Keep on Truckin'
Foodstruck parks it in downtown York
By Mike Andrelczyk
In 1866, Charles Goodnight invented the chuck wagon to feed hungry cowboys on the trail. Since then, people have found pleasure getting their meals on wheels - wiping mustard off their chins at hot dog carts or salivating with a Pavlovian response to the jangly sounds of "Pop Goes the Weasel" emanating from ice cream trucks.
When the recession hit in the mid-2000's, some restaurateurs decided to close up their spaces and hit the road - literally. Food trucks began popping up with frequency on city streets - not just simple lunch carts, but unique, exotic and often gourmet quality on-the-go eateries. The trend has spread, and food trucks - once just a fixture in major cities like Philadelphia - are parking themselves on the streets of Lancaster, Harrisburg and York.
More and more small business owners see food trucks as a viable option. Many find a niche market and attract customers with a high-quality product and fun and fresh attitudes. Food truckers often post daily updates on their locations via social media sites like Twitter and Facebook so fans can find them.
Jeff Mitchell, owner of Lancaster Cupcake, is an example of an entrepreneur gravitating toward the growing trend. A year ago, Mitchell was driving around Lancaster searching for a retail location, but nothing was available. "I saw this truck on the side of the road for sale for $1,000," Mitchell says. "I figured, let's try this. We fixed it up, painted it pink and got started."
Mitchell says the response has been great. "People love food trucks in general, but when they see a big pink truck serving cupcakes, it's irresistible."
FOODSTRUCK: A CULINARY CONVOY
Even though food trucks are gaining popularity across the country, some Central Pennsylvanians aren't able to get their food truck fix, often due to city restrictions placed on mobile eateries. Philip Given is a member of a group of York and Lancaster residents who have organized Foodstruck - a massive festival of food trucks from all across Central PA and as far as Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Philadelphia - in downtown York. Foodstruck brings food trucks to people who have proven they are hungry for new culinary experiences.
The free admission event, which takes place on April 11 from 5-9 p.m. on North Pershing Avenue from Philadelphia Street to Market Street in downtown York, features 27 food trucks and a stage for live music.
This month's event is the second of its kind. The first Foodstruck event - a rain-drenched affair last October - featured food from 14 local trucks. Organizers estimated that with good weather and a little luck, the event could draw as many as 1,500 attendees. They were delighted when 1,700 food fanatics flooded the streets of York - even as the streets themselves flooded with more than nine inches of rain.
This year, Given and his friends have ramped things up and added 13 more trucks. "We want people to come down and have fun and eat as much food as they can," Given says. "The event is so big, and the energy is great. It's like the biggest, coolest food court!"
DINERS, START YOUR ENGINES
The convoy of culinary delights converging on York this month features a wide array of food truck fan favorites. Last year, the Lancaster-based barbecue truck, Baron Von Schwein, sold 300 pork buns to Foodstruck attendees. This year, Given mentions the lobster roll from Surf and Turf - a Philadelphia-based truck - and the grilled cheese and caramelized bacon sandwich at Grammie's Kitchen from Lancaster as new offerings he's particularly excited about.
"Last year, people were requesting that we get a Korean truck, and we were able to bring in Kami Cart from Philadelphia, which is doing some really creative mash-ups," Given says.
Jeff Mitchell will be on site with his big bright pink Lancaster Cupcake truck, and so will hometown favorites like York's Forno Bova wood-fired pizza truck and El Taco Camino. With so many mouth-watering options, it's easy to get overwhelmed.
There is a definite strategy to maximizing your Foodstruck experience - a proven method that allows you to sample the most food. First, familiarize yourself with the trucks. The menus are posted on Foodstruck's website. Make a game plan and decide which trucks you want to check out. The next step is to round up a crew of hungry friends and make your way to the event.
"You have to bring like four friends, and then you each go wait in line and then you come back and share all that food and then go and do that again," explains Given. "That's the only way you can try the most trucks. We expect the lines to be pretty long. So you really have to bring some friends"
Baron Von Schwein
Serving: modern barbecue
Try this: pork buns
Bountiful Feast (Lititz)
Serving: upscale American
Try this: escargot wrapped in puff pastry with a basil pesto sauce
Serving: homemade sandwiches and soups
Try this: Grammie's grilled cheese with caramelized bacon on sourdough bread
Grills Goin' Wild
Serving: burgers and hot dogs
Try this: Cajun (available as a burger or hot dog)
Serving: cupcakes, vegan cupcakes and coffee
Try this: chocolate party
Facebook: Naters Taters
Serving: fresh-cut fries
Try this: bacon cheese fries
Facebook: Rocky's BBQ
Serving: Southern-style barbecue
Try this: brisket sandwich
Scoops Ice Cream & Grille(Mountville)
Serving: hand-dipped ice cream, cheesesteaks and more
Try this: chicken n waffles 2 go
Serving: authentic Greek food
Try this: classic gyro pita and Greek fries
Serving: Mediterranean and American
Try this: falafel pita
The Chicken Truck
Serving fresh made chicken and fries
Try the chicken tender sandwich
Serving: sandwiches, Latin and Mexican cuisines
Try this: Cuban sandwich
El Taco Camino
Facebook: El Taco Camino
Serving Mexican food from Roburrito's
Try this: the carnitas
Serving: wood-fired pizza
Try this: white pizza with pistachio, red onion, rosemary and fresh mozzarella
Here We Dough
Serving: donuts and coffee
Try this: maple bacon donuts
Joe Bury's Famous Hamburgers
Facebook: Joe Bury's Famous Hamburgers
Serving: Burgers and American
Try this: Joe's Bury Famous Hamburger and homemade mac n' cheese
Mad Dash Concessions
Facebook: Mad Dash Concessions
Serving: artisan grilled cheese
Try this: buffalo chicken grilled cheese
Papa's Great Kettle Korn
Serving: kettle cooked popcorn
Try this: popcorn and a fresh-squeezed lemonade
Spectrum Farm To Truck
Serving: locally sourced health conscious offerings
Try this: lobster mac and cheese or roast pork au jus with broccoli rabe and provolone on a long roll
Serving: 20 oz. fresh fruit smoothies
Try this: Strawberry Kiwi Breeze
Facebook: Sucré Salé
Serving: sweet and savory crepes
Try this: bourbon, apple and bacon crepe
Sweet Willows Creamery
Serving: homemade hand-dipped ice cream
Try this: top secret flavor exclusively available at Foodstruck
Healcrest Urban Farms (Pittsburgh)
Serving: artisanal TeaPops
Try this: coconut chai Teapop
Kami Cart (Philadelphia)
Serving: Korean American
Try this: spicy pork cheesesteak with cream cheese and kimchi
Kona Ice (Baltimore)
Facebook: Kona Ice of Central Baltimore County
Serving: shaved ice and ice cream
Try this: Wild Watermelon
Surf And Turf (Philadelphia)
Serving: surf and turf \
Try this: signature lobster roll - sauteed lobster with kale, cabbage, mango and diced jalapeño on a toasted bun
Uncle Paul's Stuffed Pretzels (Hamburg and Leesport)
Facebook: Uncle Paul's Stuffed Pretzels
Serving: stuffed pretzels with a unique twist
Try this: buffalo chicken ranch and cheese