Nov. 21, 2009 -- Last month, "Good Morning America Weekend" put out a call for the best food carts in America. Hundreds wrote in telling us about their favorite street food in communities across the country. Now we've narrowed the contest down to four finalists, and it's time to vote.
Parked on a street in midtown Manhattan is nominee "Street Sweets." Within the cozy confines of their fully equipped mobile kitchen, Grant Di Mille and Samira Mahboubian whip up a daily assortment of oven-fresh cookies, brownies and cream-filled treates. Street Sweets' signature creation and contest entry is called "The Marcarella," a thin coconut macaroon filled with the hazelnut-chocolate spread, Nutella.
"We came up with the idea on a rainy Friday afternoon when Grant said, 'We should sell coconut macaroons dipped in chocolate,'" Mahboubian said. But the idea of having a pot of melted chocolate was too much for Mahboubian, so she improvised and came up with the cookie sandwich.
"I thought it was the most incredible thing I've ever had," Di Mille said. "Our customers love it, and we cannot make enough of them."
Dubbed as Seattle's sauciest food truck, Marination Mobile specializes in a fusion of Hawaiian and Korean flavors in their curb cuisine.
Interesting combinations come easily to co-owner Kamala Saxton, who is of Hawaiian-Korean descent. She draws heavily from the two cultures to whip up new itineraries for your tongue, then brings you home in familiar envelopes such as white mini buns, tortillas and sweet rolls.
Saxton put to the challenge Marination's spicy pork taco, a progressive version of a classic Korean bulgogi: two warm corn tortillas stuffed with luscious red pepper spiced pork and topped with their tangy signature slaw, a secret "Nunya" sauce, pickled jalapenos, lime wedge and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
"It's one of our most popular items," she said. "Our customers said this is it. We had one signature item, and they said put the taco on the list. And we listened to them."
Chickpea Sandwich and Organic Burger
Our third nominee comes from Portland, Ore., a city known for its street food. Garden State is one of the nearly 500 food carts in the city, but it stands alone offering a unique "Sicily-Meets-New Jersey" style cuisine.
Owner Kevin Sandri is famous for his hand-crafted sandwiches, but his chickpea sandwich keeps customers lining up. It's a house-made herbed chickpea patty lightly fried, served on a soft ciabatta roll with lemon aioli and garnished with lettuce and a grated carrot radish slaw.
"Do something interesting and good, and people will find it," Sandri said. "I've been lucky enough people found me."
We found our final nominee, Local 647, parked at a winery in rural Delaplane, Va. Owners Derek Luhowiak and his wife, Amanda, feature good American food, sourcing all their ingredients locally, some from their own garden.
They cook everything to order in their tiny stainless-steel kitchen, including a hamburger customers rave about. Their half-pound of juicy organic, grass-fed beef is topped fresh onions, melted cheese, hand-picked greens with house-made ketchup, picked relish, mayo and mustard.
"We just want to give people the gift of health," Derek Luhowiak said. "Good clean food, knowing your farmer and where your food comes from. It's a nice experience to see people get to really know each other and bring a little bit of community."
So who will earn the title of America's Best Food Cart? You decide.