There is a mystique to food truck dining that’s difficult to describe. If you’re a food truck fan, you know what I mean. It’s an adventure, a quick stop for lunch more satisfying than fast food. Often messy to eat, food truck fare brings us together in the dark after an evening with friends or offers a solitary midday meal in the sunshine.
In general, food trucks offer a limited menu, served up quickly — with limited space, equipment and staff. In food preparation, this can be a recipe for disaster. There is a specific art and science to consistently providing quality meals at reasonable prices from a mobile kitchen.
Rodney’s Jamaican Jerk & BBQ food truck in Iowa City is a shining example of excellence in these skills. Typically set up on South Gilbert Street and catering to the lunch crowd, Rodney’s specializes in jerk seasoned chicken—a rarity in Iowa. And they do it very well.
Jerk seasoning is a rather unusual type of dry rub barbecue, containing a mix of peppers and some of the “sweeter” savory herbs and spices — clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger — as well as other ingredients. This results in a tangy, spicy and sweet mix that hits every corner of one’s palate while enhancing, rather than covering, the flavor of the meat. Unlike a sweet Texas barbecue sauce, for example, which typically relies on brown sugar or molasses to add sweet notes, the flavor combinations in jerk feel lighter on the tongue, and the heat is softer and deeper.
Rodney’s Jerk Chicken is some of the absolute best of this I have experienced. The smoked, juicy chicken blends perfectly with robust heat and tangy Caribbean sweetness in every mouthful.
Rodney’s dinner meal provides roughly a quarter chicken, a healthy portion of red beans in rice and two sides, for a very reasonable price. Sides vary, but can include a delicious savory boiled cabbage, slightly sweetened dumplings and fried plantains.
The truck offers other options on a rotating basis — shrimp po’boys, goat curry, chicken tacos and burritos, jerk loaded fries and rib tips are all occasional possibilities. In keeping with the magic of food trucks, on any given day one might find an unexpected dish on the menu.
Like many food trucks, hours of operation can be a little unpredictable. I imagine this has much to do with the quantity of food they can prepare for a given day. In general, they open between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m., and are usually closed by 3 p.m. or so. Best advice is hit them up early in the lunch rush!
Rodney’s also offers catering; their website provides specifics. For details and up-to-date info regarding the truck, including menus and availability, I would recommend following them on their Facebook page.
In the realm of eastern Iowa food truck culture, Rodney’s Jamaican Jerk & BBQ is changing the game. It’s a great spot for a casual lunch with friends or co-workers or to take to the park and chomp on in the summer sun. Check them out, make sure you have plenty of napkins on hand and enjoy the food!
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 284.