If one can find a silver lining buried within the constant noise and chaos attributed to massive construction in River North, it is the regular appearance of the gleaming Thunderbird Catering truck, whose primary mission is to provide necessary sustenance to the ravenous hordes of tradesmen and early morning white-collar workers traipsing toward their offices in the Loop.
This vehicle of hidden delights is piloted by Juana, who who I should note, enjoys a never-ending chorus of complements due to her striking resemblance to J-Lo, or perhaps Daisy Fuentes.
At 7:30 each morning (except Sundays),rain or shine, "The Coach" coasts to a stop at the corner of Erie and Kingsbury. Juana hits her flashers (the ones in the truck), straps on her money changer so it tilts at a jaunty angle on her left hip, and bounds from her chariot to fling open the passenger-side rear panel. On chilly days, this releases a mouthwatering cloud of steam laced with the scents king sausages, spicy mustard, onions, homemade tortillas, and of course the Roach Coach special--The Dirty Water Dog.
As controlled chaos ensues, rife with grit-encrusted hands being thrust into sandwich bins and heating trays, Juana efficiently moves to pop open the rear panel, revealing a dazzling display of ice-cold carbonated beverages (American Champagnes), syrup-like orange and grape "ades," and an in-house coffee maker that serves not some prissy label like Starbucks or Seattle's Best, but Maxwell House, in the blue can! God help the laborer that orders a decaff--you'll have Sanka and like it!
My personal favorites are the egg sandwiches, preferably slightly soggy and compressed, to provide a military-like, MRE quality that coincides nicely with dining curbside or "standing al fresco." In addition, the tortillas wrapped around cheap Central American beef or "skinny gray chicken" have a pleasingly refined nature. While many feel that Roach Coach dining might have it's drawbacks, I must say that only on one occasion have I had to battle "The Burning Ring of Fire."
Overall, the service is excellent. Juana arms herself with a large white rag which she doesn't hesitate to wield with whip-cracking fury should a worker get over-zealous with a ketchup bottle. I have even seen her practice a few moves on an unfortunate laborer's cabesa when he spoke harshly to her about running out of Mountain Dew. To her credit, she did stop short of ordering his immediate execution.
Final rating: Thunderbird Catering (location sometimes varies)
Hours of operation: 7:30am, 12:00pm, 3:00pm