Keep on (Food) Truckin': FoodStruck

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.”

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”

Rumbling In

Here’s a roundup of the trucks that are attending FoodStruck 2014…

From Lancaster:
Baron Von Schwein
Twitter: @baronvonschwein
Serving: modern barbecue
Try this: pork buns

Bountiful Feast (Lititz)
Twitter: @BountifulFeast
Serving: upscale American
Try this: escargot wrapped in puff pastry with a basil pesto sauce

Grammie’s Kitchen
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)

Lancaster Cupcake
Twitter: @LanCupcakester
Serving: cupcakes, vegan cupcakes and coffee
Try this: chocolate party

Naters Taters
Facebook: Naters Taters
Serving: fresh-cut fries
Try this: bacon cheese fries

Rocky’s BBQ
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

Souvlaki Boys
Twitter: @SouvlakiBoys
Serving: authentic Greek food
Try this: classic gyro pita and Greek fries

Urban Olive
Serving: Mediterranean and American
Try this: falafel pita

From Harrisburg:
The Chicken Truck
Twitter: @TheChickenTruck
Serving: fresh made chicken and fries
Try this: chicken tender sandwich

Mad Sandwiches
Twitter: @MADSandwiches
Serving: sandwiches, Latin and Mexican cuisines
Try this: Cuban sandwich

From York:
El Taco Camino
Facebook: El Taco Camino
Serving: Mexican food from Roburrito’s
Try this: the carnitas

Forno Bova
Twitter: @FornoBova
Serving: wood-fired pizza
Try this: white pizza with pistachio, red onion, rosemary and fresh mozzarella

Here We Dough
Twitter: @HereWeDough
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

Smoothie King
Twitter: @SmoothieKing
Serving: 20 oz. fresh fruit smoothies
Try this: Strawberry Kiwi Breeze

Sucré Salé
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

Out-Of-Towner Trucks:
Healcrest Urban Farms (Pittsburgh)
Twitter: @HealcrestUFarm
Serving: artisanal TeaPops
Try this: coconut chai TeaPop

Kami Cart (Philadelphia)
Twitter: @KAMI19104
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)
Twitter: @Surfturftruck
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

Downtown York • April 11

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Posted in Dining Scene, Out & About

Mike Andrelczyk is a features editor for Fly Magazine. He is a graduate of Penn State University and currently lives with his wife Stacey in Strasburg. Interests include tennis, playing bad guitar, poetry (poems have appeared in Modern Haiku, The Inquisitive Eater and other journals) and oneirology – the study of dreams – mostly in the form of afternoon naps. His name appears in the title screen of Major League 2.

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