Review: Guerrilla Street Food
Guerrilla Street Food HQ has declared war on your hunger. Owners Joel Crespo and Brian Hardesty have created a unique dining experience for St. Louis inspired by Crespo’s Filipino roots. The pair’s food truck favorites lost nothing in translation when they opened a brick and mortar off South Grand Boulevard last year. Sweet, spicy and savory flavors from the Philippines all play nice in new and old dishes. If the unfamiliar cuisine seems like dangerous territory, don’t retreat. The staff is friendly and quick with recommendations and, really, there’s no wrong order on the generously portioned menu.
The Wandering/Flying Pig
For your first skirmish, try a classic. The Wandering Pig sees slow-roasted shredded pork plopped on a pile of steamed local jasmine rice, painted with sweet and spicy zigzags of hoisin, Sriracha and calamansi sauces. Topped with crunchy black sesame seeds, fried garlic and a shower of scallions, no bite was boring. Add a creamy one-hour egg, and you’ve got The Flying Pig, which was even better. Both can be served as a burrito for those who prefer hand-to-mouth combat.
If you’re not on diplomatic terms with spicy, this crowd favorite is for you. Savory chicken thighs were braised in soy sauce with garlic, bay leaves, and vinegar and served over steamed rice drenched in sauce. Also available as a burrito, these staple Filipino flavors had powerful umami depth. If you can’t decide between the chicken adobo or The Flying Pig, get both in the 800-Pound Guerrilla, which offers them side by side in one bowl. Pro tip: Mixing can’t hurt.
Aporkalypse Now Redux
Add some crunch to your lunch. A mound of thick house-made tortilla chips was lavished with spicy chile-braised pulled pork, chunks of fried pork belly, serrano peppers and atchara (pickled papaya), all topped with a “cheese” sauce made from silken tofu and crab fat. That may sound gross, but it was thick in a good way, like a weird, velvety cheese sauce with an aioli vibe.
Belly of the Beast
Adventurous diners should get into the Belly of the Beast. Artfully braised, perfectly tender pork belly is topped with a fish sauce and orange-chile glaze and served atop a bed of super-hydrated coconut milk rice. The delicate interplay of sticky-sweet with pops of citrus served up an indulgent lunch experience.
Manok means chicken in Filipino, but the tower of crispy fried chicken made translation unnecessary. Served with chile-braised cabbage, the chicken was topped with two sauces for an all-out flavor assault: mango banging (made with mango puree, shrimp paste, chile flakes and vinegar) and a spicy hoisin. My advice for the Iron Manok: Don’t try to finish it – take the leftovers home to enjoy again.
Sides and Starters
Spam fries were a favorite: expertly cooked, dusted in ginger and dipped in banana ketchup. Don’t let the word Spam scare you. And the vegetable ukoy fritter almost dissolved on the tongue. Finally, the longaniza corn dog is a ration from heaven. The sweet and spicy Filipino sausage is also battered and fried in true street food fashion. These could be sold at a fancy restaurant for double the cost.
Service was slow, so plan to take your full lunch hour. Looking around the dining room there was more than one person sitting with water and staring at their phone. However, everything is made from scratch that day. Time is a small surcharge for the affordable, exceptional food.
Guerrilla Street Food
3559 Arsenal St., St. Louis, 314.529.1328, guerrillastreetfood.com
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