Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cowtown Chowdown Opens to Light Crowds, Good Food and Live Music

After months of planning and waiting, Forth Worth now has a second food truck park as Cowtown Chowdown had its Grand Opening Weekend starting on Thursday and continuing through Sunday. I am going to refer to this location as "the Chowdown" to distinguish it from the first  food truck park in Fort Worth. The Chowdown is located on North Main, north of downtown, south of the Stockyards.  There were 17 trucks on the calendar for Saturday, although one left for another event before I arrived. 

The trucks are set up so that four, including the Snoball Corral were on the side and the remainder were in a horseshoe shape around the perimeter of the property. Picnic tables were in the middle, some in the sun, some under a covering, with part of the covering being over an area for the  band.   Behind one side of trucks there is also a converted office area, with seating for those wishing to be completely out of the elements and there is a small covered table in the far back of the property. 

Much had been made about the parking availability for the Chowdown, with talk of a parking lot and convenient street parking. My recommendation is to start with the street parking. The parking lot is very small, not necessarily in number of spaces but more importantly, in width and depth of the spaces. I, like many in DFW, drive a wide vehicle and going around the bends in the parking lot was tight. The driving and backing area is only one car width so it would have been extremely difficult to back out of a space and clear every other car.  It is very much a "compact only" parking lot.  I parked on the street, directly in front of the Chowdown with no problems. 

I visited the Chowdown at 6:30 on Saturday evening, a time that I consider prime dinner time and was surprised at how few people were there.  Several trucks had messaged me or posted on Facebook that the crowds were light on Thursday's opening and into Friday. However, I assumed Saturday would be different since there were 17 trucks. At 6:30, no truck had a line and food that was being ordered was coming out quickly.  I posted on Facebook and several people posted that by 7:45, the attendance had picked up, slightly. 

In the "something you don't see every day" category, those who were there during this time, did get to see a demonstration by The Fat Truck of how to make liquid nitrogen sorbet. 

My first impressions of the park:

1. I love that Chowdown is on a main thoroughfare in Fort Worth.  
2. I love that there is room for a large number of trucks. The website and brochures say room for 20. I'm going to question that, with the understanding that I have not seen the set up for 20. Having 16 was a good feel, I think 20 would be tight and the set up would to the detriment of those 4 additional trucks. However to have 16 trucks in one location, with several choices for every person in the family is amazing and is how food truck parks should be done, in my opinion. 
3. All that concrete is going to be hot in July and August. There was a nice breeze while I was there, so it wasn't a problem to be out in the sun. The covering is nice but it remains to be seen how much heat the concrete radiates when its 100 plus degrees. 
4. There needs to be recycling bins for cans and bottles.
5. As mentioned above, the parking lot did not live up to the hype. That said, parking on the street was not a problem.   
6. More people need to visit the Chowdown and take advantage of the variety of food being offered. With most of the trucks working both Dallas and Forth Worth and with two parks in Fort Worth and one coming soon to Keller, there is going to be a lot of competition for these trucks and under the purest form of "supply and demand" the trucks are going to go where there is the highest demand. 

Cowtown Chowdown is open seven days a week and a list of trucks schedule to be there on any particular day is posted on their website. If you are seeking a specific truck, be sure to confirm on that truck's Facebook or Twitter page; things frequently change with the truck schedules and the Chowdown calendar may not reflect last minute changes. 

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