Imagine wanting to open a restaurant and share your culinary art only to find rents for commercial restaurants on Kauai are a hard nut to crack, and in many cases cost prohibitive without being a person of wealth.
Fast forward to Kauai 2014. The last few years on Kauai have brought us an array of ethnicities in regards to street food by means of the food truck. There are Mexican, Greek, Italian, Thai, Chinese, American-style steak and burgers, crepes and the all popular Hawaiian-style plate lunch, lau lau, shaved ice and malasadas.
Most people I know enjoy street food. Street food used to be sold by means of hot dog carts, pretzel stands and musical ice cream trucks.
Food trucks have not only taken over for street food vendors, but for the conventional restaurant as a popular means to open a restaurant on Kauai. Kapaa town is starting to look like a ghetto with all these old step vans converted to food trucks.
There is a food truck revolution going on.
Food trucks were originally known and famous for large portions of food at very reasonable prices. Food trucks do not have all the overhead of traditional restaurants, while some pay minimal rent, others set up on the side of the highways and roads and pay nothing or a nominal fee to their local city or county. Food trucks, plain and simple, do not have the expenses of a conventional restaurant.
The food trucks I have witnessed do not even have Porta Potties or a place to wash your hands. It makes me wonder where the owners and employees relieve themselves during a shift of work. How can a restaurant pass a board of health inspection without restrooms for their patrons and employees?
Therefore one would think the savings in overhead would be passed onto the consumer, as I have witnessed on Oahu and many other places. I often visit a locally owned restaurant that has an excellent wait staff, awesome food, large portions and restrooms, plus their menu prices are less than the food trucks I have seen on island.
The food trucks I have visited on Kauai are priced way too high with tiny, humble portions of food. Food trucks in many instances are charging more than a full fledged sit-down restaurant serving similar food items.
There’s a relatively new food truck I bicycle by every day. However, after looking at the menu, it was the same old story: high prices. The only thing that looked reasonable was the kids’ menu; however, you must be 12 or under. Isn’t that discrimination?
I understand being an entrepreneur and wanting to live your dream and that dream may be to open a restaurant. You may not have the funds to open a restaurant in a shopping mall, or you may just like the concept of food trucks. However, when a burger plate is $12-15 plus tax served on a paper plate with no wait staff or restrooms — and with the audacity to have a rusted lid mayonnaise jar on the counter with sloppy handwriting that says “TIPS” — this is just insanity.
I want the Kauai fleet of food trucks to stay in business and make money. I would like to offer some solid advice. Here’s my tip, not in a rusted lid mayonnaise jar, but from the heart: Please serve larger portions. Think volume and stop charging fine-dining prices in a fast-food environment.
Believe it or not, the next fad in business is fashion trucks, they are gaining popularity in Mainland markets. Who knows, before long there will be no need for shopping centers or strip malls in Hawaii, just good old converted step vans everywhere. Welcome to paradise!
• James “Kimo” Rosen is a retired professional photographer living in Kapaa with his best friend Obama Da Dog, Rosen also blogs as a hobby www.dakinetalk.blogspot.com
On Jan. 27, the Lexington City Council approved an amendment to the city’s land use ordinance to permit and regulate food trucks. Josh Monk, city planner at the Lexington Business and Community Development Office, said the idea for permitting food trucks came from several areas. One of the main factors was many of the restaurants in Lexington close by 10 p.m., so food trucks may be utilized to serve the later crowds.
“Food trucks are a growing trend in America,” Monk said. “There is a ton of potential for these trucks in Lexington. We have started to develop a nightlife in the city and when people are leaving those places, there is no place local for them to eat. We want to keep the younger professionals in town instead of going to Winston-Salem or Salisbury.”
Monk began the project by researching food truck ordinances in other areas to see how they impacted the community and to gauge their success in various areas.
“Raleigh used a food truck ordinance to bring people downtown,” Monk said. “It’s a quick and little less expensive option for people leaving the bars and other venues. They have a late night vibe to them, but that is not the only reason behind the ordinance. They can also be used in areas that are underserved by local restaurants.”
Ordinance shows potential
Monk said he has had contact with existing food truck owners as well as local business owners who are interested in operating their own food trucks.
Ben Devar, owner of Camel City Grill in Winston-Salem, said he will bring his food truck to Lexington more often now that the ordinance has changed. Camel City Grill features artisan burgers, grilled sandwiches, wraps and snacks.
“We are excited to hear about the new ordinance,” Devar said. “We have serviced Lexington during a few special events, and there is a ton of potential in your area. One of the strongest selling points about a food truck is adding something new to the table. Look at the effects it has had in bigger cities. Revamping the food scene trickles down into entertainment and collaborates into growth.”
Devar congratulated the city leaders for having the vision to think progressively and to tap into the pulse of the nation when it comes to its developing food culture.
“You want the perception to be a restaurant on wheels, and our goal is to give you that gourmet experience,” Devar said. “People will actually drive to your community to have a different culinary experience.”
The new trend in the food culture has not gone unnoticed by a Lexington entrepreneur. Brittany Wilson, general manager of High Rock Outfitters, has expressed an interest in opening a locally owned and operated food truck. She said it is all about providing food for people after many of the restaurants have closed for the evening.
“We are in the early stages, but I think it is a growing trend and something that is needed in the area,” Wilson said. “Many times we have customers who are looking for a bite to eat when they are heading home. Even people who aren’t going to a particular place often are looking for something to eat late night. I would rather them keep those dollars here rather than somewhere else.”
Wilson said she envisions a truck that would offer a variety of selections with a concentration on local products.
“Of course we will need to start small and offer things that are familiar, but it is an opportunity to have something new,” Wilson said. “It gives people more options and has potential to grow new businesses.”
Wilson thinks the change to the ordinance is a great opportunity to bring the community together.
“The more I get to know my community, the more I love it,” Wilson said. “This can build a new customer base and encourage the relationship I currently have with our customers. I can envision people sitting outside, eating and visiting with each other. It may encourage people to come uptown more often and check it out. I think it is a very good step towards a bustling night life in Lexington.”
Restaurant owners voice concerns
The ordinance may be a new and exciting venture for current and potential food truck owners, but the one segment that will be affected the most is restaurants. Linda Gosselin, owner of Café 35, said she does not mind the additions of food trucks as long as they are open during the later hours and don’t hurt existing businesses.
“As long as it’s after 8 o’clock I don’t have a problem,” Gosselin said. “I don’t think food trucks are that big a deal, but I also don’t believe that it is buying local. We should support establishments that have local employees and spend their money here in town. It waters down the customer pool, but it is free enterprise, and there is plenty of opportunity for all of us.”
Jeff Smith, co-owner of The Black Chicken, said he had a few issues with the ordinance when he initially read about it and brought them forward to be addressed. He said that although he personally isn’t in favor of allowing food trucks, he believes the city and planning board took small business owners’ concerns into consideration.
“When I first heard about the ordinance and read it over, I spoke with other business owners and encouraged them to attend the planning board meeting to discuss it,” Smith said. “My concern was making sure nothing detracted from the quality of uptown and how it might hurt the restaurants.”
Smith said he had several conversations with the city planners to adjust the food truck ordinance to make it as fair as possible to existing restaurants.
“The city was very open to listening to my concerns,” Smith said. “They had to have some kind of rule, and I believe Josh (Monk) worked very hard to put something together and was willing to compromise.”
Richard Jones, co-owner of Sweet Peas, said he doesn’t necessarily oppose the new ordinance, he just isn’t sure how much of a need there is for food trucks in the area.
“I was a bit taken aback when I first heard about it because I couldn’t understand why this would be important in Lexington,” Jones said. “The times they are open is still a concern to me. It could be successful late night, but I don’t know if there is that much of a demand. It will prove itself over time.”
Jones said he was also pleased with the cooperation he received from the City of Lexington and the Lexington Planning Board.
“I went to the commission hearing and was given an opportunity to speak,” Jones said. “The planning office listened and incorporated a lot of what we voiced into the ordinance. I appreciate their openness towards business owners.”
The one thing Monk wants to stress is this ordinance is not to harm existing establishments. He said his office, as well as the planning and zoning board, went to great lengths to obtain feedback from businesses to make sure they were comfortable with the concept.
“We have worked so hard to get Main Street to the point it is now, the last thing we want is another empty storefront,” Monk said. “If we see that it is having a negative impact on existing businesses, we can adjust it at anytime.”
According to the ordinance, all food trucks must be 150 feet away from any restaurant, and they are prohibited from parking on North and South Main streets. They are also strictly regulated as any other brick and mortar restaurant, including being permitted through the Davidson County Health Department.
Ordinance requires strict rules and regulations
Food trucks were previously allowed within the city through a special-use permit, which is limited to a certain time frame and is associated with a specific event. The new ordinance allows food trucks to operate throughout the year.
One stipulation is these trucks must have a base commercial kitchen where food is prepared in advance, which is also regulated by the local county health department. Truck operators are allowed to cook food on the truck, but activities such a processing raw meats or chopping vegetables must be done in advance. Operators are also responsible for disposing of all trash associated with the operation of the food truck.
Food trucks, within the allowed locations, can operate between 6 a.m. and 3 a.m. If located within 150 feet of a single-family house, the hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The trucks also must be removed after they close and cannot be stored, parked or left overnight on any public street or sidewalk.
Monk said it is important to define what is considered a food truck. According to the ordinance, a food truck is a licensed, motorized vehicle or mobile food unit that is permitted through a county health department, works out of a base commercial kitchen, and where food items are prepared and sold to the general public. This excludes mobile food units and trucks that either are not required to obtain a permit from the county health department or are permitted solely for pre-packaged food sales.
Trailers that sell pre-packed goods such as cotton candy, candy apples and funnel cakes are not considered food trucks and therefore are not permitted unless approved through a special-use permit. Hot dog carts will not be affected by the new ordinance because they are already permitted through the land use ordinance.
The only other major stipulation in the permitting of food trucks is that they don’t interfere with any special events, specifically the Barbecue Festival and the BBQ Capital Cook-off. They can acquire a special-use permit in addition to their annual permit if they wish to participate in these events, but otherwise they must be located 150 feet away from the perimeter of any special event.
“That was a caveat before we even began,” Monk said. “We want to protect those festivals because they have done a lot for Lexington.”
Monk said having a special event centered around food trucks, called a “rodeo,” would be a fun way to introduce people to the concept of food trucks because many people still think of the old “lunch trucks” that used to service factories.
“Lots of people seem to be excited because they have experienced them in other cities, but many people don’t know much about them,” Monk said. “People have an idea they are those old greasy burger trucks, but that is not what we are talking about. It may take some time for people to adjust to the idea, but I think there is a demand.”
Monk said the concept behind amending the land use ordinance to allow food trucks was to bring variety to Lexington, which is something many citizens have said they wanted to see.
“We are trying to listen to what people said they wanted,” he said. “It was a long thought out process, and we worked hard to develop something that would work for everyone. It was give and take on both sides, but I believe it provides some variety to what we currently have in the city.”
Sharon Myers can be reached at 249-3981, ext, 228 or at email@example.com. Follow Sharon on Twitter: @LexDispatchSM
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Downtown Huntsville, Inc. CEO Chad Emerson stopped by WHNT News 19 on February 6 to talk about a couple of upcoming events in downtown Huntsville.
Emerson first talked about the All American Food Truck Craft Beer Rally, an event that will feature food trucks and craft brewers from around Huntsville to be held on Feb. 19 from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. in the parking Lot outside Propst Arena at the VBC.
Emerson said he hopes this even will bring locals out to downtown in addition to having an event for the AUSA attendees that will be in town for their conference being held at the VBC to enjoy.
There will also be trolleys after the event to take people to different bars and restaurants downtown that sell the craft beer that will be featured at this event.
The next event Emerson shared was the LIT: Light+Innovation+Technology digital art show that will be on the buildings around the Westside Courthouse Square on March 8 from 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Emerson said the UAH College of Liberal Arts and The Arts Council Article collaborated with Downtown Huntsville, Inc.to show downtown in a different light using technology in a way that people haven’t seen before in downtown Huntsville.
It has been quite a slow week for restaurant openings and closings. In fact, there weren’t any notable closings that we heard about. So, let’s get right to the openings.
CultureMap Houston’s Eric Sandler reports that Ranch Bakery has reopened inside Cypress’s The Backyard Smokehouse. The bakery reopened on Saturday, February 1, serving its signature Texas kolaches filled with savory ingredients such as bacon and cheese, brisket and Andouille, as well as a variety of sweet fillings like bourbon peach, salted caramel apple and cherry compote. And don’t worry, they still have the famous soft pretzels stuffed with bratwurst and mustard, pepperoni and mozzarella, and so much more. Barbecue and southern pastries, sweets and breads make one heck of a combination.
On Monday, February 10, we will find out whether or not Fish The Knife will actually open to the public. Eater reported last week that the looooong-awaited restaurant will open on that day. At least there are pictures of what the interior will look like, so we know there has been construction progress.
Photo by Katharine ShilcuttMaybe the head-on shrimp with kimchi grits will make a return to The Modular’s menu.
CultureMap Houston announced that Joshua Martinez, co-owner of Goro Gun, will bring back his food truck, The Modular, and that he already has plans to serve meals at Mangum Food Park and Liberty Station. The truck should be up and running within two weeks. Eric Sandler writes that the truck will serve a mix of menu items from Goro Gun, as well as dishes the food truck used to sell, such as the lobster risotto and roasted bone marrow. Remember when the food truck was featured on Cooking Channel’s Eat St.?
The newest Hubcap Grill will be here faster than we can say, “One Greek Burger with fries, please.” Eater Houston reported that Ricky Craig’s burger restaurant will open in Kemah by April. This Hubcap Grill – the third one – will be near the water, making it a relaxing place to have a craft beer and one of Craig’s signature burgers. No fish or shrimp burgers at this location, however. Craig tells Eater that he will serve beef burgers, just as the downtown and Heights locations do.
Swamplot noted that the previous spot of Red Lantern (917 Franklin St.) will become a “Creole, Cuban and Caribbean” restaurant from Arena Theater chef Mark Latigue. One can only wonder what the menu will include at this fusion restaurant.
Did we miss any openings or closings? Let us know in the comments section and we will be sure to include them in next week’s report.
13802 Fleur De Lis, Cypress, TX
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7801 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX
306 Main St., Houston, TX
, Houston, TX
2924 Magnum Rd, Houston, TX
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, Kemah, TX
1111 Prairie, Houston, TX
1133 W. 19th, Houston, TX
917 Franklin St., Houston, TX
By STEPHANIE SORRELL-WHITE
Times Staff Writer
Posted Feb. 7, 2014 @ 4:04 pm
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As the first local food truck owner moves to sell his business, 29 other vendors register to become members of the Cincinnati Food Truck Association.
Owners of food trucks in Cincinnati say their rolling eateries are like any other small business. Start-up costs are high, hours never end and rewards are far and in-between. Additionally, the food truck business may be more difficult here than larger markets because of the smaller scale.
“I wish it was better here, it may have inclined me to stay,” Tom Acito, owner of Cincinnati’s first food truck, said. “I thought it would be better – thought there would be a rush – but Cincinnati doesn’t come close to other cities.”
Is Cincinnati a viable environment for the food truck industry?
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HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Although Armando and Priscilla
Guerrero didn’t win a Valpak Dough to Grow grant last year to help feed
Huntsville’s homeless, the food truck owners aren’t giving up on their dream
Crave Heat, a rolling Tex-Mex mobile food vendor in
Huntsville, began as a concept to provide meals to hungry residents living
without shelter in Madison County. However, the Guerreros exhausted most of their
outreach funds last year getting their food truck up to Alabama code.
On Valentine’s Day, the married couple with three young
sons will see their vision to help others become a reality. In partnership with
Manna House, Armando and his wife will spread a little love across Huntsville
by serving hot food and desserts to up to 100 homeless people in need.
“What we’ll be doing that day
is doing nothing but just loving people,” Armando said. “This is Priscilla’s
dream. It has been her idea from the get-go to serve a full meal to people who
need it around that day.”
Crave Heat will serve
forearm-sized burritos, tacos and desserts at different neighborhoods throughout
Huntsville starting at noon Feb. 14. Armando said anyone interested in
donating homemade cookies for the effort can drop them off at Manna House on
2110 South Memorial Parkway by Feb. 12.
Armando, a computer systems
analyst at Northrop Grumman in Huntsville, said he hopes the Valentine’s Day
effort will become more frequent in the future.
“We purchased this truck not
just as a hobby or job, but to be able to be His hands and feet and show love,”
he said. “Just because someone doesn’t have the money to buy something shouldn’t
stop them from enjoying the trendy things. If they can’t come to us, that’s
fine. We’ll go to them.”
Crave Heat recently leased part of the undeveloped gravel lot next to Sugar
Belle at the corner of Holmes Avenue and Greene Street. The food truck is open
for business at the downtown location from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through
Thursday, weather permitting.
Tex Mex lovers can also find the food truck outside Salty Nut Brewery on
4411 Evangel Circle from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, at Clinton Avenue and Washington
Street 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and at Gander Mountain on
North Parkway from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday.
Send Lucy Berry an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even in the dead of winter, new food trucks appear.
The latest is a patriotic food truck called Yankee Doodle Dandy’s. It has the Statue of Liberty, the Constitution, and other Americana as the truck wrap.
Winner! Winner! is not necessarily our opinion of the food (you have to read to the end to find out), but it is the name of their most popular lunch special.
The Winner! Winner! is basically 4 chicken tenders, fries, potato salad, and a piece of buttered toast(?) for $7.75.
We think Winner! Winner! might actually refer to the highest number of carbohydrates in a food truck lunch, but we digress.
If you recall, there was another very patriotic NYC food truck a couple of years back called Our Heros. That truck had an eagle carrying a hero sandwich, but it had more of a 9/11 theme than a Founding Fathers theme.
The chicken fingers were nicely breaded and crunchy, two important factors in assessing chicken tenders. The breading was also peppery, which we personally like, but may not be to everyone’s taste.
Even more important, this was real chicken, not some processed stuff.
We tend to prefer skinny, crispy fries, but these were about average size. They appeared to be hand cut (i.e. not uniform), with a little skin on some pieces.
The potato salad was right up our alley, with an eggy and slightly sweet vinegar tang to it.
The fries were probably our least favorite part of the lunch, but they were not bad by any stretch of the imagination. We just liked the chicken and potato salad more.
The dipping sauce was very good. It was a ketchup, mayo and relish base, but was perked up by some interesting spices. We took their advice and used it for the fries as well as the chicken.
The Winner! Winner! from Yankee Doodle Dandy’s was a solid lunch from a new food truck in town. Sometimes it takes time for a vendor to find their sea legs on the NYC streets, but these guys seem to have their act down.
Next up for us will probably be their Buffalo Chicken lunch.
Thanks to a boring Super Bowl (uh, I mean, “Go Seahawks”), there were no new shows on Sunday night. So, like anyone who doesn’t care about football, I ate 3,000-plus calories and closely followed the Super Bowl Twitter feed while “watching” the game. My football avoidance led me on a bizarre social media adventure into the deepest, darkest corners of the Internet, where I found some truly great gossip that I will now share, so you don’t have to waste four hours of perfectly good living.
Tidbit 1: The first season of “Alaskan Women Looking for Love” is airing in the U.K., and there have been several hints from Tina Kilborn (@Alaskan_Tina) that there will be some kind of announcement after it’s done airing overseas. For those who missed it, “Alaskan Women” was a six-part series on TLC last fall that featured six Alaskan women who traveled to Miami in search of men to love. It had its moments, but much of the show felt staged and forced. Example: They had all the girls go out to a swanky nightclub in XtraTufs and T-shirts so they’d look out of place. Regardless, the premise is ripe for comedy, so I’m hoping the big news is that it will be renewed for a second season.
Tidbit 2: Most Alaska reality TV stars are Seahawks fans. But many Broncos fans gave up on the Super Bowl and turned on the “Alaska: The Last Frontier” marathon on Discovery Channel.
Tidbit 3: Former Anchorage resident Luke Adams (@LukeAdams14) will appear with his mother on “The Amazing Race: All Stars.” Adams has appeared on “The Amazing Race” twice before and will again be partnered with his mother.
Tidbit 4: A woman from Cordova, Lauren Padawer, appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank” looking for investors in her company, Alaska Glacial Mud. Apparently, this show features entrepreneurs who pitch their ideas to millionaires. Padawer was unsuccessful at wowing the millionaires, but she’s had much more interest in her products since the show aired.
With that important “breaking news” out of the way, there was a new episode of “Bering Sea Gold” on Friday night. The Wild Ranger, one of the gold dredges, shut down after the crew quit because they weren’t finding enough gold. All of Emily Riedel’s crew quit after she left for a few days to go “river diving” with Glen Lebaron, a fellow eccentric miner. The show implied there was more to it, because they flashed back to Riedel and Lebaron sitting close together drinking beer that was going “straight to [Emily's] head.”
The true gold of this episode didn’t come from the Bering Sea, but Zeke Tenhoff’s mouth. Tenhoff is one of the stars of the show and was formerly a diver on The Edge and The Clark. His life began to spiral out of control after he lost his best friend and partner. After a few run-ins with the law, he decided to get his life in order by starting up a food truck called Au Gratin (the “Au” is a pun, because it’s the symbol for gold on the periodic table of elements — the more you know).
He’s starting this food truck up with his girlfriend Sarah Dunn. Here’s how Tenhoff describes their meeting: “Sarah is definitely like an angel. At the end of last ice season, Sarah was the first person I met when I got to New Orleans. I texted ‘B+B’ at 3 o’clock in the morning, and it was Sarah on the other end of the phone. And she’s like, ‘show up at 10,’ so I showed up at 10 at her place and we’ve been together ever since.”
I have so many questions. Why would he text a bed and breakfast? Why was he in New Orleans? Was the bed and breakfast her home, or did she invite him to another location where she lived? Did he show up at 10 a.m. or 10 p.m.? How did she decide to move to Nome? Does this food truck have proper licensing?
None of these questions were answered, unfortunately, but he did explain why he’s getting into the food truck business: “Food makes everyone happy … I wonder if it can make the people of Nome forget that they think I’m a crazy drunk a–hole.”
And finally, as they were pulling their dilapidated new food truck illegally through Nome, Zeke left us with these words of wisdom: “I think that in a place as far removed from the rest of society as Nome, Alaska, I should be allowed to be a little bit crazy. You know what? Nome should not be the police state. Down in New Orleans you can do whatever the f— you want.”
I can only hope there will be an “Alaska State Troopers” episode where they arrest other Alaska reality TV stars, because it seems like an illegal food truck in the police state of Nome would be a great place to start.
• Emily Fehrenbacher lives in Anchorage, where she reviews Alaska reality TV.
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