At a shiny Airstream in Seattle called Skillet, a quick transaction through the sliding window yields a wagyu beef burger topped with bacon jam. Owners Danny Sizemore and Josh Henderson, both trained chefs, offer high-quality food without the markup of a traditional restaurant.
"We want to provide impeccably prepared, seasonally relevant food that won’t hurt your wallet," Sizemore says, and the instant popularity of Skillet proves that a highly designed space isn’t a prerequisite for a great meal. Of course, some people still take their first visit to Skillet with a serving of skepticism, Sizemore adds, "but once they try it, they like it."
Head south to Austin, Texas, where Torchy’s Tacos holds true to the Tex-Mex tradition—but the tacos that come out of their aromatic "trailer park" are uncommonly good. "We see our food as gourmet cuisine on a tortilla," says co-owner Bob Gentry. "Items such as turkey mole, fried avocado, and Baja shrimp tacos are far from the norm in other trailers or trucks." Situated next to a busy thoroughfare, the tree-shaded clearing is an undesigned outdoor dining room with well-defined ambiance and a constant stream of patrons who take their time to taste an exceptional taco in a plastic chair by the roadside.
When not working in design, Sarah Rich writes, talks and forecasts about food and consumer culture.