Like us on Facebook!

David Lissner
for restaurants

Chicago’s best food trucks?

Tree-Ripe's fresh Georgia peaches (photo ©2013 by Leah A. Zeldes.

Tree-Ripe’s fresh Georgia peaches (photo by Leah A. Zeldes).

There are food trucks and then there are food trucks.

There are the old-fashioned roach coaches selling coffee and plastic-wrapped sandwiches that tend to serve construction sites and factories. There are every kid’s’ summer loves, ringing through the neighborhoods with ice cream on a stick. Then there are the new gourmet trucks that ply River North and other tweeted trendy spots with pricy upscale lunches, cupcakes and frozen yogurt.

My secret food-truck obsession? The semis that haul fresh summer fruit direct from distant farmers.

Until a few years ago, I despaired of ever finding fresh peaches worth eating. The supermarket fruit comes hard, tasteless and scentless and never ripens — it only rots. Local farmers’ markets offer some better peaches, but they’re limited to what grows nearby so the season is very short and late.

But now loads of peach cobblers, peach fools, peach pies and peach liqueurs are in my future. If I can refrain from eating the whole boxful out of hand. The gorgeous fruit pictured above is in my kitchen, a case I bought this weekend from the Tree-Ripe truck.

Each summer from early July through early August, Tree-Ripe sends trucks laden with scrumptious fresh peaches from Georgia to several locations in the Chicago area on specified dates. These old-fashioned peaches smell like peaches! They’re juicy and luscious, the kind of fruit T.S. Eliot was talking about when he wrote, “Do I dare to eat a peach?” They arrive hard but after a day or two at room temperature, they are perfect.

The peaches cost $35 for a half-bushel box weighing about 35 pounds. The trucks park for about an hour and a half at designated sites on specific days, and they prefer you to pay by check. They also sell 5-pound boxes of Michigan blueberries, $18. And in the winter they come back with Florida citrus.

The remaining summer schedule includes Batavia from 9 to 10:30 a.m. July 20, 10:30 to noon July 13 and Aug. 3; East Dundee, from noon to 1:30 p.m.; Gurnee, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. July 13 and Aug. 3; Johnsburg, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. July 20; and Montgomery, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Aug 2. Check the Tree-Ripe website for details.

If you can’t wait for peaches, they’ll be at several sites up in Milwaukee tomorrow, the peaches are $1 less a box at those sites and you can probably save what it costs you to drive up there by buying gas north of the border.

Next on my personal food truck agenda is a visit to one of the trucks Baylor Watermelons parks around town all summer. The Baylor family has been hauling melons (and fresh roasted peanuts) north since 1953. They have a summer stand open daily in Washington Heights, but the various brothers and cousins also sell from trucks they park around the South Side and sometimes a few other locations, such as Highland Park. They also sell in Gary, Racine and Milwaukee.

The first watermelons north typically come from Florida, then they bring in Georgia fruit and the highly sought-after Mississippi melons as the season progresses.

It can be a little hard to locate the trucks, but they typically stay at regular locations until they run out of melons. There is usually one parked on 95th Street near Martin Luther King Drive in Rosemoor. If you find any of them, or visit the main stand, they can tell you where the others are likely to be throughout the season. The melons are worth the hunt.