By Steven Doyle
North Texas is steeped in the quickly-emerging food-truck scene. Dallas has been a bit slower to the punch than Fort Worth, but in the last few years we have seen more than 100 new vehicles take to the streets.
These are not the catering trucks servicing construction sites, but rather higher-end cuisine offering everything from freshly grilled burgers, to a vast assortment of ethnic cuisine such as Korean tacos and Indian dosas.
The food-truck movement, and it is a movement in its own right, might have started with the advent of Twitter. In 2009 Kogi Taco of Los Angeles took the city by storm, using Twitter as its primary way of communicating with its guests. At that time Kogi operated out of a single truck and Tweeted its locations, much as many trucks do now, to its growing audience. The locations were mainly outside busy nightclubs on any given party night, and the lines grew. Hungry revelers often would wait more than an hour for a taco, and thus the food truck culture was born.
Across the country would-be chefs were snapping up old delivery trucks and having them converted into mobile kitchens, wrapped in snazzy signage and parked outside busy intersections where people gathered most. Eventually we saw the invention of the food truck park.
What an amazing time we live in. A family can conceive of a restaurant and within a few short months they are called chefs in their own right, using recipes that made them famous at backyard picnics, special occasion dinner parties and family gatherings.
Full-on traditional brick and mortar restaurants can cost more than $1 million to open their doors, but a food truck could fly open with a small loan from a rich uncle. Upon this dreams are built.
Dallas has relented a bit on its restrictions and allowed trucks to infiltrate the city’s byways. These trucks are closely monitored with very few incidents being reported for cleanliness. This is the American Dream at its finest.
Enter trucks such as ssahmBBQ, another entry into the Korean taco, or Ruthies Rolling Café, with its fleet of three trucks offering grilled cheese sandwiches, and even crepes to the masses.
Fort Worth has been on the leading edge of the food truck park scenario, though one of the parks recently failed. Dallas has been slow to the punch in that regard, unwilling to give up precious real estate for mobile food vendors who will pay small rental fees. Look for one such park to open this summer on Lower Greenville Avenue adjacent to the new Trader Joes. That will be a tight squeeze for the trucks as there is limited real estate being offered, but we will have our truck park soon.
With nearly 90 trucks in operation in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, there also have been some major casualties taking place. More than 30 trucks have failed or reconcepted in the past year. Some of the reasons are that these trucks find out that the restaurant industry is not for them. Others simply were not that well received by the food truck dining public. We only can handle so many burger or taco trucks. As with any industry, only the strong will survive.
A way for trucks to make their bank is to enter into the catering business, replacing the traditional chef who has an off-site kitchen to perform cooking duties. These trucks are sequestered at specific locations such as weddings with guarantees for the evening secured by the hosts. The trucks also are replacing traditional fundraisers which may have taken place at fancy hotels. There is huge cash to be made in catering, and some of the trucks have discovered this secret.
In Dallas look no further than the Arts District during any given lunch period or the new Klyde Warren Park any time of the day or night for an awesome truck experience. Find your truck and follow them on Facebook or Twitter. It is the American way.