The thrill of truly great street food is in its simplicity and its immediacy. The rush of a hurried transaction, little to no words needed, is the ultimate hallmark of exploring an unknown land. It’s exhilarating — a feeling waiting in line at your regular lunch joint doesn’t usually elicit.
Lucky for would-be travelers, Chef Louis DiBiccari has a solution for the pangs of noontime wanderlust and hunger: TR Street Foods, a worldly speed-demon of a lunch counter tucked alongside his Fort Point flagship, Tavern Road.
Just over a week in existence, the menu is already in its fourth incarnation. It’s loaded with bursts of flavor from far-flung corners of the globe — Moroccan turkey kebabs, red miso-grilled eggplant, za’atar (a Middle Eastern mix of herbs and spices) — alongside some comforts of home. DiBiccari is a loyal native of the North Shore, and pays tribute with a stellar steak and cheese .
The idea for a non-traditional lunch service manifested during his time spent in Spain, Italy, France, and — finally — in Mexico. There, he watched a trio of women hand-rolling tortillas for quesadillas cooked over a fire beneath an upside-down garbage can, filled with the best braised chicken he's ever tasted. “I came back here, and all I found myself wanting to do was find things that were reminiscent of that," he says.
At peak lunch hour a line of people snakes around a table laden with jars of Herb Lyceum honey and soaps, clamoring to read the chalkboard menus. The service has the speed and feel of a bustling street stand, with air-conditioning.
The price points, combined with the staggering quality of the ingredients, makes TR Street Foods one of the best lunch options for the neighborhood, tied only with the food trucks parked in Dewey Square five minutes away. It would seem that we have grown very fond of eating with our hands.
A sausage and mushroom calzone, studded with fontina cheese and kale, is wrapped in a gloriously grease-stained and crinkly brown paper and radiates heat. A tangy beet and cauliflower salad, one of many accompaniments, is laced with horseradish and currants, slight heat playing off the cool, earthy beets.
He explains that he wants to channel the street-corner panini stands of Italy and the rotisserie half-chickens of Nice, but he also understands that for many people, a few bites of meat on a stick does not lunch make. He has since beefed up the menu with more sandwiches, salads, and sides, and emphasizes that they are in no way trying to “out-chef” themselves. Street food should be messy, satisfying, and above all, casual.
For DiBiccari and his crew, the experience has been one where anything goes. Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere, and he says the menu is only a small sampling of the ideas brewing in the kitchen.
“I’m surrounded by people who grew up in all of these countries,” he says, gesturing to the open kitchen where a few cooks are quietly prepping for dinner service. “Whatever I haven’t seen, I just ask them, and suddenly we’re all equally a part of this process.”