Lauren SariaBeef flautas from Paquime Street Food of Mexico.When a new spot opens in town, we can’t wait to check it out — and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Lauren SariaPaquime Street Food of MexicoRestaurant:Paquime Steet Food of Mexico Location: 17 East Dunlap Road Open: About three weeks Eats: Mexican Price: Less than $10 a person
If you’re already a fan of Tortas Paquime, the mini-chain of five restaurant that specializes in the Mexican sandwiches, there’s a good chance you’re also going to like Paquime Street Food of Mexico. The restaurant is the newest concept from the Paquime restaurant family and while the menu will probably look pretty familiar to Tortas Paquime fans, it’s about the only thing that will.
Lauren SariaEsquitesIf you’ve ever been inside one of the five Tortas Paquime locations, then you already know that they deliver a bright, clean atmosphere that gives the restaurants wide appeal. Well, Paquime Street Food of Mexico takes that idea to a whole new level. Design features like exposed brick, wood flooring, and a sleek handwritten menu board make this feel more like the newest fast-casual chain than a locally owned spot — and we mean that in a good way. When we stopped in for lunch customers ran the gamut from a table of workers on a lunch break to young couples enjoying a leisurely meal on the patio.
At this sister restaurant to the Tortas Paquime brand, they’ve traded out the paper plates for white dishware and offer plastic finger protectors that slip over your thumb and forefinger to prevent messy fingers while eating. It’s a fun idea that doesn’t exactly work, particularly if you have small hands. Nevertheless, we appreciated the effort.
Lauren Saria VoleteadosSince this is a fast-casual style restaurant, you place your order at the counter, choose an table, and wait for your food to be delivered. But don’t let the business model trick you into thinking the service here is lacking. To the contrary we were given samples of the daily soup (a very tasty green chile corn chowder) as well as each of the three aguas frescas while we placed our order.
We started with a very good lime fresca and an Aguas de Frutas ($2.75) laden with pieces of melon and strawberry. It may have been a little sweet for some, but ended up being a perfect counterbalance to our order of Esquites ($3.99). The corn off the cob came swimming in a mixture of mayonnaise, butter, cotija cheese, lime, and chili — though all we could really taste was the lime and butter, making for a very sour and oily experience.
Luckily, it wasn’t long until our entrees arrived, an order of the Voleteados tacos ($6.99) and beef flautas ($6.99).
The former dish was far better than the latter, which was acceptable but not excellent thanks to a filling of rather dry shredded beef. The thick slices of avocado and guacamole sauce helped to smooth things out, but the layer of raw white onions just ended up on the side of the plate.
Now, when it came to the voletados, we cleared our plate. The dish features a trio of corn tortillas with shredded pork that’s covered in a layer of melted jack cheese and slices of avocado. The result is a dish that tastes like a Mexican version of grilled cheese with a crisp layer of cheese, smoky pork, and fresh avocado.
Overall, the menu is smaller than that of Tortas Paquime, though the tortas section of the menu is almost identical. There are favorites such as the namesake Torta Paquime and Tostada Paquime as well as new additions including tacos de pescados and Hot Dog Mexicano (Sonoran hot dog). The biggest draw and difference will definitely be the more upscale atmosphere that will lend this concept to wider expansion, which the company has said it’s hoping for.
Brick Brewing Notches Record EBITDA and Sales in Fiscal 2014
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Ah, good olâ€™ trustworthy beer. My love for you will never die. Those may be the words of the lovable cartoon character Homer Simpson, but they also ring true for millions of people on planet Earth. There are shows dedicated to beer and, as CBC noted in an article, countless beer festivals around the world that are worthy of the travel time and expense to visit to try a new type of suds.
People still love their Budweiser and other legacy beers, but craft brews and smaller beer makers have made their way mainstream, including now being added to the airline menus for in-flight offerings. In the U.S. last year, craft beer sales jumped 20% to $14.3 billion.
The love of a cold one is showing up in the figures for Brick Brewing Co. Ltd. (TSX:BRB), the largest Canadian-owned brewery in Ontario. The Kitchener-based company offers a range of alcoholic beverages, including beers brewed through its Waterloo Brewing Co. division and vodka and malt-based coolers and crafted ciders produced under the Seagram brand that are sold coast-to-coast. Brick Brewing is the only craft brewer in Canada to be certified under the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety.
The companyâ€™s core beer styles â€“ Pilsner, Dark Lager and Indian Pale Ale â€“ brought home the gold, silver and bronze medals at the Ontario Brewing Awards held in Toronto on April 3.
On Thursday, Brick Brewing released its financial results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended January 31. Supported by the launch of new products and increased marketing efforts, the company posted record annual earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (“EBITDA”) of $4.6 million on net revenue of $37.7 million. That compares to EBITDA of $4.01 million on revenue of $35.3 million during the prior fiscal year.
Net income for the latest year was $525,199, or two cents per share, versus $351,033, or one cent per share, in the fiscal year ended January 31, 2013.
“We put up a great result in fiscal 2014. Our team was successful in growing revenues and volumes, especially in our premium Waterloo and Seagram brands. The growth in premium brands coupled with our continued focus on cost reductions allowed us to expand margins, overcome the impact of the beer tax correction and still post record EBITDA.” said George Croft, President and CEO at Brick, in a statement Thursday.
Gross margin was up from 24.4% in fiscal 2013 to 26.1 percent in fiscal 2014.
Volume in the companyâ€™s Laker brand increased 4.5% across the year. Seagram brand volume improved 4.8%. The Waterloo brand saw a stellar 35.3% growth in volume.
In a bid to further maximize efficiency and cut costs, Brick said that it is divesting its land and building on King Street in Waterloo during this fiscal year. The proceeds will be invested in the Kitchener location.
The news did little for the value of a share of BRB, with the stock edging ahead only by a penny to $1.31 in Thursday action. Since hitting $1.93 last May, which was the highest point since September 2007, the stock has been sliding lower. However, a monthly chart shows the stock to be holding the 50-day moving average ever since touching it at $1.14 last October. With the improved operations and profits, the combination of technicals and fundamentals may support a move to put some distance between the price per share and the key moving average. Proper due diligence is, as always, encouraged.
The Chicago-based chef and TV personality stops by AFWF this year
The third year of the Austin Food Wine Festival is upon us, bringing live demos, book signings and tastings to Butler Park and featuring famous national, regional and local chefs. One of those chefs is Graham Elliot, the Chicago-based owner of three restaurants in the Windy City and Greenwich, Conn., and a judge on FOX’s MasterChef alongside Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich. He has also appeared on Iron Chef and Top Chef Masters. At the festival this year, Elliot will be doing two live demos and judging the Rock Your Taco challenge, in which visiting and local chefs compete to create the perfect taco (a great blank canvas, if we do say so ourselves). We grill the superstar cook on what it takes to be a good judge and the huge change he made in his life in the past year.
What’s your favorite part about participating in food festivals, and the Austin Food Wine Festival in particular?
Festivals offer the opportunity for chefs to let their hair down and be friends as much as colleagues and to interact with people who are super excited about what’s going on in the food world. Getting away from being behind a stove and getting out there and getting more hands-on is fun. But the thing about the Austin festival is that music is a such a big part of what goes on in that town, and that’s part of what I do with food, so it’s a no-brainer to be down there and enjoy doing that.
Are there any restaurants you like to hit up when you’re in town?
I’m sure every chef’s going to tell you Uchi is awesome, and Paul [Qui]’s new place I can’t wait to try. He was just opening when we were at the event last year. Frank is always a favorite. Those are all on the hit list.
One of your demos this year involves doing a spin on Texas cuisine—Texans, if anything, are very proud of their home cooking. How do you remix something but still stay true to its culture?
I think that that’s something we’ve been getting pretty good at for a while now with the food that we do at the restaurants, just taking things people know and putting our little twist on them. We wanted to do a play on the tagline “Don’t Mess With Texas,” so we’re doing “Messing With Texas.” What we’re doing [at AFWF] is just our version of huevos rancheros, a classic Southwest staple. We’ll do things with each of the components in a new way, so tomato confit, a whipped avocado with an egg poached at 61 degrees Celsius.
How do you bring your personality and humor out when you’re doing a live demo?
I feed off of that energy. Maybe when I was starting out in my food career, I had to wear the long, pressed chef coat and be very professional and go through these steps, and now if we get any food on the plate by the end of the 45 minutes, we’re lucky, because we just kind of hang out. There are no rules, no right and wrong with cooking, and no difference between me on this side of the pan and you the guest; we’re all just hanging out and cooking. It shouldn’t be just me standing up doing a demo while you’re sitting down and watching it, probably texting or tweeting because you’re bored.
How can contestants impress you during the Rock Your Taco challenge?
I think the thing that has to come across more than flavor is personality. Instead of putting themselves on the plate, many people make something great with barbecued this or braised beef, queso fresco and cilantro. Yeah, we’ve all had these, they’re delicious and great, but show us what you are and who you are. There were some amazing ones last year, like Tyson [Cole]’s. It’s almost predictable, right? Because he’s the chef-about-town, so you know going in his will be great. It’ll be fun to see if he does a three-peat.
From your handful of seasons on MasterChef, what have you learned about being a judge? Is there a certain technique to it?
I absolutely hate getting any kind of criticism, whether it’s from critics or Yelp or my dad. So, it puts me in a weird spot on the show to try to do that—I find a way to give my insight and maybe what I would have done, but show them that I really appreciate what they were going after and how to better find their voice.
Between last year’s festival and this year’s, you’ve made a big change in your life with weight-loss surgery. How has that impacted you in the kitchen and at home?
It’s changed everything from being able to tie my shoes without having to hold my breath, to being able to run five miles and practice for a marathon—which I’ll do this fall—to having a kind of energy to spend with my family and my kids. In the restaurant world, changing the food that I eat is first and foremost, and it’s starting to affect what I put on the plate. I’ve always said, “No, the food that I eat is different than what I cook.” But I think that it is changing. I’m doing a spring menu right now, and everything is much, much lighter and simpler in its approach. What you’re seeing is more of a focus on a couple ingredients, and having it very clean and pure rather than adulterated.
What can we expect from you personally this year? What should your fans be on the lookout for?
I actually just signed a cookbook deal, and I’m working on pitching a TV show, which involved elements of MasterChef with The Biggest Loser, so food and weight loss. There are a lot of fun things on the horizon.
The only way to appreciate wine is to actually taste wine – and that means tasting a variety of wines, pushing yourself to try new things.
And there’s no better way to taste more wines than at wine festivals, which are exploding in popularity around Indiana and surrounding states. Two dominate the calendar: the Indiana Wine Fair in Story on April 26, and Vintage Indiana in Indianapolis on June 7.
Approaching its 12th year in quirky little Story, the Indiana Wine Fair has grown to be wildly successful. The town is best known for its Story Inn – “One inconvenient location since 1851″ – and a world-class restaurant.
The wine fair, which also offers plenty of food options and entertainment, runs 12:30-7 p.m. on April 26. Admission is $30 with a Story Inn wine glass keepsake for the first 4,000 at the gate. Designated drivers are admitted for $10.
The fair offers shuttle buses from picturesque Nashville and Bloomington. Story is approximately half way between Columbus and Bloomington, about 10 miles south of Hwy. 46.
In its 14th year, Vintage Indiana, sponsored by the Indiana Wine and Grape Council, is the oldest of Indiana’s mega-wine gatherings. The noon-6 p.m. event is held in Indianapolis’ Military Park downtown. Admission is $25 in advance and $35 at the gate. The first 10,000 people receive a souvenir glass. A VIP program costs $50 in advance and gets you an hour of less-hectic tasting at 11 a.m.
Vintage includes entertainment, craft and food vendors, along with a Wine Food pavilion featuring presentations from chefs and foodies.
Both wine festivals present a wide range of wines from many of Indiana’s 80-some wineries. You can easily taste more than 100 wines at either event.
There are, of course, other good wine festivals. Vevay, along the Ohio river, hosts the Swiss Wine Festival August 21-24. Vevay claims to be the location of Indiana’s first winery. At this time they have 12 wineries committed to pouring for the event. And then there are other festivals and art shows which may feature a winery or two.
But the two big ones come up early in the year. Each features a lot of wineries. It’s not unusual to find 20-35 wineries at either event. Parking can be an issue at Story; a large abandoned field is used across from the Story Inn. Parking in Indianapolis is where it can be found but plentiful on the city’s near west side.
Both festivals are great fun. But a word of warning: Story’s Indiana Wine Fair is crowded into a small space. There are Hoosier winemakers who will whisper, off the record, the festival has grown beyond its footprint.
Vintage draws an even bigger crowd, but the venue is much more spacious. Both venues feature long lines and crowds. Obviously, people are consuming alcohol at these events. There are always a few who have bellied up to the tasting table a few times too many. The wineries are very careful with the one-ounce pour, but there is no policing how many pours anyone consumes.
A little advice for big wine events: Learn to spit. Some people are uncomfortable sloshing wine around in their mouth, then expelling it into a dump container at each winery’s booth. The trick is to learn to move the wine around from the front of your mouth (or palate) to the back. If you’re a little uncomfortable, remember this is a worldwide custom commonly seen in European and even Napa Valley tasting rooms. You can practice it at home.
Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes for more than 20 Midwestern newspapers on value wine every other week. Read his wine blog at: howardhewitt.net.
A set number of students are endorsed by Bowdoin coaches each year even though their high school grades and test scores do not necessarily meet the standards of the average accepted Bowdoin students. Admissions gives many of these students’ application materials early reads to alert coaches to the likelihood that the student-athlete will be accepted.
This system is not confined to Brunswick, and for the last decade, the entire NESCAC has used a process to ensure that its sports events are perenially competitive, enabling uniformity in the 11 member institutions and establishing a mutual understanding of how rosters are filled.
“NESCAC institutions recognize the important role that athletics play on our campuses,” said Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan. “With that, a system has been put in place to help ensure that institutions are able to develop athletic programs that are competitive within the conference.”
Discussion of the role of student-athletes in liberal arts academia is a common conversation topic, but this admissions process is widely unknown.
Though a set system has been in place since 2002 and admissions and athletic administrators are generally open to talking vaguely about it, access to the specific information remains guarded and there are few means through which laypeople can find explanations. Multiple Bowdoin coaches declined to comment to the Orient on the specifics of the process, and according to Ryan, school policy dictates that numbers not be distributed publicly.
The NESCAC’s highly regulated recruitment system was first widely revealed in a December 2005 New York Times article featuring Amherst’s dean of admissions and financial aid, Thomas Parker.
“The real danger was in not acknowledging that we give preferential treatment to athletes,” said Parker in the article. “It engendered a corrosive cynicism. When it was on the table exactly what we do, it wasn’t as bad as some faculty thought.”
History of new guidelines
Parker was integral in formulating the current NESCAC-wide system in the early 2000s. When he arrived at Amherst in 1999 from Williams—where he had held the same position—the conference’s recruiting was very different from what it is now.
“There was virtually no regulation or oversight of the relationship between admissions offices and the athletic departments,” he said in an interview with the Orient. He explained that Williams’ and Amherst’s presidents were both interested in re-evaluating the number of recruited athletes and their academic calibers.
“Amherst and Williams lined our athletes up and said, ‘We’re virtually identical schools academically, so our athletes should be identical,’” said Parker.
Implementing these new regulations conference-wide, however, was an arduous process. First, Amherst and Williams brought in Wesleyan, the third member school of the NESCAC’s so-called “Little Three.” Then the topic of these schools’ recruiting caps came up at a meeting of NESCAC presidents, who asked for admissions representatives from the whole conference to collaborate on reformulating the system. By 2002, a group of admissions deans had successfully modified the nascent system of the Little Three to be uniform across the league.
As explained in Bowdoin’s 2006 reaccreditation self-survey, the NESCAC’s target-based athletic admissions model aimed to “reduce the number of recruited athletes admitted…and raise the academic profile of athletes.” The overall volume and competition of D-III sports had increased significantly in the past few decades, which at Bowdoin brought about “legitimate questions about the opportunity costs of admitting athletes to fill 31 teams at the expense of other highly qualified applicants in the Bowdoin pool.”
The plan in action
According to Parker, each NESCAC institution is allowed a maximum of 14 recruits for having a football team, with an additional two per remaining varsity sport. He said that every NESCAC school currently subscribes to the process. For Amherst, that number is 66 recruits, or athletic factors (AFs).
“In those 66 cases, the athletic input controls the decision,” said Parker. “You have to say that in that group of 66 students, preference was given to them in the process, no question about it.”
Parker said that for teams that do not compete at the D-III level, an extra AF recruit spot is added every other year in order to attract higher caliber athletes. For instance, Bowdoin’s 31 varsity teams factor into an allotted total, but he noted that a sport like nordic skiing, which competes outside of the NESCAC at the D-I level, is awarded further support. Other examples include Trinity’s squash and Colby’s alpine skiing teams.
Following Parker’s formula, the number of allotted recruits at Bowdoin would be around 75, or about 15 percent of the incoming class. An Orient article last spring cited this number at 77, based on a speech by President Barry Mills at a faculty meeting, but further investigation has not been able to confirm this number.
Those recruiting caps of supported athletes are then subdivided into “bands”—sometimes referred to as slots—which separate recruits academically based on how they compare to the averaged statistics of accepted students. Students in the B band have scores slightly below the averages, while C-band recruits are lower. Parker said that schools cannot consider prospective student-athletes whose numbers would make them fall below the C band’s lower boundary. Students whose scores place them well within the averages fall into the A band, but these individuals are not factored into the athletic support numbers.
AFs are considered those prospective student-athletes in the B and C bands, though Parker noted “there’s only a very limited number of C bands that each school can take.”
At Bowdoin, an agreement dictates that the admissions and athletic departments “don’t talk about numbers or qualifications related to those bands externally,” according to Ryan.
As a point of comparison, Parker said in the 2005 New York Times article that the mean SAT score for that year’s freshman class was a 1442. The lowest band was for “students with strong high school records in challenging courses and with scores of 1250 to 1310 on the two-part College Board exam. The next-highest band required a very strong record and course load and SAT scores from 1320 to 1430.”
“At Amherst,” the article continued, “the mean SAT score for athletes filling slots was 60 to 75 points below the mean for the current freshman class.”
Once the admissions deans fully understood the differentiation between the bands based on academic achievement, “we had to line up the other schools, which turned out to be a pretty big task,” Parker said.
Implementing the numbering system wasn’t inherently difficult; the challenge came in identifying where cut-offs for B and C bands occur across various institutions.
Some member institutions required no testing, some required subject tests, and there were significant gaps in average scores. After a few years, the deans standardized a system with modified test score and GPA averages depending on the means of each college’s student body.
This breakdown of banding isn’t set in stone. In 2005 Amherst admitted 19 C-band recruits, but Parker said that number is now down to 12. Additionally, the academic qualifications for the lower band recruits has been raised due to heightened academic competitiveness in admissions.
“But we’ve done that league-wide,” he added. “We’re not going to do anything unilaterally.”
“Since we’ve become a playing conference, recruiting and schools trying to identify and attract and have people enroll at their schools is as intense as I’ve seen it since I started here 30 years ago,” said men’s hockey head coach Terry Meagher. “It’s always been a part of what we do—for this program we’ve always recruited very extensively and we’ve had a thorough model—but across the board it’s as competitive as I’ve ever seen it.”
It would be impossible to field nearly any team using just two recruits per year, which is why the rest of the rosters are composed of A-band students no different academically from the other admitted students, who, said Parker, “would have made it under any conditions.”
“We hope that a few others are going to be able to get in on their own because we have to do it that way, but I think in general it works out,” said women’s soccer head coach Brianne Weaver.
“We have a limited number of people who we can talk to the admissions office about,” said football head coach Dave Caputi. “Some kids require a little more political capital than others—you have to pick and choose your battles. That’s constant across all sports. In a given year coaches may lobby a little higher for a really good player who’s in a position of high need.”
Dividing the support
Just because each NESCAC institution may use a certain number of spots each year on athletic recruits with somewhat lower academic pedigrees, the way in which schools do this varies.
Though the overall allotment is based off an equal number of admittees per sport, each team does not use exactly two spots per season. Some coaches will sacrifice a spot one year for an extra recruit the next year. And depending on specific NESCAC schools’ preferences and traditions, some teams will consistently support more athletes in admissions than others.
“You want to adjust it according to the priorities [of each school],” said Parker. “There are probably some NESCAC schools that emphasize one sport over another for reasons of tradition or something else.”
Sailing coach Frank Pizzo said he understands that his program doesn’t hold as much gravitas as a sport like football or hockey, but recruits accordingly.
“We’re a sports team that doesn’t have a whole lot of recruiting pull,” he said. “I rely on a lot of kids to whom I’m like, ‘Hey, if you can get in through admissions, we’d love to have you.’”
Women’s rugby coach MaryBeth Mathews acknowledged a similar reliance on athletes admitted without a coach’s endorsement.
“I have a very limited amount of support,” she said. “One because it’s a participation sport that offers the non-recruited athletes a chance to play, but until other NESCAC women’s programs are varsity, the College doesn’t see the need.”
But students involved in less-supported athletic programs do understand the system’s engendering of inequitable support is “probably fair,” according to men’s swim captain Linc Rhodes ’14. Some teams, he said, “probably have a little more pull of people they can get in, but they’re also a way bigger influence on campus and they’re a bigger draw to people and alumni so they’re granted that.”
Softball pitcher Julia Geaumont ’16, who was named Gatorade Player of the Year—the top high school player—in Maine as a senior at nearby Saco’s Thornton Academy, still thinks it’s less than ideal.
“It’s kind of hard, looking at how some team gets a few more spots so maybe they can be a little bit better,” she said. “But, I mean, I think you’re going to find that any place.”
Beyond academic distinctions
For those prospective students who fall above the B band—whose scores are indistinguishable from the average student at a given college—a coach can still be supportive in admissions.
However, this support will not be as strong, and in the words of Parker, “Would be no more helpful than the symphony director or the head of the studio art department. There’s a point at all the NESCAC schools when you can’t make any more academic distinctions because everybody is so good.”
Parker said that these students are referred to as non-athletic factors (NAFs). Just like students applying to Bowdoin with an interest in intercollegiate athletics, many students apply here with plans to participate in other extracurricular activities.
“You’re not going to come here and just be an athlete, you’re going to be involved in the theater or the arts or the newspaper,” said Ryan. “And that’s as important, if not more important, than your athletic ability.”
When choosing between so many highly-qualified A-band applicants, each student’s non-academic strengths are carefully considered to figure out how they could best fit at the school. At this point, some students will be recognized in admissions by their coaches for a vote of confidence, and others may be identified by musical directors or other extracurricular leaders.
But not having a conference-wide system in place for evaluating these activities makes it less clear as to how different schools support these types of students. Parker said that athletics is the most uniform because any NESCAC school knows or can easily find out what the ten other schools are doing, thanks to the structured process already in place for recruiting athletes.
Part two: an investigation of the recruiting timeline, including a look at “early reads” in admissions and the benefits of the athletic recruiting visit. In two weeks: examining the academic performance of athletes once they get to Bowdoin and being a student-athlete at the College.
Tallahassee, FL – Midtown Fest was the place to be this afternoon for a pizza eating contest, and Easter egg hunt and much more. There were more than 40 bands that played up and down Midtown. Almost all of the restaurants remained open at Midtown for guests enjoy the afternoon. Fifth Avenue of Midtown was shutdown for festival goers to visit different vendors and food trucks set up on the street.
For one food truck owner participating in the festival is was a way for him to get involved in the community. “I’m from this city. This is a developing area in midtown and it’s a really cool spot. I think it’s cool for all of the local businesses to be able to come out here and promote their local business, it’s cool to be apart of,” said Brooks Betts, the owner of Gourmet PBJ food truck.
All the money raised at the festival went toward the Going Places Street Outreach. It is a facility in Tallahassee that helps homeless and runaway youth ages 11 to 21.
From his perch in south Cullman at the corner of Lowe’s parking lot, Duane Coucke has spent the past year carving out his own niche in the burgeoning local food truck business.
As owner of Dewey’s Cajun Shack, he spent the early days making stops at a few different locations but has now settled in permanently at Lowe’s thanks to an agreement with the company and a steady stream of south side patrons in search of po’ boys and seafood plates.
With the City of Cullman now eyeing its first-ever food truck ordinance to establish some ground rules for the upstart vendors within the city, Coucke said he’s interested to see how the proposal works and the impact it could have to grow — or hurt — the industry.
“The food truck business is alive and well in larger metros, and it’s something that gives people a chance to experience other cultures through food,” he said. “That part, I think, is really good for Cullman. It’s a great thing if you’re able to get somebody in who is authentic Cajun or Mexican or Italian food. Sometimes you can have some people with great ideas who can really give the people of Cullman something different.”
After watching nearby cities like Birmingham run into headaches with the finer points of their ordinances in recent months, city leaders say they’re looking at several food truck guidelines to draft an ordinance that takes the better elements from regional cities to hopefully create a market that will benefit business owners and residents alike.
“We’re really just having an open discussion to see which ideas will work and what doesn’t so we can try to come up with a system that’s really fair,” city council member Clint Hollingsworth said. “Figuring out the locations will be critical, and finding ways to avoid traffic and safety issues.”
The council introduced a draft of the “Cullman Mobile Food Vendors Ordinance” earlier this week but tabled it to allow some additional tweaks before it is formally introduced for consideration.
A handful of food trucks are already operating successfully in Cullman, and Hollingsworth said the plans for a formal ordinance were born out of requests from potential vendors wanting more information about the area before they commit to launch a truck or expand service to the city.
“We’ve had people come to us who are in the business and those looking to invest in it, so it’s something we wanted to look at,” he said.
If executed well, Hollingsworth said he believes a formal ordinance — and hopefully the vendors it might bring — could be a worthwhile addition to downtown.
“We think it’ll be a great way for people to do something a little different and be able to grab lunch,” he said. “I’d imagine trucks making stops in downtown and at Depot Park, almost like you see in bigger cities. Ours will be on a different scale, obviously, but it’s exciting.”
After going through the process on his own, Coucke said he’s not opposed to the creation of an ordinance to guide future business owners — though he worries too much interference could stall the market before it has a chance to grow.
“It’s going to be interesting to see, though it’s really hard to tell the kind of impact it’ll have,” he said. “There are some things I think could’ve been made easier, because some of that process was ambiguous. But, greater minds than mine are trying to figure out how to do that. Obviously, I do like the food truck idea, and we’re a part of that, and I think we put out some great food.”
Coucke said he believes existing health and fire codes cover most of the basics needed to get started but noted an ordinance could provide some useful guidelines if it’s written well.
“Health and fire codes do a good job of making sure things as safe, as long as they’re followed and enforced,” he said. “I just hope they find a balance where it’s not so easy that everyone can get into it, but it’s easy enough where people legitimately trying to open a food truck can do it. Hopefully whatever they do will work out all right.”
Cullman Downtown Merchants Association President Lee Powell said he doesn’t know much about the food truck concept and is curious to see the effect it could have on the area. Powell noted the prevalence of so many downtown eateries and the spatial limitations between trucks and restaurants expected to be included in the ordinance as one potential factor.
Powell said he soon plans to meet with a sample of downtown restaurant owners to gauge their interest in the proposal.
“I could see that being a great thing to maybe get people walking around in downtown and around the parks. But on the flip side of that, I don’t own a restaurant in downtown and know the effect it could have,” he said. “Though you could potentially frame that as competition between food trucks and restaurants, it also opens the option for existing restaurants to possibly set up their own food trucks, if that’s something they’re interested in. Some cities really thrive on them, and others don’t seem to like them. I’m really interested to see what happens.”
Though the potential effect on brick-and-mortar restaurants obviously raises its own set of questions, the patrons who take the time to stop by Dewey’s Cajun Shack are typically unabashed fans of the food truck movement.
A constant stream of customers kept the cart busy during the lunch rush this week, and the line wrapped around the small trailer at times during peak hours.
“We really like it and wish we had more of them,” said Cullman native Travis Graves while waiting for his order early Thursday afternoon. “It’s a good concept.”
Sacramento’s appetite for mobile food was fueled three years ago with the debut of SactoMoFo, a festival that rounds up popular food trucks from Northern California. The event has continually drawn thousands in search of mobile munchies who are willing to brave epic lines, while a series of weekly SactoMoFo events feeds Sacramento’s suburbs and business parks.
Paul Somerhausen, director of SactoMoFo, is bracing for the mobile food masses as the next event approaches on Saturday at Sixth and W streets. We caught up with Somerhausen at a mobile food round-up near Cal Expo. We wanted his take on the current food truck scene and where it all might be headed. Here’s what he had to say:
How much has the local food truck scene evolved over the past three years?
Food trucks were sort of a strange, exotic novelty but something clicked in the last six to eight months. I think we have a critical volume of trucks now that we can finally appeal to most appetites. You’re seeing a lot more acceptance, particularly by families and children. That’s unique to Sacramento. In the bigger markets, they cater more towards the hipsters and young professionals. Here, because of our more horizontal layout of the city, we’ve had to focus a lot on the suburbs.
What kinds of food truck items are locals gravitating toward the most?
I always thought we had to model it after the big cities and come up with the crazy foods and the really foodie-type attractions. I quickly realized that’s not what Sacramento is in to. Sacramento is cool with getting adventurous with existing, familiar food types. If you want to get crazy with grilled cheese, that’s cool. If you want to get cute with burgers, that works. But if you get too exotic, then it becomes harder to connect.
Is there enough business to go around with all the local food trucks, or is there still room to grow?
I believe the food truck market is only getting started here. With 30-something trucks, there’s still a lot of room for growth and a lot of room for perfecting concepts. I don’t see any reason why someone that has a clear business plan and a clear budget couldn’t be successful here. The challenge for food truck owners is, unlike a brick-and-mortar restaurant where people come to you, here you have to go find the business. Sacramento does offer one advantage. Since it’s such a horizontal city, there’s a lot of business parks and state buildings that don’t have a variety of food options. The opportunities are there, but finding those opportunities is the hardest part.
How are the current relations between food truck operators and restaurateurs?
(We’ve shown) the restaurants that we’re not out for blood. Food trucks are a complement to the food scene, not a direct competition. Every study I’ve read shows the choice isn’t between a restaurant and a food truck. It’s between fast food and food trucks.
What do you hope the local food truck culture will look like in five years?
We’re already a mature market with a wide variety of successful options. We’re celebrating that we’re a city of food, and food trucks are part of that process. They’re incubators for future restaurants. Food trucks have demonstrated they have a lasting ability. They add to the local economy in the form of jobs. We should help that. Food trucks lead to restaurants. Restaurants lead to more jobs, more economic development and a more vibrant city. If we’re really going to embrace this food thing, let’s do it. But let’s do it wholehearted and give food trucks an opportunity to be legal, reasonably regulated and profitable.
Just because food is sold out of a caravan it doesn’t mean it has to be greasy, sloppy and only eaten at the witching hour.
The street scran revolution has changed that for the better where gourmet eats are now expected to be dished up at food trucks.
Think pulled pork in a brioche bun, fancy macaroni and cheese, tacos, burritos and po boys.
If you’re salivating at the thought of those morsels well you’re in luck because you can try them all at the Old Town Street Food Festival on April 20 in the Three Sisters courtyard.
It kicks off at midday so you’ll be able to squeeze in two maybe three meals before closing. It would be rude not to, right?
Pop up pioneers Smokey and The Bandit, Pink Taco, Big Al’s Chicken Shack and a few other stellar street vendors will be peddling plates of goodness alongside local craft brewery Innis and Gunn and a bar stocked with craft ales.
Make sure try @InnisandGunnUK new lager at #OTStreetFood Festival @BeerEdinburgh more info https://t.co/7GJBHT79Yn http://t.co/zMfBFZhlZZ
There will also be two dozen bands playing tunes across three stages, including the next-big things Model Aeroplanes.
Indie-pop-rock band Six Storey’s High, who will also be taking to the stage, are four kids from Edinburgh who’ve been gigging for a few years all over the show and are building up quite the reputation.
Very Excited about @SixStoreysHigh playing at our event April 20th @the3sistersbar check them out here http://t.co/3HTSV6NHEq #OTStreetFood
Chennai might not have a street food street, she may not peddle her smorgasbord on a single street or two, but if you have lived in this city for a long time, you’ll know that she offers a treasure at every street corner. You just need to know where to look.