Like any trend, it took a while to infiltrate the heartland. But Indy's love affair with food trucks is officially hot and lusty. With at least one truck launching here every month, no one who's mobile and socially networked will ever go hungry again. For food truck addicts and virgins alike, this Saturday's Taste of the Trucks is the ideal forum to sample wares from ten different purveyors of street-side vittles.
Credit West Coast Tacos as the Indy food truck pioneers. John Ban and Arnold Park began selling $2 Korean-inspired tacos to late-night Broad Ripple clubbers in spring 2010. Later that year, Duos, brainchild of former Essential Edibles chef Becky Hostetter, and John Garnier started dishing up vegetarian fare like farm egg sandwiches and coconut popsicles to First Friday-goers. Hoosier Fat Daddy Bus Cafe sprang up in February; their menu features grown-up corn dogs and creamy broccoli salad. Matt Kornmeyer fired up Scratch in June, a year to the date after being laid off from a corporate job.
"I'd seen a lot of food trucks in L.A. and Portland, Oregon," says Kornmeyer, after serving me a cup of basil lemonade and homemade chocolate-espresso pudding from his truck, parked in front of the Central Library. "Indy's not just home to all-you-can-eat buffets - there is some sophistication here now."
Kornmeyer and his fellow truck owners are cordial with one another. "It's not cutthroat here," he says. "We do trades, try each other's food. I speak with a couple of the other owners a few times each week." Many of them "like" each other, Facebook-style.
If there's one thing these food truck owners have in common, it's branding savvy. Tom Rockwell, owner of Hoosier Fat Daddy Bus Cafe, enlisted his brother Steve to create spectacular artwork for his truck, featuring a leggy retro redhead. When John Ban started The NY Slice last month, his expertise in branding and DJ-ing made it easy to create an exciting food truck experience. "People think NY Slice is a franchise," he says, while gassing up the snappy red truck's generator. "But this is the only one." The pizza itself has a fabulous salt-dusted crust and non-sloppy toppings: the perfect street food.
All of the trucks mentioned above, plus Lisa Moyer's brand-new cupcake outlet, Scout's Treat Truck, plus Groovy Guys Fries and several others, will park bumper to bumper at Taste of the Trucks, the brainchild of Steve Neville, president of Intelligent Designs Media. After experiencing the diverse food truck scene, Neville knew he "had to figure out a way to raise awareness of this growing culture."
Scratch's Kornmeyer says he hopes the event will expose food truck culture to the masses, and convince people that you can get excellent (and hygienic) meals from a truck.
Some foodies need no convincing. A line of folk outside the WFYI building waiting for their NY Slices expressed excitement over SideWok Dumplings, a soon-to-launch truck. One woman dreamed of food trucks catering to Black Friday shoppers. Another dreamed of a beer truck (is that legal?).
Either way, Taste of the Trucks is an intro to the fun food available all over town on any given day, just a tweet away.