I’ll admit that I’m late to the Guerrilla Street Food party—not to eating their delicious food, but rather, writing about it.
Over the last few years, I’ve eaten roughly my weight in pork, calamansi, adobo and borderline pornographic runny eggs. I just never got around to writing about it; probably because of the nap-inducing properties of the aforementioned food. Food comas aside, it’s become one of my go-to spots in St. Louis.
This new STL empire started with a single food truck. Chef owners Joel Crespo and Brian Hardesty quickly turned the success of their hit food truck into a brick-and-mortar spot in Tower Grove. Then came the food service at 2nd Shift Brewing on the Hill, then the location on the Delmar Loop and most recently, a collaboration with Tropical Liqueurs, or Trops, as the kids call it, in the Grove. Basically, now, you’re never more than a few miles away from quality Filipino food in the city.
That sort of accessibility to this food, particularly in Missouri, is exciting to amatuer and pro gourmands alike. However, before I started this piece, I had to ask—counterintuitively—whether it was even worth writing about Guerrilla Street Food. I mean, am I alerting you to anything new? Are there people that don’t know Guerrilla Street Food is amazing?
Then I remembered a handful of conversations I’ve had with my co-workers.
On Fridays, it’s not unusual for us to go out to lunch as a group. I think I’ve suggested Guerrilla Street Food every Friday for about two months in a row. During that time, I’ve heard several variations of, “Oh, I’ve heard that’s good” and “I really want to try it!” To be blunt, it seems insane to me that they haven’t.
Why would you voluntarily live in a world without the Flying Pig?
But maybe I’m in an Eater reading, Ugly Delicious watching bubble. It seems they haven’t heard that Filipino food is, like, the next big thing, man. Whatever, the hell that means. But anointed by Anthony Bourdain (RIP) or not, it’s delicious.
For me, it’s particularly addictive—I think—because it so enthusiastically embraces vinegar. Sourness, tartness, tang, these are not things to be avoided. I’m not an expert (on anything really but especially Filipino food), but I know adobo is often said to be the unofficial national dish of the Philippines. It’s the gateway drug that leads you to an array of dishes that are bright, complex and deeply flavorful. But the first hit that starts you chasing the dragon, feeding the monkey is adobo.
As I understand it (again, as a pasty white idiot), adobo is your protein of choice marinated and braised in soy, enough vinegar to singe your nostrils and various aromatics. Now, I can’t speak for anything but the chicken adobo I’ve made and Guerrilla Street Food’s, but the amount of vinegar doesn’t render the dish over acidic like you might think. Rather it’s a provides a perfect bite to balance the salinity of the soy sauce. It’s an unfussy, deeply comforting dish that’s quickly becoming one of my favorite things to eat.
Accordingly, the adobo at Guerrilla Street Food is plated in a similar unfussy manner. That’s not necessarily the M.O. here, though. The Flying Pig, the signature dish of this growing quick-casual empire, is artfully presented and just begs to be instagrammed. It consists of pulled pork shoulder, calamansi (a citrus fruit) and garlic dabbed with a touch of hoisin sauce and garnished with scallions, Sriracha, black sesame seeds and a soft, quivering 63-degree egg so you can get in on that #YolkPorn hashtag.
The Garlic Peanuts are a delightfully pungent, salty, spicy snack that might be the perfect beer food. Really, they should be served at every bar in America. And the Crab Fat Fried Rice will cure your hangover and bring you back to the land of the living with its healing properties. Recently, I also had the Chicken Inasal, a marinated, charcoal-roasted chicken leg, with green mango slaw at the newish Delmar Loop location. I tore that thing apart with my hands like Tarzan coming off of a fast, with no remorse in front of my polite, but probably concerned, co-workers.
Then there's the Salted Duck Egg Toast on Union Loafers' bread, another specialty of the Delmar location. This dish is seriously rich, like a king with gout rich, like Scrooge McDuck rich. You can disparage Millennials all you want for their affinity for fancy toast, but one taste of this and you'll be eating duck and crow simultaneously.
The interplay of flavors and textures at work here is completely different than anything I ever experienced growing up, and it’s captivated me. It should go without saying, but I will anyway... This food is every bit as nuanced and complex when it comes to flavor and composition as any white-table-clothed European fine-dining establishment.
That you can enjoy it in a paper basket on the side of the road or on a stool next to a cloudy bottle of fish sauce is only a plus in my book.