The past decade in Central Florida has seen a paradigm shift in the dining scene, transmogrifying the food truck from roadside convenience to gourmet thrill. And Kissimmee's World Food Trucks is the grand natural evolution. Holding claim to being Central Florida's first permanent food truck park, World Food Trucks is now a buzzing hive of over 50 vendors bundled in a backlot on the tourist corridor's more affordable strip, directly across from Fun Spot Kissimmee.
While hubs like the Milk District's À La Cart take a small and curated approach, World Food Trucks, like the outlet malls in that area, is an explosion of abundance and choices. Unlike your average state-fair congregation, however, this food village is particularly worthwhile as a truly ethnic experience. Although its global name is warranted, it only scratches the surface of the story here. In actuality, World Food Trucks is an international tour of street food refracted mostly through the lens of Latin America.
From the menus to the proprietors, this is very much a Latin space with Spanish as the primary language. Thus, the food offerings here are a bright blur of the flavors of Puerto Rico (viva mayoketchup, the original Pink Sauce!), Dominican Republic, Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, El Salvador and the Caribbean. Also present in the lively mix are foods from China, Japan, Italy, America and the Middle East. Interestingly, though, those non-Latin cuisines often bear a uniquely Boricua spin here.
Befitting a destination that's by Latin people and largely for Latin people, the traditional food on tap here is unsurprisingly authentic. The La Fiebra Del Sabor Criollo truck, for example, dishes out reliable Puerto Rican classics like mofongo churrasco al ajillo ($17), a well-seasoned version of the plantain-mash staple served with skirt steak that kicked with garlic. Though simple, the empanadillas ($4) at Antojitos Del Caribe are respectable, the cheese and chicken options more so than the pizza one. And the Mexican food at Tacos Padrisimo, like the tender lengua taco ($3.25) I had, is quintessential street food.
But like the beautiful melting pot that is the Caribbean, some of the best magic is found in the cultural intersections. One such exemplar is the Latin barbecue fusion fare at Mario Smoked BBQ. Traditional dishes like their pernil plate ($12) — nicely fried pork chunks served with white rice, an excellent red bean stew and fresh salad — are outstanding. But their cross-pollination yields some inspired results: The smoked rice ($6.99) with pulled pork ($2.99) was one of the most memorable things I ate all day. An intriguing blend of ham, egg, scallions and pulled barbecued pork, the Chinese- and American-inspired fantasy has a dazzling fried-rice profile that's savory, sweet and smoky.
Desserts are also plentiful, including options like ice cream, fruit smoothies, snow cones, funnel cakes and the like. At Javi Mini Donuts, they keep up the carnival atmosphere by hand-frying little dough rings à la minute (six for $4), with optional toppings like cinnamon sugar and chocolate (75 cents each).
It all adds up to a mecca of Latin eats that can be a dizzying overload at first. Luckily, there's a World Food Trucks YouTube channel that features short video profiles of many of its resident trucks, which can help you walk in with some insight and an itinerary.
World Food Trucks is open seven days a week, from morning until past midnight. Besides those breathless hours, the party out there is about to get even bigger with a planned expansion next year that will almost double the truck count to over 100.
As one of the region's biggest and most ethnic food complexes, World Food Trucks is indeed a wonderland of international flavors. But, as a hotbed of imported perspectives served with immigrant flair, it's also a microcosm of the American ideal, the very thing that made America and made it great.