After I heard about Just Jersey Fest, a gathering of food trucks coming to Randolph, NJ a couple of weeks back, I figured it might be a fun Sexy Armpit excursion. Food trucks have been enjoying a wave of popularity, especially in cities. I’ve really had no experience with food trucks, unless you want to count the ice cream man who I bought WWF Ice Cream bars from nearly 5 days a week for the span of 4 years in my early teens. Other than that, I’ve never eaten food that I purchased from a truck. I never really felt like I was missing out on anything either, but to have the option of sampling from ALL of them in one place seemed appealing to me since I don’t live in an area with many food truck appearances.
I wasn’t going into this one alone. I coerced friend, author, and co-star of the Sexy Armpit Show, Michael Gary Wirth aka @IdiotAtPlay, and his wife into going. We hopped in the car and headed up Route 287 on a super hot and sunny Saturday.
What started as your typical trip to eat at food trucks snowballed into an extensive trek up and down the Garden State searching for comic stores and ending with a brilliant finale: an unexpected drop-in to the most enormous and well stocked antique store of all time.
First, simply put, Just Jersey Fest was a big wide open lot that had a crazy amount of locally based food trucks parked around the perimeter. No false advertising here: there was a bunch food trucks, a DJ playing an odd array of oldies mixed with tunes you might here at The Colorado Cafe, and tons of people milling around, indecisive about what they should eat. What a perplexing situation. What altered my decision was how long the lines were at each truck. As a personal rule, I prefer not to stand in hideously long lines in the blazing hot sun. I melt very easily.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but judging by the unique and often one of a kind cuisine that many food trucks are offering nowadays, my bar was set pretty high. Judging by some of these Food Network shows, it’s apparent that every food truck has to have their own special gimmick or they won’t last. Since I adore gimmicks, the idea of food trucks appealed to me, and I was pretty geared up to think that we were in for some real treats. Sometimes, my positivity is my weakness, and my friends faith in me is theirs. Sounded clunky, but those shrewd enough might extrapolate the Emperor Palpatine reference buried in there. Regardless, I’ve been bandying around the word extrapolate like I’m 6 years old and I just started working “shit” into my diatribes about how Drake’s Devil Dogs would get stuck to my teeth and the roof of my mouth.
My first mission was to tour around the lot to make sure I knew each and every option I had to choose from. After my stroll, I was convinced there was nothing enticing me. I really wanted to be lured onto a line by a delicious odor or seduced by a superbly crafted stock photo of a shellacked empanada. As always, Mike and his wife were enthusiastic about the whole ordeal and they found a couple of trucks that had selections they wanted to try.
Mike went with a Cajun truck, one that I had mentioned sounded halfway decent moments earlier, but for some reason I opted for the Colombian food truck. I regretted not going with my first instinct. Always go with your first instinct no matter how impulsive – even if your first instinct is to order the 400-piece wing platter next time you’re at Hooters. Not sure if that exists, but you can ask Mandy, your waitress. Make sure she brings you extra napkins.
Lauren got sticky rice from a Thai truck, which, unbeknownst to me, is a freaking dessert! Rice for dessert? I had no clue. I’ve heard of rice pudding, but this thing looked like fancy dessert sushi. Sing this to the tune of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”: “I’m not fancy, I didn’t even kno-ow, that stick-y rice was an actual thing you can order for a Thai food truck.” See, it actually works, but you might have to jam those last 15 words together pretty fast to get it to sound right. Where there’s a will, there’s a way people!
You can check out more on our food truck cuisine sampling in the video above, but I will tell you a little bit about the fries. Affectionately referred to as Disco Fries, (at least here in New Jersey) they are known to the rest of the country (apparently) as New Jersey Poutine. I don’t know what the F poutine is, but I think Paxton Holley likes it. Disco Fries aren’t fries soaked in the sweat that has dripped onto the dance floor, nor are they possessed by the spirit of Barry F’n Gibb, but they are staples of a New Jersey diner menu. Freaking French Fries doused with gravy and melted mozzarella cheese.
We placed an order for Disco Fries at Romano’s Fries Truck, a truck who has an exclusive deal with C&C Cola. Depending on where you’re from you may have never heard of this soda, but it was always a reasonable alternative to the mainstream soft drinks in the grocery store. That didn’t swerve my opinion on this truck though. We waited patiently for what felt like 14 years for these stupid fries. Minus the exaggeration and I think we waited nearly 30 minutes, no joke. These were fries we were waiting for mind you, not a sizzling Kobe strip steak cooked to perfection. Finally, we received the equivalent of the fries you might get at the snack bar at your nephews Little League game, but drizzled with a little bit of gravy and some cheese. Meh. Nothing beats an NJ diner for these.
The ice pops were by far my favorite selection and the only thing I gravitated to immediately. Peace. Love. POPS are all natural, handcrafted ice pops made in New Jersey. The creative flavors are so dead on balls accurate and refreshing that I am 100% recommending that you try them if you are ever in the North Jersey area. Their cart is often seen around the streets of Hoboken. The pops are little pricey, but it’s worth it. Considering the care that is taken in their preparation and the fact that a good chunk of the money you pay for one goes to charity, these ice pops are well worth the purchase. Eventually the company wants to get these into a few local supermarkets and I hope they succeed! Check out their official Facebook page at this link.
A list of flavor options were detailed on their chalk board. The decision was easy for me. Without hesitation I chose Honeydew Ginger Mint because I love honeydew and mint, but F the ginger. Mike and Lauren got the Pineapple Mojito and Strawberry Lemonade. All of these were awesome. You can watch us inhale them in the video. They hit the spot on a hot, swamp-assy Saturday.
We just about had our fill with the food truck fest and we decided we still had some motivation left in the tank. “Why don’t we see if there’s any comic book stores around here?” Lauren said, and we concurred that it was a great idea. Sitting in the back of the Mikemobile, I started searching on my phone for the zip codes of each town we passed through to cross check them on the comic locator site. God, that might be the geekiest sentence I’ve written in 10 years of this blog.
In total, we stopped at 3 comic book shops, all of which I’d never been to before. Now we are entering critical territory because this damn post should really be two parts, but I wouldn’t do that to you…the waiting is the hardest part so said Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. F*ck it, let the Comic Book Store Tour commence!
I am always supportive of local stores and independent business, but I’ve been wrapped up in Comixology since day one because I wanted in on digital comics in a bad way, mostly because of the lack of storage space in my condo. Don’t get me wrong, I still own all the comics I’ve had since I was a kid, but I have no need for physical comics anymore. Plus, I am crazy about the guided reading style of the digital format. If you’ve never experienced it, try it out, I think you’ll dig it.
Our first stop was literally across the street from the food truck fest. All in One Collectibles in Randolph was filled with tables with some hardcore gaming going down. The large shop was stocked with 9 million Heroclix, comics, a few toys, and a ton of sports and non-sports trading cards. I was getting antsy. Onto the next one.
Next stop: Madison, NJ, a quaint, movie-set type town where we arrived at Dewey’s Comic City. The interior was nice and it was like the Barnes and Noble of comic shops, only smaller. It was neatly filled to the brim with every type of comic and graphic novel you can think of. The concentration was on new releases rather than old, but they still had a sizable collection of back issues as well as some random collectibles and t-shirts.
I think Mike saved the best for last. He hinted earlier that we should go to COMIC FORTRESS in Somerville, NJ and I was game. I always say YES to going anywhere that has Fortress in it’s name (i.e Fortress of Fangs, Fortress of Steele.) This place was seriously as incredible as Mike mentioned, (read Stop #6 on his Free Comic Book Day Tour log.) Not only do they have quite a huge selection of comics stocked on the shelves, but they also have the largest inventory of DC and Marvel statues, busts, and action figure collector sets that I’ve ever seen in a comic/collectible shop. If it was the early ’90s I’d probably be begging my Dad to bring me to this vast emporium every week after we made our stop at Steve’s Comic Relief.
I’m proud of myself. As much as I was tempted, I bought nothing all day except 2 giant sized Red Bulls.
As if all the previous excitement on this day wasn’t enough, I didn’t think it could get any more fantastical, but, IT DID! We inadvertently extended our little adventure even more. While walking back to the car we stumbled upon the Somerville Antique store. This place pulled me in like I was in a tractor beam. With zero expectations of the enchanted land of tchotchkes, we entered. Before us was the most insanely huge antique store I’ve ever set foot in. Two expansive floors with nooks and crannies of non-stop antique absurdity.
If I described all of what I saw at the antique store we’d be here for another 37 paragraphs and I don’t want to do that to you. It would be a violation of common decency. To see the contents of this wondrous, albeit pricey place, go watch the video!