Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Where We Going Wednesday...Austin

Now that the Dallas-Fort Worth street food scene is fairly well established, I thought it was a good time to compare our scene to the street food scenes in other cities.  Each week I will ask a guest blogger from a different city to give us an overview of the set up and rules from around the country and hopefully some international cities. This week, we head south to the  city that sets the standard for all Texas food trucks, Austin.  Thanks to Tony Yamanaka of  for providing this overview. 

Austin’s food trailer scene isn’t too different than that of Vancouver, New York, Portland or San Diego. It has however been ushered into the national spotlight through its intricate involvement with SXSW, East St. ,No Reservations, and the peaking interest of other food-ophile celebrites such as Adam Richman. Although similar to other cities with a food truck culture, Austin holds a varied advantage: It is a mix of every other city’s culture.
Austin's Belgian Waffle Co. Truck

To begin, the City of Austin had over 1,300 mobile food vendor permits issued in August of 2011 (Bernier 2011). Although it’s safe to say that there are not 1,300 active trailers, one can admit that there is an intense amount of options available to appease any hankering for flavour you may have.  Of those permits, there  is a healthy mix of stationary trailers (traditional Airstream & remodelled storage trailers) and the all-famous food truck (a far leap from the taco truck that was popular years ago) which are 100% roving. These two types of vendors compose the heart of the Austin food trailer culture, and they pump food into the life veins of Austin’s culinary requisite. Let’s look further into the two types of vendors and the variety of food in the Austin region.

Food Trailers
Food trailers in Austin are wildly popular due to their consistency in location, hours and availability. Austin’s trailers are primarily “permanent” at a lot anywhere from six to twelve months depending on their contract and ability to remain in business. Austin benefits from a monstrous amount of trailer parks, which station anywhere from 4-12 trailers in one location. Although recent economic recovery has caused the gates to shutter on some of Austin’s favourite parks, others are quickly in line to open such as Jessie St. Eats and North Austin Trailer Yard (NATY). Major trailer parks in Austin are as follows:

This is not by any means an exhaustive list, but these are trailer parks with known names.  Food trailers are primarily permanent at these locations. Some do leave from time-to-time for catering gigs, but they can be considered relatively reliable.

The downside to these types of parks and stationary trailers in general is their limitations on following the hungry. Basically, they are bound by their surroundings. If they are near bars, they are most likely late night trailers. If they are near UT they don’t see much summer traffic etc. Also, they are bound by their landlord. This causes a huge issue when the landlord wishes to sell the land as was seen with East Side Drive-in and leaves trailers looking for a new home.

Verts, the world's smallest food truck. Located in Austin
Food Trucks
The roving food truck style of vending is something that is relatively untapped in Austin. There are a string of very successful trucks who are purely mobile. Their success can be stemmed from essentially being at the right place at the right time. For example, they are able to relocate downtown from 8pm to 3am for the bar crowd. During the day, they relocate to office parking lots to feed the masses. Their flexibility is impeccable and highly valued. Additionally, they are building great brand awareness by having a rolling billboard. They are not only waiting for people to see them, they are putting their name in front of thousands of people. Perhaps the most successful of these trailers are Chi’Lantro, Coreanos and Peached Tortilla. There are other trailers that do also do extremely well such as The Evil Wiener and Mmmpanadas, who benefit from pairings with local brewery Thirsty Planet for cross-promotion.

The downside to having a roving trailer is highly linked to the issues faced by car owners. As a roving trailer you must compete with traffic, truck maintenance, parking and additional expenses like gasoline. Essentially, being roving leads to having a lot of variable costs, which make it difficult to be sure of a profit margin for the specific time-frame.

Tacos from Chi'lantro
The Noms
Structure aside, the food aspect of Austin’s food trailer scene is downright outstanding. Think about it, you can step out of your house and get top-notch Asian cuisine at East Side King, authentic cheese steaks from Way South Philly, Detroit-style pizza from Via 313 and the most authentic tacos I’ve had outside of Mexico at Tacos Selene. This variety is all found within 100m. Extrapolate that variation across Austin’s metropolitan area and you’re faced with choices of gourmet ravioli, Navajo tacos and even buffalo chalupas. Yes, there is a bit of everything in Austin.

True to Austin style, the food trailer scene in this wonderful capital is not a standardized industry, but rather a bricolage of everything you’ve seen across Portland, New York, Phoenix and Boston. It is delicious and 100% Austin.

Tony Yamanaka
Managing Member/Lead Contributor

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

For Sale: Food Truck And Everything You Need to Hit The Street

UPDATED 7/22/12 - The truck has been sold. 

2007 Chevy Work Horse Food Truck - FOOD TRUCK BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY – TURN KEY $90,000

You don’t want to pass up on this Food Truck business opportunity to hit the ground running.
We are offering you everything you need to START your own Gourmet Food Truck, and have the ability to start making money immediately.

A 2007 Chevy Work Horse – Manufactured by Wyss
Mileage- 84000
Runs on standard unleaded fuel
Truck has Brand New Refrigeration Compressor just installed 4/19/2012
This is an awesome truck it is equipped with …
- Full size fryer (includes 2 regular baskets, 1 tostada  & 1 taco shell baskets)
- Full size 36’ flat top griddle (with a cutting board work space)
- Steam table (includes quarter & ½ pan inserts needed)
- 3 door refrigerator/cooler  with a sandwich box top (holds 9  1/6 pans) and has a full stainless steel & cutting board work space.
- Has an exterior refrigerated display case/fridge
- Has a hot box display case, great for either displaying warm baked goods or as a heated holding area.
- Truckside exterior Beverage bin
- Onboard Hot or Cold Beverage Urn. Also great for Soups
- Truckside exterior shelves for displaying Chips and other grab and go items or your retail merchandise
- Truckside napkin dispenser
- 3 compartment sink
- Hand washing sink
- Tons of storage below in enclosed stainless steel cabinets or above on built in steel shelving
- An additional 3x1 ½ area cutting board work/prep area
As stated all of these pans are commercial quality you will use these on board and in your commercial kitchen. I promise you will use all of these if not more.
1 Rubbermaid 18x26x6 commercial grade storage bin
1 Carlisle 19.3 qt/ full size w/ lid
2 Rubbermaid 18x2x6 w/lids

Also included is everything you will need to run your Gourmet Food Truck Business
-        A 3x2 Stainless steel prep table
-        A Randell Sandwich box Refrigerator 48x30 – has a 12 1/6 pan capacity up top and 2 24’ doors.
-        Electronic Cash Register
-        Ultra Cool Stand Up Air Conditioning Unit for inside kitchen area of truck.
-        Amplified Bull Horn/with siren – Great for calling out orders and building up the fun.
-        1- Cambro for hot/cold food storage – 16”x23”x20”- great for working food park and large events.
-        2 steam domes for the grill
-        Cast iron burger press
-        1 large 40lb Rubbermaid ice bucket
-        15 Bus Tubs

-        0ver 200 assorted sizes of Stainless steel and commercial NSF grade plastic hotel pans and lex pans. Sizes range from 1/9, 1/6, 1/3, 1/2 & Full pan sizes. Includes lids and grate/drain inserts.
-        Assorted Commercial grade storage bins.  6qt, 8qt, 12qt plus extra large storage bins
-        4 Chaffers complete w/ insert pans, these are great for full service caterings.

Also included in this already great package at no additional charge is Our Availability & Consultation for 1 month. This is a really great deal especially for those new to the food truck business.
We will assist you with… 
-        the City Permitting process’
-        The VCO - Vendor Certificate of Occupancy process
-        Commissary requirements
-        Commercial Kitchen, when, what, where & whys
-        We will answer all questions you have about the truck and running the truck
-        Tips and tricks on how to save money when buying food, propane and ice.
-        We will go out on a service with you and assist you with the smooth running of a service if you need it.
-        We will give you all of our Location, Business and Catering contacts.
-        All contact info for the other DFW food trucks.
-        And any other of the millions of question we know you will have. We want you to get up and running and making money as quickly as possible and with the hoops that you have to jump through for the cities our assistance will make it happen for you ASAP.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

TX Food Truck Festival Rolls with Trucks From Across the State

On Friday and Saturday night. twenty-five trucks, from Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio converged on Valley View Mall in Dallas for the first Texas Food Truck Festival, sponsored by U.S. Food Trucks. I attended on both Friday night and Saturday, which were different experiences, but were a great show of the variety of food from across the State.

Friday night, I arrived in between rain showers and walked around to see who was set up and plan my eating schedule for the next two days. I already knew that I would mostly be eating at the out-of-town trucks and was disappointed, but understood why  heavy rains to the south had kept two San Antonio trucks from being able to travel.  The off and on rain meant that crowds were less than I expected but there was still a steady flow of traffic to all of the trucks.

After getting the lay of the land, I hit Coolhaus DFW first, knowing that the lines for the truck making its first Dallas appearance would get long before the festival ended. Carmel seasalt gelato did not disappoint. Next up was a stop at all of the vendor tables and a check-in at Durty Laundry to see the new graphics on their tees and see what tunes Beat Breakerz were spinning.

Dinner was the Yume Dog from Austin's Yume Burger truck. The wait in line was about 10 minutes but was broken up by an employee passing out menu cards and answering questions about the menu. The dog was ready about 20 minutes later and I was very happy with my hot dog topped with battered onion strings, wasabi mayo, tonkastsu sauce and nori. Yume Burger will be on my must visit list next time I head to Austin.

The rest of Friday was spent visiting and enjoying the location, the lines were moving quickly and everyone was enjoying themselves.

Saturday, I arrived at the event, with my family at noon. As expected, lines were long but we employed my truck event of  "divide and conquer", with each person standing in differnt lines and then meeting back up to share the food.  It worked well, the lines we were in moved at about the same pace and we were able to hit 2 trucks, sit down to eat, hit 2 more and eat again in about an hour's time. The first stop was Gandolfo's for a kid's grilled cheese and thereafter, it was on to the out of town trucks.  Chi'lantro, from Austin and their tacos were everything I hoped they would be. I had hoped to try their Kimchee fries, but with such a huge event, they opted to do a limited menu of street tacos, which did not disappoint.  Sabor Columbiano, from San Antonio also had a limited menu, of rice and chicken, empanadas and fried plantains. The chicken and rice was filling and tasty, which  was a nice meal. That said, I wasn't really looking for a meal, I wanted a sample of each truck, so even with three people eating, we did not finish this plate, opting to move on to other trucks.

The Belgian Waffle Truck was the truck I was most excited about. I have wanted to try this truck since it first opened in Austin. The nutella and banana waffle did not disappoint! I waited in line for about 20 minutes and the order was out within about 3.  It is a good thing this truck is not in Dallas, otherwise I would be eating it morning, noon and night and this blog would evolve in the Belgian Waffle Truck blog.

Those who have been reading my blog since day 1 know that with each festival, I give my honest opinion of the event. If you follow on Facebook, you may have seen comments from people that contradict mine and I will address those in a later blog post. This post is about my experience and I loved this event.

After the Sigel's event, last August, I commented that these events need to be when the weather was less miserable. The event was purposefully scheduled in a "cooler" month.  Another concern last August was the parking situation, there was no problem parking at Valley View. After the Frisco event, I asked for more trucks, more room and a better estimate of the number of attendees.  This event has thirty trucks signed up. For various reasons a handful of trucks were not able to attend on one or both days but overall, this problem was addressed.  There was absolutely more room, the truck lines did not merge and there was plenty of room to walk. I loved all of the seating, spread out all over the festival.

The only thing I would change would be to have a break from about 3 - 5 on Saturday to allow the trucks to take a breath, restock and be ready to serve dinner. The trucks were as prepared as they could possibly be, but serving for 4 hours one night and then starting back up for a 12 - 14 hour day, depending on if they served breakfast, without time to restock is asking a lot, from any truck.

Overall, a great event, it is wonderful to see how far the food truck scene has evolved since last August and I look forward to more events from US Food Trucks. 

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