It’s that time of year again: it’s finally warm enough in Seattle to line up outside for the city’s wide selection of food trucks. In case you didn’t know, I earned some of my culinary chops working on a food truck in Orlando that won all kinds of awards and made it onto Eat Street on Food Network, and the Eat Street Cookbook. Not only are food trucks near and dear to my heart for that reason, but I have found that some truly remarkable dishes and creativity come from those tiny, crowded kitchens.
I’d been wanting to try out Off the Rez for a while, and I found them right in the very heart of the city, at Westlake Park. I’m so glad I finally did, if for no other reason than frybread.
I’ve been to a handful of Pow-Wows, and frybread is always a big part of the menu. My mom actually makes really excellent frybread that my 9-year-old niece just goes nuts over. If you’ve never had it, you’re missing out–and here’s Wikipedia’s explanation of what frybread is so you don’t have to Google. Frybread is wonderfully light and airy inside, but crisp on the outside. It can be sweet or savory, eaten alone or with toppings. According to the Navajo, it was first made in 1864 during the Long Walk when they were forced from their land and given flour, sugar, salt, and lard by the government to sustain them. Frybread is still served at gatherings, like Pow-Wows, as a reminder.
The co-owner’s mother grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation, and the frybreads she and her mother cooked at special occasions and gatherings served as inspiration for the truck. Despite having so many tribes in the PNW, and 3600 restaurants in Seattle, there was nowhere to grab Native American faves until Off the Rez showed up in 2011.
At every Pow-Wow I’ve been to, there were frybread tacos, and Off the Rez has those too, albeit more gourmet versions like beef chili, chicken chile verde, and BBQ pulled pork. They also have great sides: hand-cut fries, quinoa salad, coleslaw, and chili. And you can get a naked frybread, or a sweet frybread, or do the really smart thing and go all-in for a frybread burger for $9.
They make the patties by hand, top them with melted American cheese, bacon, shaved iceberg, pickled onions, and cumin crema. Warning though: it’s very filling. I wish there had been more pickled onions, because you can never have too many of those, but the cumin crema was the real star. Cumin is the second most-used spice in the world, and with good reason: the earthy nuttiness it imparts really gave the whole thing a distinctive and unique flavor among all the burgers I’ve eaten this year. There were so many good flavors going on, and the wholly unique texture of a burger on frybread, and I didn’t even notice the bacon much.
I’m glad I found a place I grab frybread that stands up to my mom’s, since hers is 3000 miles away. Do yourself a favor and visit Off the Rez so you can fall in love with this stuff, too.