Gypsy’s Truckstaurant is as much fun as a college party, but its menu of global street food is a whole lot better than anything you’d find in an average campus kitchen.
The space has the vibe of the most fun room in your freshman hall, with walls covered in local art, a disco ball hanging from the ceiling, a room divider constructed from repurposed booze and wine bottles, strands of multicolored Christmas lights draped everywhere, and ping-pong tables just outside the door. Our Wednesday visit coincided with Disco Night, which meant the soundtrack to our dinner was filled with ’70s classics. Our waiter was dancing, we were dancing, everyone was dancing. What’s not to like?
In case you’re not familiar with the Gypsy’s backstory: Owners Annemarie Langton and Tom Looney are a dream team from way back. Together, they opened Helen’s Garden in Canton in 2001, charming people in the neighborhood and beyond with creative food, terrific wine and an endearing space.
Helen’s Garden closed in 2010, but not long after, the pair took to the streets with the Gypsy Queen food truck, which quickly became a monster hit. Gypsy’s Truckstaurant grew out of the food truck (which is still a going concern): they share some menu items and the same casual, entertaining vibe.
The restaurant, like the food truck, has a menu so global it could give you whiplash. There’s risk in that–details can get lost in big menus that travel in many directions. But at Gypsy’s, there seems to be a common thread, even among seemingly disparate dishes, in that they are extremely flavor-forward. There’s nothing subtle about them. They’re a lot like the décor in that way.
When we walked into Gypsy’s Truckstaurant, we got a big hello from the bartender. And, full disclosure, we knew her (but didn’t know she was working that night when we made our plans). Jennifer Marsh, like a lot of Gypsy’s employees, has worked in restaurants around Baltimore for years. She’s fun, too, so she fits right in.
We started with a Penchant Pils from Monument City Brewing and a Lot Lizzard, a concoction of mezcal, limoncello and pineapple juice. The cocktail, served over ice in a rocks glass, was smoky and sweet, but not overly so.
Then we tried a couple appetizers: a bowl full of Thai peanut noodles and a pile of sticky sesame cauliflower. I’d go back for more of both in a heartbeat.
The jalapeño on top of the peanut noodles was a warning: They were spicier than we expected, though the heat wasn’t overwhelming. The noodles, slippery and round, were sprinkled with black seeds and tossed with sauce that managed an appealing balance between sweet and hot. In the wrong hands, the dish could’ve tasted like peanut butter spaghetti. Thankfully, it didn’t. The nutty flavor was strong, but not so sweet that it gave us PB&J vibes.
Cauliflower’s a trendy ingredient these days, and our second appetizer demonstrated why: it takes a sauce so well. This version reminded us of General Tso’s chicken–it had that same sweetness and crunch. Plus, like its name said, the stickiness.
The sauce was the star of that show, but the cauliflower itself was noteworthy, too. It’s easy to under- or over-cook cauliflower, especially if it’ll be hiding under a sauce. That didn’t happen here: it had been cooked until it was just tender, but not mushy.
The Gypsy Queen food truck is famous for its savory waffle cones stuffed with ingredients like chicken and aioli-topped fries, and wrapped in paper. Theoretically, you can eat them without utensils.
The most famous of the cones is the crab cake. I’d tried that in the past–it’s good!–so instead, we opted for the Korean fried chicken cone. I liked it just as much, maybe even more.
The chicken was cut in chunks, coated in batter and fried until crispy and crunchy, then drizzled with sweet barbecue sauce. The cone also included a boatload of skinny fries, doused in garlic aioli, with a scoop of funky kimchi on top.
Truth be told, I didn’t make it far enough down to eat much of the cone itself; the ingredients on top were too filling. I also didn’t even try to eat it like a cone; it was much easier to scoop pieces out with a fork, transfer them to a small plate, and go from there.
But none of that is a dig on the dish. It’s well-conceived and well-executed and, like so much else at Gypsy’s, a lot of fun.
Baked seafood Newburg is one old-school dish that probably isn’t found on a lot of food truck menus, or a lot of menus generally in Baltimore in 2019. It stuck out as an oddball inclusion on Gypsy’s list, which meant we had to try it.
The dish included shrimp, scallops and crab in sherry cream sauce, topped with a big square of puff pastry and served with a little cup of more sherry on the side. If it sounds extravagant and a little over the top, it was, but in a good way.
The sauce was creamy, but not gloppy, which can be a real concern with dishes like this, and just boozy enough. Perhaps most impressively, the seafood was all prepared properly and didn’t continue to steam and end up overcooked, even while it was on the table.
Our third choice, the espresso BBQ pork sandwich served with chips and crunchy coleslaw, wasn’t as much of a hit as the other two entrees. The slaw was likable and the meat’s flavor was terrific–espresso and pig are a good match–but the pork was drier than we would’ve liked.
Even with the dry pork, we were impressed by the appetizers and entrees. We often find ourselves searching for a salt shaker, but that didn’t happen during this meal. The dishes might, for the most part, be casual, but it was clear that the crew in the kitchen took them seriously; they were seasoned properly and, for the most part, cooked nicely.
Dessert was the Gypsy Campfire, a pair of cookies sandwiching Taharka Brothers honey graham ice cream, drizzled with chocolate and caramel and garnished with a couple toasted marshmallows. It was sticky and sweet and terrific.
We also closed out the meal with the night’s special boozy coffee; unfortunately, that was a disappointment. It was spiked with Amaro and topped with peppermint whipped cream, and would’ve been fantastic if only the coffee had been hot.
The service–from the big hello when we entered all the way through the meal–was enthusiastic and prompt and, as far as I could tell, other tables were receiving the same level of care. Our good service wasn’t a result of knowing the bartender. Our waiter was young, friendly and relaxed, but not so laid back that we ever had to wait for anything. Formal service would be out of place at a fun restaurant like Gypsy’s, so his casual attitude seemed appropriate. And he was on top of the things that mattered.
As we left the restaurant, we spent a few minutes checking out Gypsy’s’ outdoor space. On a rainy winter night, it was empty, but even then, it was easy to imagine the patio’s small tables filled and ping-pong tables rocking. We’ll be back when it’s warmer to check out that scene, and probably even before then.
Gypsy’s Truckstaurant. 3515 Clipper Mill Road, (443) 869-5602, gypsystruckstaurant.com
Final Grade: B+
Bottom Line: The vibe alone at Gypsy’s Truckstaurant makes it worth a visit; the casual, global street fare coming out of its repurposed food truck kitchen is a bonus.
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