Once marginal, food trucks have risen to become the fastest growing sector of the restaurant market in recent years. Their menus, previously restricted to the ubiquitous (street meat, pretzels) or the parochial (DC's half-smoke), have grown bolder and more diverse. There are now gourmet executions of old favorites, like cupcakes and grilled cheese, or total neologisms, like the Korean tacos making steady eastward progress from their point of origin in LA. But if there is a final barrier to shatter, it's the resistance to truck-borne health food. Most people assume that whatever they are handed through a sliding window began its life in sizzling grease.
Not so for fans of Ms. G's Tasty's, which traffics in the wholesome, the raw, and the vegan. At the helm of Ms. G's, which hit the road in September, is Gwendolyn Robinson, a New Haven native and teacher of fifteen years. In person, she is lively, passionate, and straightforward: "Healthy and good for your body is not nasty," she says by way of introducing what she sells. "It may not be as cheap as the dollar burger at the corner store, but you don't have to worry about going to the doctor as much."
Call it a conversion: a nineteen-year-old Robinson sat in the pews of her church as a health and wellness group delivered a talk. During a Q+A, the speakers stunned her by connecting a her poor diet to the frequent bouts of tonsillitis that had plagued her. She dropped "flesh" from her diet, then refined sugar, then animal products of all kinds. Cooking remained a passion of hers — she had once attempted to open a deli for a school project — but it stayed on the back burner. Finally, Robinson realized she couldn't wait any longer. "I can't just sit around and not do something," she remembers thinking. And so Ms. G's was born.
For Robinson, her truck's mission is in its mobility. "I want to get it out to people who can't come to me," she explains. In addition to bringing healthy food to those without the time to cook, Robinson does in-home demonstrations. Her offer? "I will help you do what you can do within your means: raw or cooked, healthful and tasty." Throw in a class for school kids, called Ms. G's Cool Kitchen Tools, and she has a full schedule.
On a busy sidewalk on York Street, Robinson warms up the griddle as students stop to watch. Her menu boasts everything from comfort food favorites like Get Well Chik'n Noodle Soup to Ms. G's Flavorful Flying Disk (Better than Pizza), a stir fry of vegetables and vegan cheese on a crisp tortilla. The flagship dish is Ms. G's Blazin' Burger, whose patty and bun are both homemade. The burger is deep, earthy and substantial — made with oats, onions, nuts and more inside — and the bread is a welcome answer to flimsy fast-food buns. It's good on its own, but it benefits from the many toppings Robinson offers, like a savory vegan cheese sauce, avocado, and fresh spinach. Robinson also serves specialty desserts. I'll be back to see what New Haven's innovative traveling chef dreams up.
Ms. G's Tasty's can be found on York Street between Chapel and Elm, or on Chapel Street near St. Rafael's Hospital. For more info, visit http://www.msgtastys.com