Food truck festival brings global flavors to Westmoreland County |
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Shirley McMarlin

The third annual Westmoreland County Food Truck Festival should have something for every palate — include some dishes that might be new to Westmoreland County foodies.

“I can’t imagine somebody coming out and not finding something they like,” says event organizer Kelly Simon, of Simon Event Management in Greensburg.

Along with staples like burgers and barbecue, there will be ethnic dishes not often found in Southwestern Pennsylvania, she says.

The festival returns Sept. 13-14 to the Westmoreland Fairgrounds in Mt. Pleasant Township, with 23 food trucks, live music, vendors and children’s activities.

Global good eats

Simon says she is particularly intrigued by some of the new international cuisines coming, including Venezuelan street food from Cilantro & Ajo and “Zanzibar-style” dishes from Kilimanjaro Flavour, both based in Pittsburgh.

Along with a truck, Cilantro & Ajo has a small eatery in Pittsburgh’s South Side. Owners are Venezuelan natives Anthony Goncalves and Marlyn Parra.

They’ll be serving empanadas, pastries with savory fillings familiar from Mexican cuisine, and arepas, flat maize patties that can be split and stuffed with meat, eggs or vegetables. They also offer brown lemonade to drink.

“Brown lemonade — what does that mean?” Simon says. “I don’t even know what that is, but I know I want to try it.”

Grace Mbowe, owner of Kilimanjaro Flavour, came to Pittsburgh from Tanzania in 2012. The slogan on her truck says, “If you can’t make it to Kilimanjaro, climb it here!”

She will offer her Zanzibar-style boneless coconut chicken and shrimp, along with sweet plantains and an intriguing Wakanda Beef Stir Fry.

“That’s different from anything we’ve had before,” Simon says.

Monster smoker

Other, more familiar ethnic flavors also will be represented, including Italian, Mexican, Greek, Eastern European and Japanese hibachi-style entrees, poke bowls and sushi. Mobile Chef will put it all together with “world fusion cuisine.”

Taste of N’Awlins will have crawfish, gumbo, muffalettas, jambalaya and gator bites straight from the bayou.

Meat-lovers will find burgers, hot dogs, hot and sweet sausage and just about anything you can toss on a grill or slather with barbecue sauce.

Speaking of barbecue, Simon says, Jason Shenkle, of Latrobe-based Cruzin Cuisine will roll in with his 28-foot, custom-built smoker.

“It’s one of the largest mobile smokers north of North Carolina,” says Shenkle of the 6-month-old beast on a dual-axle trailer built by BBQ Smoker Pros of Dacula, Ga. “We can put 2,600 pounds of pork on at a time. That’s nine whole hogs.”

At the festival, Shenkle will have pulled pork barbecue, smoked brisket, chicken, ribs, smoked mac ‘n cheese and blackened shrimp tacos.

He notes that Cruzin Cuisine is a two-time Pennsylvania Rib Fest winner, awarded best brisket in 2018 and best ribs in 2019.

Go truck to truck

Simon says that the over-21 crowd will have 50 beer and 20 wine choices, and vodka cocktails also will be available.

“Almost all of the trucks will have some variation on a kids’ menu, too,” she says. “That’s important, because kids don’t want coconut chicken, right?”

The Friday entertainment schedule includes Over the Hill Gang, 4 p.m.; Willow Hill, 6 p.m.; and Let’s Groove Tonight Band, an Earth Wind and Fire tribute, 8 p.m.

On Saturday, it’s Second Wind, noon; Gashouse Annie and Friends, 2 p.m.; Jerry B and the Bonetones, 4 p.m.; Idol Kings, a Journey and John Mellencamp tribute, 6 p.m.; and Saddle Up, 8 p.m.

Children’s games and amusements will include a Steelers bounce house.

But the food is the star — and a form of entertainment itself, Simon says.

“People come out in groups. They love to go truck to truck and share what they get,” she says. “Then they sit for a while and then go try something else. And the trucks do a really good job of giving you lots of food for the money.”

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