Just about every day somewhere in Central Florida there is a food truck feeding hungry people yummy, often gourmet, food. Haven‚Äôt had any yet? Well what are you waiting for? Get on down to Fashion Square Mall, Main Street in Windermere, downtown Sanford or Waterford Lakes Town Center and fill up your belly with some of the freshest tastes around.
Why is food that comes from a truck so popular? Chatranant Savigamin Costello, owner of Eclectic Kitchen food truck says TV has helped spread the word about food trucks. From Food Network‚Äôs The Great Food Truck Race to Cooking Channel‚Äôs Street Food and even Travel Channel‚Äôs Adam Takes On and Unique Eats there are more and more food trucks being featured on TV.
Today‚Äôs food truck has come a long way from the ‚Äúroach coaches‚ÄĚ of old. Those little silver trucks with snacks and hot dogs boiled in water that used to pull up to construction sites is not what we are talking about here. Today‚Äôs gourmet food trucks often use locally sourced and sometimes even organic ingredients. The owners are not fry cooks with little experience looking to make a few dollars, but trained chefs that want to get their food in the hands and tummies of food coinsurers.
How it Began
Mark Baratelli, the producer of Orlando‚Äôs Food Truck Bazaar is not the first person to get on the food truck bandwagon, but he is credited for helping get the word out for gourmet food trucks and organizing the largest gatherings of food trucks in the area.
The first official Food Truck Bazaar was held on March 29 last year, with eight trucks. But Baratelli started food truck gatherings in 2009 with a recurring event called the Taco Truck Taste Test, which occurred along Orange Blossom Trail and Semoran Boulevard. In August 2010, Baratelli asked his readers on his website TheDailyCity.com to bring some ideas for new ventures to Orlando. Then a friend told him about large food truck gatherings in Miami and a seed was planted. Shortly after The Food Truck Bazaar came to fruition.¬†Today The Food Truck Bazaar holds monthly happenings in approximately six cities, with an average attendance of 1,000 per visit.¬†The Food Truck Bazaar came in second as the best local food event (as voted by Edible Orlando). It‚Äôs no wonder Mark Baratelli is called the "Pied Piper of Food Trucks.‚ÄĚ
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Safe and Savory
But what about the idea that you are eating food from the back of a truck? Baratelli assures that the food trucks he works with for The Food Truck Bazaar are all licensed and insured. ‚ÄúThey are all inspected as often, if not more, than your brick and mortar restaurant,‚ÄĚ Baratelli says.
According to Baratelli, many of today‚Äôs well-known local food trucks, and certainly the ones that are a part of The Food Truck Bazaar, offer high-quality food with a bit of creativity.
¬†Check out some of the offerings gourmet food trucks have: There‚Äôs Fish Out of Water Sushi‚Äôs spicy crab nachos; The Crepe Company‚Äôs turkey, bacon, cheddar crepe; 5Gastronomy‚Äôs lamb meatball sub; Big Wheel Provisions‚Äô braised brussel sprouts with local honey, soy, sriracha and lime dressing; Feast Beast‚Äôs queijo coalho (Brazilian fried cheese), The Flattery‚Äôs Thai My Shoe Flatbread sandwich: Chicken, Thai peanut sauce, scallions, cilantro, cucumbers, chow mein noodles; Pop Craft‚Äôs artisan popsicles such as a white chocolate balsamic fig popsicle; and SwedeDISH‚Äôs biff a la Lindstrom, which is similar to a hamburger, an all-beef patty topped with beets and capers.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Donna Tortorice, owner of Pop Craft says her son, the ‚Äúpopolgoist‚ÄĚ Martin Scott is a sommelier and chooses his flavor profiles based on seasonality of ingredients, smell and instinct of what tastes good together. Many of the area‚Äôs gourmet food trucks have classically trained chefs at the wheel.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Chef Bryce Balluff, owner of the Fork in the Road truck, trained at the French Culinary Institute and worked in some of the top kitchens in New York. Locally, he has worked as the private dining chef at Luma, the chef de cuisine at Puff'n Stuff Catering and the chef at The Funky Monkey Wine Company and Draft Global Beer Lounge & Grill.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ‚ÄúFood is my passion. I want to bring great food to more people and a food truck is a great way to do it,‚ÄĚ Balluff says. ‚ÄúThe costs associated with a bricks and mortar restaurant are very high. This way people can get quality, flavorful food for a better price.‚ÄĚ
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Most menu items at gourmet food trucks are in the range of $3-8, with the higher ingredient items topping out around $12-14.¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Ben and Laura Brewster of Seminole County go to the food trucks regularly and take their two kids with them. They say a family of four can eat for about $50. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs the same we‚Äôd spend eating at a restaurant, but it‚Äôs more fun and you can get some really interesting things,‚ÄĚ Laura says. ‚ÄúThe brown sugar pork fries [from Big Wheel Provisions] is my favorite. There‚Äôs nothing like them,‚ÄĚ Ben adds.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Casselberry Mayor Charlene Glancy says the added benefit of helping small business owners from the community makes going to the food trucks a ‚Äúfeel good‚ÄĚ thing to do. ‚ÄúAnd many of the trucks are also using propane and keeping their carbon foot print very low. The food is good, sourced locally‚ÄĒa lot of it is ‚Äď and it‚Äôs fun,‚ÄĚ Glancy says. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a festive feel to it.‚ÄĚ
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Keeping it Local
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Mike Smith, owner of Fish Out of Water Sushi truck, says he tends to gravitate toward the downtown area. Since his wares require a little more experienced foodie, he likes to head out to Baldwin Park, The Milk District and Thornton Park regularly. Most food truck owners say the weather in Central Florida is part of why food trucks are doing so well too. The Sunshine State is a perfect venue for outdoor dining just about any time of year.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† As for Chef Maria Salazar of Tastebuds, she makes it to Winter Park Farmer‚Äôs market every Saturday. The crowds there seem to appreciate her Venezuelan flavors. Her tostones are legendary. Taylor Craven says he could eat Tastebud tostones all day, although he does like the omelets too.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Most trucks offer a minimum of 3-4 items, depending on its genre it could be even more. Bakery trucks and dessert-only trucks seem to have a little more room to house their items, plus many of them are not baking or cooking in the truck. Gastro-Truck owner Catarina Triacca says signature items, which have proven to be crowd-pleasers such as her mac and cheese, harvest grilled cheese sandwich with honeycrisp apple with bacon stay on the menu. She adds an additional 2-3 specials every day.
By Any Other Name
Robert Hopkins of The Flattery says he gets his ideas for menu ideas and names of sandwiches through brainstorming, research and adding a little fun to things. Sandwiches like Smack My Swine and Flatter Me Q are certainly inventive and keep the crowds coming. At a recent food truck stop in Casselberry, The Flattery had a healthy line of diners, laughing at the names and heartily enjoying the food.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† One of the early adapters to the food truck explosion is Yum Yum Cupcake Truck. Partners Joey Conicella and Alex Marin have been featured on Cooking Channels‚Äô Eat Street. Their cupcakes are good, there‚Äôs no doubt. Yum Yum is a regular at the Milk District Tasty Tuesdays weekly stop and diners frequently line up at the truck to take a dozen or half dozen home. Conicella says Yum Yum‚Äôs cupcakes are not made in the truck however. They are made from scratch ingredients, seven days a week in their bakery in the SODO district. They too use cute names for their product, a trend that seems to get guests‚Äô attention. Some Yum Yum Cupcake names: Chocolate on Chocolate Action, Dough Dough Bird, The Dom Berrignon and Nannerpants. But a name will not keep you in business. The thing that makes a food truck is user likes on Facebook, reviews on Urban Spoon and word of mouth, of course.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Kim and Ed Layton, first timers to a gourmet food truck say they came because their neighbor told them about it. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm so glad we listened to him. I love it and can‚Äôt wait until the next one,‚ÄĚ Ed says.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† For really good food, a fun, family-friendly atmosphere and culinary adventure there‚Äôs nothing like a gourmet food truck.