Lunch voyages to Slightly Salty remind me of why food trucks first became fashionable. It’s about serving gourmet restaurant food without paying big rent. When the economy took a dive, creative chefs hit the streets, and the foodies followed them.
Slightly Salty’s big, pristine blue truck with the pig painted on it brings a new kind of cuisine to the unpretentious local food truck collection at the Kahului boat ramp. Chef Lanning Terrell’s menu delights with its handmade pastas, delectable sandwiches served on brioche and impeccable proteins like pork belly, shrimp and crab.
“I started in the food truck business because it’s like half the cost of having a restaurant,” says Terrell. “We have a small operation here–we are a real mom and pop, literally.”
Terrell is from So Cal, but culinary education and travels have taken him as far as London, where he paid his dues working in the kitchen of Gordon Ramsey’s Savoy Grill. Terrell’s also been to New York, Hollywood and has worked in Wolfgang Puck’s Spago and in David Paul’s Island Grill. But when the food truck bug bit, Slightly Salty was born.
Terrell recruited his mom and dad, Mary and Gary Terrell, to the Slightly Salty team. Gary says they found the truck in New York, came up with their concept and painted it bright blue. I stalked the truck for a few weeks to try all of the menu items, and it was pretty much love at first bite.
Their menu is shamelessly rich. One day I asked if there was any salad–there was no mention of it on their obvious and displayed menu, but thought for a second that they might be hiding that from me. My question was met with a quick “nope.”
Their braised pork belly sandwich on a brioche bun is dolled up with crunchy fried onions, secret sauce, guacamole, green lettuce and Kamuela tomatoes. The crab balls are one of my favorite dishes–they’re basically four crab cake balls served on homemade fries with lemon aioli. It’s a riff off their crab cake sandwich, for those who still want the crab without the bun and fix-ins. Their lemon aioli is fresh and tangy, and is terrific on the crab balls as much as the fries.
“The crab cake has lump crab and crab claw meat in it,” says Terrell. “I also put in red pepper and corn. But that texture you like is from the mix of the claw and lump meat.”
Shoyu chicken gets a makeover in their dish, which is a surprising fusion of barbecued chicken and shoyu chicken preparations. Terrell takes the boneless marinated chicken and grills it, then chops the cutlet into chopstick ready bits and pours on a special shoyu sauce. The plate is served with sticky rice embellished with sauce and their mac salad. The mac salad is a delicacy, too–light on the mayo but comes with chopped celery and is topped with herbs.
Their tacos are the lightest dish on the menu. They’re two corn tortillas that are grilled and stuffed with pork or shrimp. The shrimp is seasoned and grilled, nestled into shredded greens for crunch, then lightly sprinkled with salsa, cheese, guacamole, sour cream and cilantro. The flavor of the shrimp really gets to shine. They wrap them in a tin foil tower so they don’t get soggy or smashed.
The handmade fries are another treat. I feel less guilty eating them, mostly because they aren’t processed. Their house-made pasta is a treat, too, with shrimp, tomato and alfredo sauce made to order and garnished in fresh basil. Look for specials like the loco moco burger, too.
I originally thought the name Slightly Salty had to do with their selection of seafood. But Terrell set me straight.
“The classic chefs are known to be a little bitter and angry,” says Lanning. “And our pig looks a little salty, too. It’s a dual meaning–’slightly salty’–it’s the food and the chef.”
You’ll find Slightly Salty parked at the Kahului boat ramp Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:30am to 3:30pm and on Facebook at Slightly Salty 808.