In the past four years, I’ve sampled the wares of more than 50 food trucks. I’ve nibbled, gnawed and slurped my way across the colorful and ever-changing gastronomic landscape, from barbecue to beignets, from Chinese dumplings to Lithuanian chicken pastry, from Venezuelan arepas to Israeli shakshuka.
I’ve tasted a rainbow of flavors, textures and styles: sweet, savory, spicy, creamy, crispy, chewy and comforting, just to name a few.
But I can think of only one dish I’ve ever gotten from a food truck that I’d describe as elegant: pan-seared scallops at Hale Yeah Kitchen. Mind you, I’m not talking about the presentation. The scallops are served over Asian slaw in a foil-lined paper tray. This is a food truck, after all.
But you could close your eyes after biting into one of these scallops, and easily imagine that you’re sitting in a fine dining restaurant. I mean, these beauties are huge (U-8 to U-10, for you shellfish aficionados), and they’re cooked precisely to the point where the innermost part of their briny-sweet flesh turns opaque beneath a textbook sear. Served three to an order, they’re pricey by food truck standards ($16), but a bargain compared to restaurant prices.
You’ll also get your money’s worth if you spring for the $15 New England lobster roll. The lobster — mostly sizable lumps, lightly dressed in mayo — is so generous that it spills out of the traditional grilled-to-order split-top bun when you pick it up.
If you’re so inclined, you can opt instead for a warm lobster roll — an offering that will come as no surprise when you learn that owner/chef Patrick Hale grew up in Connecticut, where the warm version is favored.
Hale started the truck a year ago with his wife, Cheryl, who works at Research Triangle Park by day and is the friendly order taker in the truck’s window in the evening.
Scallops and lobster rolls are just a couple of options on a menu that Cheryl Hale aptly describes as “surf and turf.” You’ll typically see a handful of sandwiches (fried flounder, grilled chicken, 7-ounce rib-eye) and a hodgepodge of other nibbles (corn dog, pork egg rolls, and a very good cucumber salad with feta cheese) listed on the whiteboard by the window.
Missing from the menu when I was there was a cheesecake that I’d heard rave reviews about. Now that I know that it’s made from Patrick Hale’s grandmother’s recipe (he describes it as “an old English recipe, lighter than New York-style”), I’m more eager than ever to pay a return visit to Hale Yeah Kitchen. Maybe next time I’ll venture into the “turf” side of the menu.
Who am I kidding? There’s no way I’ll be able to resist an encore performance of those scallops. Or maybe the lobster roll. Okay, both.
Hale Yeah Kitchen
Prices: sandwiches $8-$10, lobster roll $15, scallops $16