The food trucks are coming.
And in ten days time they will descend on South Tampa for the city’s first-ever Food Truck Rally
Todd Sturtz, author of the foodie blog Tasting Tampa, spearheaded the gastronomic gathering. After hearing members of his congregation at Hyde Park Presbyterian discuss ways to increase the church's exposure – barbeques, cook offs – Sturtz threw out the idea of a food truck rally.
The response went beyond his expectations.
"I've been a fan of food trucks for a long time, and I've known a lot of the owners of the trucks we'll have at this rally for a long time," Sturtz said.
"Miami and Orlando already have events like this, and they are big successes,” Sturtz said. I expected to have maybe three or four hundred people show up for this, but the reaction has been so enthusiastic I'm afraid a thousand people are going to show up."
The food truck trend is something that has been picking up steam over recent years. It first took off in big cities like Los Angeles, which now boasts more than 4,000 trucks. And it has spread across the country as new mobile kitchen technologies have surfaced. Food trucks have gone from delivering hot dogs to construction workers, to serving gourmet fish tacos at curbside.
The culture of food trucks has boomed for a multitude of reasons, none more so than the economics of it. Food trucks are an attractive option because they reduce the amount of restaurant bills while offering comfort food close to home or work.
For the operators, the lack of rent to be paid, the viability of operating costs, and the versatility in location has led to trucks being considered attractive and legitimate foodservice models.
Bryan Goodell is the owner of Wicked Wiches, a food truck specializing in sandwiches that has made its mark patrolling the south Tampa area.
"It's not the cheapest thing to start, but you're not anchored down to one spot," Goodell said. "I like that during the down times you can move to a place where it's more busy. I always wanted to do portable food, and sandwiches seemed to be the most versatile thing to interest people in terms of healthy and non-healthy options."
The trend eventually made its way to Miami and Orlando, where food truck rallies often draw crowds of more than a thousand people.
"Miami is a few years ahead of the curve in this, but Orlando has seen a real rise in food trucks over the last few years," Sturtz said. "Tampa isn't at the forefront of this trend yet, but that is changing. There are maybe around thirty food trucks around the Bay Area right now."
For some, the question of quality is frequently an issue. For Goodell, the most exciting aspect of the rally is to show the high quality of food coming out of the trucks.
"These aren't the roach coaches of yesterday," Goodell said. "The quality of the food coming off these trucks is good. I think this event should educate some people.
“In Miami, they have all-day food truck festivals that draw three thousand people. I don't think the people of Tampa know what to expect, but it's really a fun family outing. It's like a carnival without the rides," Goodell said.
Exposure is the name of the game for truck owners. As the number of food trucks in the Tampa area begins to increase, many owners just hope to get their name out there through the rally.
For Cynthia Dudding, owner of the Fire Monkey food truck, the rally also provides the opportunity to legitimize the food truck craze to people who don't already know about it.
“It's going to be great to see people's reactions when they see the trucks all decorated and what they have to offer food wise," Dudding said.
Vendors at the event will include:
Wicked Wiches – gourmet sandwiches in many different styles
Fire Monkey – diverse menu includes sandwiches, fried goods
3 Ballers – traveling bistro offering desserts and sweets
Michelle Faedo's – Cuban sandwiches, deviled crab, more
Fat Tortillas – southwestern-style Tex-Mex grill
Greek Brothers – Greek and Mediterranean food
Coconut Bo's – fruit smoothies using natural fruit juices
Killer Samich – innovative takes on traditional sandwiches
Cup and Cake – tent dedicated to sweets and desserts
Buddy Brew Coffee – artisan-roasted coffees
Whatever Pops – organic juice and dessert sodas from a concession cart
Tampa’s Food Truck rally will take place Saturday, Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Parking will be available in the Hyde Park Village parking garage. Admission is free. Food prices range from $1-$10.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/TampaFoodTruckRally.