This year, a truckstaurant opened along the Jones Falls in Hampden. It has an astroturf entryway and Christmas lights hanging inside. It appears to be the first-ever truckstaurant in the city.
“We created a new word,” said Annmarie Langton, the truckstaurant’s co-owner. She and business partner Tom Looney, both previously of Helen’s Garden, created the quirky hangout as a permanent home for their Gypsy Queen Cafe, a wandering food truck. The two are rightly proud of their invention, which features a well-stocked bar with frozen drinks.
“You come in and it’s a very mysterious vibe,” Langton said. “No one knows what they’re getting themselves into.”
The result is a pleasant surprise. Gypsy’s Truckstaurant combines a cheerful bar — the signature drink is an ice queen, something like an alcoholic Slurpee — and eclectic indoor and outdoor dining areas where you can order hearty food truck offerings like burritos, tacos and waffle cones.
Langton and Looney decorated the space, a former asphalt shop, with a mishmash of designs culled from local vintage shops, and bar stools donated from friends in the area.
First impressions: First-time visitors may feel a little disoriented by the drive down Clipper Mill Road. Above, the whir of traffic along the JFX. Below, the faint rush of water in the Jones Falls. Is that an SUV covered in pink flamingos? Why, yes it is. You have arrived. Park along the street or in the parking lot across the way.
Must-tries: We started off with decadent dates wrapped in bacon and stuffed with gorgonzola ($12). Je ne regrette rien. If you’re truly in the mood to splurge, the “famous” waffle cone stuffed with french fries and topped with a jumbo lump crab cake ($23) is utterly delicious. It’s a gimmick, but a good one. The crab cake is topped with a spicy-sweet-salty sauce that Langton said she discovered while eating her way through San Diego. The Korean bulgogi burrito ($14) reminded us of a Philly cheese steak and came with a bag of Utz.
If you’re feeling truly to-hell-with-your-diet-indulgent, try the $10 Gypsy Campfire, a Taharka Brothers ice cream sandwich drenched in chocolate and caramel sauce and garnished with torched marshmallows. Wash it down with a cup of coffee. A mug says, “Funny, I don’t remember asking for your opinion.” Hey, do you like this place yet?
Special touches: Outside, cast iron lawn furniture painted vibrant colors gives a nice hippie-at-the-beach vibe. A fluffy cat scowls at customers like they’re sitting in his chair. Inside, there are too many quintessentially Baltimore touches to count. Everyone seems to be having a good time: From the kitchen of a parked food truck, a cook sings loudly along to the radio while he prepares your food.
Pro-tip: Looking for the restroom? It’s outside, a single toilet with an industrial-sized sink. It is a truckstaurant, after all.
Bottom line: The food at Gypsy’s is imaginative, playful and tasty, if a tad on the greasy side. The service is friendly. But really, it’s the atmosphere that makes this a foodie destination, the kind of place where you can meet up with old friends or take tourists to show them what makes our city special.
Now hurry up, and get there before everyone else finds out.
3515 Clipper Mill Road, Hampden. 443-869-5602. gypsytruckstaurant.com. Open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Sunday from 3 p.m.-9 p.m.