Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fort Worth Food Truck Park Opens to Large Crowd, Good Food

On December 2, Fort Worth joined other cities considered to be leaders in the food truck culture by opening a dedicated Food Truck Park. Based on the crowd to get in and the amount of food sold, Opening Night was a success with hundreds of people in attendance.

When I first heard the location of the Park, I admit that I questioned the how and why of putting a Food Truck Park in the middle of an industrial area, three to four blocks off a main thoroughfare. Earlier in the week I spoke to owner Chris Kruger, he explained that the location was an important part of the park atmosphere as it allowed guests to escape the hustle and bustle of the center city and take time to relax over a nice lunch or dinner while only being minutes from home. Now that I have seen the Park operating I understand that vision and agree with it. It is also appealing that some trucks, like Good Karma Kitchen will call the Food Truck Park home while other trucks will rotate through from time to time, so on any given night, your menu options will always be new and fresh.   

The Park opened at 6:00, I arrived about 7:00 to find a line of about 40 people waiting to get in the Park. I admit that this was a concern, especially with the possibility of rain; but, this wasn’t the first line I had stood in for food trucks and I doubt it will be the last, so off I went to take my place. The line moved relatively quickly, as people would leave the Park the line attendant let an equal number in, so within 25 minutes I was in and ready to eat. Looking back now, controlling the entrance to the Park was the right way to handle the crowd and make sure the truck lines were not too long and people had room to move across the Park.

The Park is situated on a standard size lot, between two industrial warehouse type buildings. Because the trucks are parked along the side perimeter of the park, once you are inside, you forget the buildings are there and it actually becomes very cozy and comfortable. With of the possibility of rain this weekend, the Park had tents set up to keep everyone dry but when the tents are down, the surrounding trees will make a nice canopy to shelter the Park but still offer an open air feel. During the winter, patio heaters will be placed through the park to keep everyone warm. 

The Park has been given permission for eight trucks to set up but on Opening Night, as will be the case most days, six were in attendance. Red Jett Sweets, Nammi, Good Karma Kitchen, Yes! Taco,  Jake’s Hamburgers and Lee’s Grilled Cheese. All of the trucks had continuous, manageable lines, except for Lee’s Grilled Cheese, where I heard people saying they were waiting in line for 20 – 25 minutes and then waiting for their sandwich that same amount of time. As with other big events, this is an issue that all grilled cheese trucks face, most of their food cannot be prepped ahead of time and once the order is placed, the grill can only accommodate a finite number of sandwiches at any one time. It seemed that most people understood that and having that truck next to the free Rahr beer line seemed to help make the wait more tolerable.

The Park has quite a few picnic tables, which makes food truck eating more manageable. Spread throughout the table area were both trash cans. and recycling bins. At the back of the Park are restroom facilities and a deck where live bands can set up. On Opening Night, the Gary Kyle Band performed which added nicely to the atmosphere.

It seems that every detail has been considered when it comes to this Park and it has promise of being very successful. The truck owners were happy with the first night and the guests were happy with their food,  the convenience of parking, and all of the details that create the atmosphere of the Park.

You can get the Park's schedule on their website and follow on Facebook. They plan to offer special event nights from time to time and you won’t want to miss those or notification of which trucks are rolling through the Park. 

As an additional note, the Park is BYOB and dogs are welcome. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Between Thanksgiving and New Year's 7 New Trucks Will Roll Out in DFW (Plus 2 I have Not Told You About Before)

There are seven new trucks that have either just hit the streets or are planning to open in the next few weeks.

On Black Friday, Rollin’ Diner & Grill hit the streets of  Fort Worth. Rollin’ Diner & Grill’s menu looks to be very filling foods with Rib Eye steak sandwiches, Philly Cheesesteak, Chicken Cheesesteak, Veggie Cheesesteak, Hamburgers/Cheeseburgers, Breakfast Tacos, Biscuits & Gravy and Grandma’s Grits. I must add that I am especially excited that the Cheesesteaks will be served in hot dog buns to make eating them easier!  Generally, Rollin’ Diner & Grill will be found at 12209 South Freeway in Forth Worth but you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter to confirm before you head over.

Good Karma Kitchen had a soft opening in mid-November, created some Thanksgiving catering dishes and now Megan Topham and Christina MacMicken are ready for Good Karma Kitchen’s Grand Opening at the Fort Worth Food Truck Park on December 2. This gluten-free truck will have both vegetarian and vegan items including sushi, flatbreads, soups and desserts. I’ve tried the sushi, lemon bars and macaroons and I can confirm that this is fabulous food!  Good Karma will be a permanent truck at the Fort Worth Food Park but follow them on Facebook and Twitter because they do plan to venture to other areas on days the park is closed. They will also be posting their weekly specials.

Easy Slider will be bringing Dallas a slider truck in early December when Caroline Perini and Miley Holmes roll out. These ladies are looking to bring you the "Perfect Bite", the kind of food that you want to eat with your hands in a communal setting- where you can let your guard down, share your food and talk with your mouth full.  With flavors  influenced by Caroline's Texas roots and Miley's obsession with all things Southern, Easy Slider offers a variety of sliders, many featuring regionally-raised meats and locally-sourced produce. Follow Easy Slider on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest info on their grand opening and find out where Miley and Caroline will be serving. I hear they will even have pimento cheese sliders! 

After 8 months of planning, Eliud Castro is ready to bring his Dough Boy Pizza Truck to the streets of Fort Worth the week of December 5. In addition to traditional pizza with the standard toppings, Dough Boy will have some extra toppings, dessert pizzas and weekly specials. Follow Dough Boy on Facebook and Twitter to find out where to find them and their pizza.

The streets of Dallas will be rocking and rolling on Friday evening when Rock and Roll Tacos has their grand opening. The truck will feature street tacos with your choice of fajita meat, carnitas, chicken or fish. Rock and Roll Tacos will also be serving tortas, tostadas, chiliquilas, Pozole and a specialty of tabitas (Mexican short ribs) If all of this sounds as delicious to you as it does to me, you need to follow Rock and Roll on Twitter and Facebook to find out where they will be rolling!

In mid to late December Fort Worth will have a  vegan truck that will bring you food that promises to bring you taste buds back from the dead. Zombie’s Food Truck will be offering up vegan sandwiches, wraps and chili for the winter as well as specialty items that they feel like making up on any particular day. Follow the Zombie on Facebook and Twitter to find out when the dead will be waking and rolling.

At the end of December, Russ Davis, former sous chef at Brownstone will have a “soft opening” of his Fort Worth based truck, the Drifting Bistro. This gourmet kitchen on wheels will be bringing “a playful twist” on comfort foods. The menu is still in the final planning stages but Russ has told me that he will always have two  vegetarian items and a protein of the day.  He will eventually be adding a pasta item of the day as well.  Follow Drifting Bistro on Facebook and Twitter to get all the details about opening day and also see some awesome pictures of Russ’s menu planning and day to day cooking.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also tell you about a couple of trailers in Fort Worth, who are not new to the streets but are new to my coverage.

I Scream 4 Cupcakes operates out of a vintage airstream trailer set up on 8th and Rosedale in Fort Worth. They advertise that their cupcakes are Jumbo size and come in a variety of flavors. I’m anxious to try the lemon curd flavor!  You can follow I Scream 4 Cupcakes on Facebook and Twitter to find out their operating hours and daily flavors.

Chile Pepper Grill has been on the streets of North Fort Worth for approximately 9 months but just hit my radar last week. I exchanged an email with owner Manuel Gonzalez, who tells me their style is Mexico street tacos and they serve several different types of meat and cooking styles. Chile Pepper Grill is most well known for their salsa, which includes a medium spicy green salsa and a red cream salsa with a hot, earthy taste. Chile Pepper Grill is open from 5 p.m.  -  2:30 a.m. Thursday  through Sunday at 3606 Main Street in Fort Worth. You can get more information about them on their website or Facebook

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fort Worth Food Truck Park Opens December 2

For months there has been chatter in both Dallas and Fort Worth about food truck parks opening and finally the chatter becomes reality this weekend in Fort Worth!

Set in an industrial area behind Montgomery Plaza, owner Chris Kruger hopes park visitors feel as though they have escaped from the city and can comfortable relax with family and friends, enjoying live music and most importantly, good food.

The park, located at 2509 Weisenberger Street opens Friday night, December 2, with Nammi, Lee's Grilled Cheese, Jake's Hamburger's, Yes! Taco, Red Jett Sweets and Good Karma Kitchen all serving up dinner for you.  Rahr Brewing will be providing free beer and the Gary Kyle Band will be entertaining the crowd. Hours will be 6:00 10:00 p.m.

On Saturday, Lee's Grilled Cheese and Jake's Hamburger's will rotate out of the park and The Butcher's Son and Ssahm Korean BBQ will join  Nammi, Yes! Taco, Red Jett Sweets and Good Karma Kitchen, from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 pm.

On Sunday, Good Karma Kitchen, Red Jett Sweets, and Yes! Taco will be joined by In A Pickle and will serve from Noon to 9:00 p.m.

 Picnic table seating will be available and parking is free, on the street.

I'll be providing a full write up of my thoughts on the park over the weekend. I am looking forward to trying several trucks that I have not visited yet. Hope to see you there!

Truck Talk Tuesday: Cup-Cakin

One of the things I have enjoyed most about the food trucks is meeting people, not only the other customers but those who are bringing the trucks to life each day. These men and women are incredibly passionate about what they are doing and the food they are serving. I was also noticing that they all had a story of how their truck came about and how their life evolved in to being a part of one of the fastest growing small business concepts, not only in DFW but in the US. Each week I will share these stories in “Truck Talk Tuesday”.

This week we meet Ashley Green of Cup-Cakin.

Question:     What did you do before you were a food truck operator?
Answer:       High School Physics Teacher

Question:     How did you come up with the name for your truck?
Answer:       My husband worked, and still does, work, very hard with me to ensure all business is taken care of properly. He does a lot of my behind the scenes work. I always call him my C.E.O.M (chief executive office manager :)). Through the business our relationship has definitely gotten stronger and we spend a lot of time together "caking", is what some call it. So we decided to include it in the name to keep us grounded and remind us of our love for one another and we can make it together when things get rough, especially taking on a business with two small children. It was a scary thought, but I knew this is what I wanted. Even when we go out on the truck together, I update my personal Facebook status with the hubby and I are out cakin'. (sounds cheesy? I know...but it's so true lol)

Question:     What made you decide to have a food truck rather than a brick and mortar restaurant?
Answer:       Initially, before knowing much about food trucks, I just had a love for baking. I began taking a few culinary classes and workshops to learn more about the business. It started as a hobby that turned into a lifestyle. All of my free time was spent baking...and of course watching baking/cooking shows and just dreaming. I knew I wanted this so I knew I had to go for it. It wasn't long before I saw a food truck on television and thought OH MY GOD what if I got a food truck. I thought I had somewhat of an original idea (of a cupcake truck) until I goggled it, lol, and that's when I was introduced to the food truck community. Of course after doing months of research and planning, it was the most efficient and effective way to do what I wanted to do most.

Question:     What is your favorite menu item?
Answer:       I'm a simple kind of gal, contrary to my menu, but I absolutely love my Classic Chocolate Cupcake. I can eat those all day. I think I have gained quite a few pounds since the Machine hit the streets, lol.

Question:     What has been the biggest reward of having a food truck?
Answer:       Being my own boss and having the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people from customers to other food truck owners in so many different areas. We get to travel and bring Cup Cakin to the people so it's an awesome way to get our name out there. Being mobile allows us to stand out from other bakeries.

Question:     What has been the biggest challenge of having a food truck?
Answer:       Finding different locations. 

Question:     Most marketing for food trucks is through social media, do you see that as a benefit or challenge to you and why?
Answer:       Eh, it can be both. More so beneficial because it is an awesome way to connect with our fans and customers immediately. However, it does take time to communicate through the social media. I am guilty of forgetting to tweet something important or sending messages on Facebook. Sometimes I feel like I need to hire someone specifically to respond to and post messages for me, lol.

Question:     You spent most days on a food truck, where can we find you when you aren’t on a truck?
Answer:       At home with my family :).

Question:     If you could only cook one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Answer:       Sweet potato pie! Weird? I know you expected a cupcake, but I can make a mean sweet potato pie, lol.

Question:     What would you like to see in the DFW food truck scene in the next two years?
Answer:       More establishments allowing us to set up shop! :)

You can follow Ashley and Cup-Cakin on Facebook and Twitter to find out where the Machine is going to rolling out the cupcakes!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Eat Street News

I recently signed on to be an Eat St. Silver Spoon, which is a dream come true since Eat St. was the inspiration for my starting this blog. As a Silver Spoon, I will be communicating with the Eat St. team about all the food truck activities in DFW. (Which I hope inspires them to come film here!) And I will be bringing the trucks and my followers news from Eat St. 

Eat St. currently has a contest going where trucks can submit a video, which will then be voted on by fans. The winning truck will be filmed for a segment on Eat St. Several DFW trucks have already submitted videos and they are great. You can watch them here. Eat St. has extended the deadline to submit a video until January 5, so even more DFW trucks can submit videos. Wouldn't it be cool if every DFW truck had a video?  Eat St. is also uploading all the videos to their very cool truck tracking app, so you can  find your favorite truck and watch their video, at the same time. How cool is that?

So, what if your favorite truck owner doesn't want to make a video?  You can do it and submit it for them!  How cool would that be if your video won on behalf of a truck? I would think they would have to name an item after you, at the very least!  

All the details on how to submit the video are here.  Whether you are a truck owner or customer, I hope to see forty plus videos from the Metroplex!  If you have questions about the video that aren't answered on the site, feel free to contact Corey Dilley, Invoke Media,  604-398-6028.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Food Trucks:Expectations Lead to Success

Earlier this week, Jackalope Mobile Kitchen, Dallas' first vegan food truck posted a message on their Facebook page that alluded to the possibility that they would be closing down, after only 30 days on the streets. I sent an email to owner Alex Salas and received an immediate reply that indicated that a decision would be made that evening but that the customer base that they had hoped for was not there. Alex also indicated that if they were to close they were considering reopening as a Tex-Mex, meat serving truck. Since that time there have been other reports of various conversations with the truck owners and then confirmation that yes, the truck was closing.

This blog post is not about Jackalope or any truck in general but is about my personal observations of expectations associated with the food truck culture in DFW. When I started this blog, in July, I found several trucks that had already closed down, in both Dallas and Fort Worth, Jackalope isn't the first  and I am comfortable saying it will not be the last truck to close.  As sad as it is to see any business close, its especially sad when it is a small business, where we feel like we know the owner and have an vested interest in the business. But, from my months of watching the food trucks, both those who were in around back in July and those that have come out since, I am seeing some patterns emerge and areas where everyone has some opportunities to make the food truck culture a success.

For those thinking of opening a truck:

Over the last two months, DFW has averaged one new truck launch every week. This is a very exciting time for all of us!  What is interesting, to me, is the process of launch that each truck takes. Some trucks have been working a business plan and making contacts, both from a marketing and a distribution chain process for months; some seemingly pop-up over night. Some spend months marketing themselves and still have not rolled out on the streets, some quietly set up websites and Facebook pages, get a feel for the market and launch once they have dotted every i and crossed every t, multiple times over. I am not judging any of these styles as right or wrong; obviously what works for one person probably won't work for everyone. But there seems to be some things that need to happen before a truck rolls out, if they are going to have long-term success.

1. Have the expectations and finances to allow for rough going the first few months. I've talked to several trucks that were out early  this summer, before things took off and they have all said that the first few weeks were rough and they often questioned if they had done the right thing. These are trucks that today anyone would consider a success, but it took time and a lot of hard work to get there.

2. Start working your contacts long before you hit the streets. Every truck needs multiple locations in which to set up a route. The only way to find those locations is to start making contacts with business owners.   Along these same lines, you cannot rely on stops where other trucks are already setting up. There have been several situations where trucks felt like they had an exclusive agreement with a business owner and then find that the property owner was open to other trucks setting up in that location. This ends up with everyone having bad feelings and customer confusion.

3. Make the truck exterior look as professional as possible. Yes, I understand that wraps are expensive but the exterior is the first impression a truck makes. Your truck is a mobile billboard. I'm surprised at how often someone will stop me and say, "I saw a black food truck, is that one good?" or "I saw a van with cupcakes on it, where do they serve?".  No one has ever said," I saw a plain  truck. Can you tell me who it was so I can go there?"

4. Know the laws of the city in which you plan to operate. I'm especially talking about the laws that cover what kinds of trucks are allowed to be permitted in each city.  If you plan to operate out of a trailer, in Dallas, you should know going in what Dallas will allow and what they won't. There's size limits and structure requirements. I've talked to several people who have already shelled out the money for trailers only to find out that they will not be permitted in Dallas. I wish they had known that going in.

Once the trucks roll out, some thoughts for the customers:

1. Support the food trucks. Visit them! Don't take it for granted they will be there. Especially with winter coming, if you aren't visiting them, there is a good chance that neither is the next person. Yes, it may be cold but most of the trucks are planning new menu items that will warm you back up. If the thought crosses your mind that you wish you could to to a truck, GO, don't wait for another day.

2. Tell others about your truck experience. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend, post a review on Yelp, Foodspotting and other restaurant rating sites. Word of mouth marketing is critical for any small business. In today's social media world, your comments about a food truck can be seen by hundreds, if not thousands of peoples within hours.

3. Get to know the owners. Every single one of them is open to  suggestions. Whether you contact them in person or by social media, they want to hear what you want from them. They may not always be able to make it happen quickly, especially when it comes to locations but they are always listening and considering options.

4. Understand that at times its easier for you to go the truck than it is for them to come to you. I live in one of the suburbs that has said unconditionally that they will not allow trucks in the town. While I may not like it, I have to accept the limitations. And if I am considering the logistics of it all, my town is probably outside of the area that makes economical sense for the trucks. I'm a long way from any of the commissaries so to even get to my town, the cost of gas would make it expensive to drive a truck to get to my area.  In the long run, its more cost efficient for me to travel to the trucks, see a part of town I wouldn't have otherwise seen and still have an inexpensive, delicious meal.

These are just my observations, I haven't talked to any of the trucks about this particular post or the ideas I'm throwing out. It is a credit to the existing trucks that they have made it all look easy. However, once you start following the trucks and seeing what they are doing, you realize there is a lot of pieces that have to fit together in order to be a success.  Hopefully each new truck that comes out will have realistic expectations and every customer that visits a truck has a positive experience that they share with many, many others.
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