There is something undeniably compelling about a food truck. Even for the most hard-core gourmet who is accustomed to white-napkin restaurants where the meal starts out with a hundred-dollar amuse bouche, the sheer joy of spending ten or fifteen dollars at a food truck for some home-made tacos is something that will stay with you. Enjoying a hand-rolled burrito and soda out of a can while sitting on the curb is simply an honest experience where you can enjoy food with no frills.
Besides the food itself, it’s the ability to have a direct connection with the vendor and with the people around you. Billy Turbert, catering sales manager at Salsa Fresca Mexican Grill, says “I think it’s the appeal. It’s the ability to connect with the food trucks, to walk up and talk to somebody and make that connection. It’s an intimate thing to walk up to a truck, look at the menu, and get your food.”
There is also a unique social aspect to food truck dining. At most sit-down restaurants (with the possible exception of a traditional Irish pub), you don’t talk to the people at the table next to you. A good food truck will always have a line of people gathered around chatting with one another, comparing notes – and it’s more of a social event. “At the Connecticut Taco Fest in Milford, we had lines as long as a football field all day long,” said Turbert. “There was a little alcohol involved in that event, and people were socializing more, talking about the truck, talking to each other. It’s a great time to be social and connect with people.”
Cities across the country are getting on the food truck bandwagon, and they have a lot to offer. Here are a few of our favorites.
Salsa Fresca Mexican Grill
Salsa Fresca Mexican Grill is our favorite fast-casual Mexican chain. Currently there are ten locations throughout Connecticut and New York, all featuring always-fresh, never-frozen favorites, and eco-friendly policies at all locations, including the food truck. The stores use efficient heating and cooling, they recycle cooking oil into biodiesel, and they use biodegradable straws and cups. Their goal is to be a completely zero-waste restaurant.
“We’re new to the food truck scene but we’re not new to serving people food,” says Turbert. “It’s our professionalism that really separates us from other food trucks. We know how to make customers happy.”
Salsa Fresca’s popular food truck can be seen on “Taco Tuesdays” at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in West Harrison, NY; every Sunday at the Elephants Trunk Flea Market in New Milford, CT; and every other Friday at Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Cancer Center in Yonkers, NY. Salsa Fresca will also roll out at Bethel Food Truck Friday on August 17 at the Bethel Municipal Lawn in Bethel, CT from 5 to 8 pm, and at the Marist Family Weekend Tailgate on Saturday, September 29 from 2 to 8 pm.
Salsa Fresca also made a showing at the Hudson Valley Expo recently in Peekskill, NY, where their truck was on the Hudson riverfront all day for this exciting event. But perhaps the most exciting event for Salsa Fresca is their presence at the Forever Grateful Festival at Ives Concert Park in Danbury, Connecticut, coming up on Saturday, August 11, a truly epic event for Grateful Dead fans who remember the free-wheeling atmosphere outside of Dead concerts back in the day.
What started off as a final project in founder Christian Murcia’s Entrepreneurial Studies class, Crepes Bonaparte became a renowned food truck brand (and eventually a restaurant in the bustling Downtown Fullerton). There are currently two food trucks (Gaston and Pierre) offering French street food-style crepes, ranging from sweet to savory, as well as fresh breakfast options. The crepes are made to order, and topped with fan favorites like Nutella, berries, bananas, and more. The trucks are so popular, they’ve been featured on The Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race with Tyler Florence, Eat Street (Food Network Canada), Thrillist’s video, and more.
Curry Up Now
Founded in 2009 by the pun-loving husband and wife duo Akash and Rana Kapoor, Curry Up Now is known for taking traditional Indian flavors and presenting them in a friendly, recognizable format. Menu standouts include their iconic Tikka Masala Burrito, Deconstructed Samosa, Naughty Naan, and Sexy Fries (an Indian poutine, of sorts). The Curry Up Now empire began as one truck in a small San Francisco Bay Area town, and now includes four trucks and six brick-and-mortars, with more trucks to come and over twenty franchised locations opening all across California and as far east as Atlanta. There’s also a Curry Up Now food truck located at luxury shopping center City Center Bishop Ranch in San Ramon, California.
According to Akash, “We wanted to offer an underserved cuisine (Indian) in a format that had never been seen before for Indian food: burritos, quesadillix, sexy fries, naughty naan, and more. When we first started, our customers wanted something different, and we saw this was true for other food trucks as well. I believe the American public embraced and encouraged the funky and different food that was being served from a truck format because while the food was familiar in taste, it was unique in the presentation. Food trucks are amazing for innovation, and we’ve actually experimented with this by introducing LTOs to our trucks and restaurants at the same time. Oftentimes, the truck and stores have produced very different results, and actually skewed towards better acceptance on the trucks.”
SAJJ Mediterranean first rolled onto the food truck scene in 2012 with a mission to serve food that is satisfying, transporting, and with flavors that provide an escape from the everyday. SAJJ’s Mediterranean and Middle Eastern menu offers bold entrees made with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and is highly customizable to fit the preferences of each guest. What began as a single truck six years ago is now an ever-growing concept that includes two food trucks and seven stores throughout California.
“We serve street food, so we thought it would be fitting to have a food truck that serves our fresh Middle Eastern eats on the road,” said Zaid Ayoub, founder and CEO of SAJJ Mediterranean. Additionally, it’s another avenue to reach customers. Food trucks make it possible to change locations daily, so you can continue to reach new audiences. Trucks are sexy, in demand, and a great marketing tool for the brand. They are moving billboards. We believe in reaching our customers using multiple channels including trucks, B&M stores, catering, online partners, and meal plans. It’s the network effect.”
Dan Blacharski is editor-in-chief of TheVivant.com.