the tacos that are three inches.
I also must point out is that you do have the option to order any of the dishes mentioned in the early part of this review as either a full plate eight inch size like the dessert Fry breads or the three inch taco size.
My Overall Impression:
I found the service pleasant, as I mentioned at the start of the review I found the window attendant quite helpful which I totally appreciated. For that I’m giving a score of 4
The food I’m going to give a 3, not that I found my meal inedible, on the contrary, as a matter of fact while I ate I kept thinking to myself that the entire dining experience was a series of hits and misses. Great flavors on on some dishes, but they dropped the ball in my opinion regarding a few details like soupy beans served on bread not strong enough to support it. That was a missed opportunity.
In addition I would have liked to have tasted more of the chili in particular on “The Original”, I found the over abundance of lettuce distracting. Another thing that disappointed me was the fact that they were out of two of the seven dessert toppings at the start of lunch service.
Price – Very affordable. My meal total came to $13 for a combination of plate of three taco size Fry breads, and one dessert. On price I’m giving a 4.
Menu Selection 2.5
Menu wasn’t memorable enough in my opinion. But in my heart I know that that there is a lot more they can do here. The concept of Fry bread is quite cool so based on my experience today I know for a fact that they can take this concept, play with it and take it to whole other level. If they consider making some modifications to a couple of the items on the existing menu, like varying the ingredients for example, I’d gladly return for a repeat visit. Keeping that mind I’m going to give them a 2.5 for menu selection.
Truck Design – Creative, the design of the truck captured my attention instantly. That’s the first sign of a potentially good experience. For truck design I’m giving a 4.5
Education – As a far as Native American cuisine is concerned I can honestly say I’m not proficient, but I totally appreciate the owners passion to introduce diners to regional cuisine that most of us have not been exposed to, for that I graciously give them bonus points for having the eagerness to educate novice diners on the options available. For this I’m giving a 4.5
Overall Rating: 3.8 plates!
I would say keep you eye on Aunties Fry Bread, I know I will be. This is one of those trucks that if they reevaluate in a few key areas like menu options, and rethink a couple of ingredient options they can easily be a high four or five star truck easily. The resources are there.