I Do (Eat) (cont.)
For wedding food that’s fun, economical, and memorable, try forgoing traditional caterers altogether. We’ve put together a handful of casual-yet-tasty alternatives that will run you, at most, $12 a head. (And we’ll bet their offerings will delight your guests more than meat-starch-veg on a rented plate.)
Mobile barbecue caterers bring smokers and grills to your site and prepare old-fashioned ’cue for your guests. For example, Ron’s Mobile Barbeque Services, based out of the Piedmont area of the Carolinas, will serve hickory-smoked pork, beans, slaw, buns, sauces, iced tea, and lemonade for $12 per person (for groups of about 100). That fee includes plates, cups, and ice, and you can get more options (such as burgers, chicken quarters, or ribs) for an additional price. Go to your local barbecue joint and ask for a recommendation, or do a Google search on “mobile catering” and the name of your state (many outfits will be willing to travel a few hours to cater your event). If you live along the Eastern Seaboard, there’s a small mobile barbecue directory available.
If you’re in Southern California, In-N-Out Burger offers Cookout Trailers that service most of Los Angeles County and some of Orange and Ventura counties. For a minimum of $1,250 you get any combo of chips, drinks, and burgers (which under the current prices would serve about 200 people a cheeseburger, chips, and a fountain drink) and 1.5 hours of service. The trailers are not equipped to make french fries, unfortunately. If you live in one of White Castle’s restaurant markets, you can place large orders for burgers one week before your wedding. For the normal menu price (an average of 52 cents per Slyder), you can pick up packaged sacks of 10 burgers in an insulated box. (In some cases the chain will deliver.) For areas outside its markets, White Castle will send trucks with griddles to service your event. But it’s expensive: The chain wouldn’t even say the price. Call White Castle headquarters at 800-843-2728 for a quote.
For $5 to $10 per person, a truck will roll up to your event and cook and serve fresh tacos to your guests. Tacos Garcia of Napa, California, can serve three kinds of unlimited tacos for 100 people for about $1,000. In other parts of the country, flag down your favorite taco truck and ask if they’d be willing to cater. Or visit your favorite local Mexican restaurant and ask if they know of any trucks in the area. Chowhound mt94610 also suggests asking your local truck if they have any taqueros—taco caterers who will make tacos on a portable grill, which is usually cheaper than bringing the truck.
Try negotiating a deal on big trays of food from your favorite restaurant. You could do a delicious dim sum buffet, a bunch of Thai dishes, or a spread of Eritrean food with a little help from friends willing to pick up and set up. Don’t mention the word wedding when ordering, and you may get a better price. Or you could order some beautiful deli platters from a specialty grocer and set up a short champagne reception with light fare. Large antipasti platters from an Italian grocer near CHOW’s office cost $90 and serve around 25 people.
Another good way to feed a crowd is with a whole roasted pig. For example, in western New York state, Colby’s Pig Roast Catering will slow-roast a whole hog for 14 hours in a custom portable oven, then deliver it to your event. For $529 (plus tax and a 15 percent service charge), you get a medium pig (up to 150 pounds) that will feed 100 to 150 guests, plus fresh rolls, sauces, and a chef to carve the meat hot off the spit. If you potluck the side dishes or get trays of sides from your favorite deli (and pick up some ecofriendly disposable picnic ware), you’ll still come in under 10 bucks a head.