UPDATE: Sadly, the Rockabilly Diner has closed.
The Houston City Council is making it tough on food trucks. While many are operating in the city, they face an unaccommodating legal environment that makes it tougher for these creative mobile kitchens to offer a great experience for their customers.
Seating? No can do. Shaded seating? You're kidding, right?
These factors alone put food trucks at a huge disadvantage compared to standalone restaurants. Eating standing up isn't any fun. Eating standing up under a hot Texas sun is even less fun. Yet customers will endure these inconveniences if the food is good enough.
Even with these stumbling blocks, food trucks persevere, and some even thrive. Hopefully the city council will someday change these anticompetitive regulations and let trucks compete without artificial barriers (that seem to be written by brick-and-mortar restaurant associations.)
Until then, some trucks will take refuge outside the city limits of Houston, where the regulations are based on health and safety, and not make-believe fantasies of back-of-the-truck drug deals and apron-wearing terrorists operating behind the grill. (You can't make this stuff up.)
Enter the Rockabilly Diner, a food truck located just west of Kuykendall on FM 2920 (the first major road south of the Woodlands.) Eschewing both the hipsters and the silly regulations found Inside The Loop, Rockabilly converted a vacant spot near a busy intersection into an al fresco location for lunch or dinner that's a real change from the typical suburban restaurant.
Parking is ample, and the bright yellow trailer houses a modern kitchen that would be right at home in a small mom-and-pop restaurant.
|The kitchen at Rockabilly Diner|
At the back of the property is a small seating pavilion, with a pair of picnic tables and a sturdy fan providing a breeze even when Mother Nature isn't cooperative.
|Seating area at Rockabilly Diner|
The entire property is clean, neat, and well kept, with little homey touches that remind you that Rockabilly isn't a corporate concept cashing in on the food truck craze.
Stepping up to the counter, we're immediately greeted by Chad McMullen, a Brooklyn transplant who's been in Texas long enough to add "y'all" to his vocabulary. Chad is passionate about burgers, and his enthusiasm comes through loud and clear. And his excitement is resonating with customers - Rockabilly has recently extended its hours from 11am to 8pm, serving the dinner crowd as well as those craving a burger for lunch.
On this, our first visit, we followed Chad's suggestions, and ordered a Bacon and Cheese Rockaburger. Based around a hand-formed one-third pound beef patty, it's topped with your choice of several cheeses, generously sliced bacon cooked on the griddle right beside the patty, and the usual array of traditional burger toppings.
|Burgers and bacon coexisting on the griddle at Rockabilly Diner|
Nothing was started until our order was placed - no precooked patties here. Or even precooked bacon, something that's very common at even the best burger joints. We applaud Chad's dedication. Another interesting observation: Chad covers the burger patty with a lid on the grill, the same technique that Ricky Craig at Hubcap Grill uses to such great effect.
After a reasonable time for cooking and production, our burger appeared, wrapped in foil and placed within an insulated foam carrier. This burger is packaged to travel well, but the only vacation in its future was into my stomach.
|Bacon and Cheese Rockaburger at Rockabilly Diner|
All this attention to detail was put to the test when we bit into the Rockaburger. The coarsely ground beef was cooked medium well, but the covered griddling technique resulted in a nicely juicy patty, and perfectly melted cheese (pepper jack, as was Chad's recommendation). The beefy flavor was front and center, seasoned gently with salt and pepper. The hot-off-the-griddle bacon added a nice smoky counterpoint, and had a firm, dense, chewy consistency. Veggies were crisp and fresh. Our only disappointment was a slight one - a rather pedestrian bun that was neither toasted or griddled, but it did it's job holding everything together.
All in all, a very good burger, and one that we look forward to enjoying again.
There was a considerably lunch rush of Houstonians enjoying a burger in the great outdoors, comfortably seated alongside friends and strangers under the pavilion. It's a shame that every food truck can't offer this sort of experience to its guests, but we're happy that the Rockabilly Diner has picked a location that allows for this kind of great experience.
We'll be back.
Rockabilly Diner | 6149 FM 2920 (Just west of Kuykendahl), Spring