Arts & Culture

Eat Drink RI Festival: Truck Stop benefits small businesses, food bank

Fifth annual festival celebrates ocean state mobile restaurant cuisine, serves charitable cause

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, April 28, 2016

Raising $110,000 for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, festival-goers attended the Eat Drink RI: Truck Stop last spring, enjoying the atmosphere and delicious samples from various mobile restaurants.

With cuisine ranging from Citizen Wing’s beer-brined wings to Like No Udder’s vegan ice cream, 16 food trucks will come together Friday at the Eat Drink RI Festival: Truck Stop as part of the fifth annual Eat Drink RI event.

A celebration of the Rhode Island “mobile restaurant” community, the event will be held at the Alex and Ani City Center. It will give Rhode Islanders the opportunity to experience the Rhode Island food truck culture and sample a microcosm of the eclectic food scene, said Nick Lefebvre, chef and co-owner of Citizen Wing. “I feel like it’s a great exposition and showcase for the town and culinary creativity in the state,” he added. “I feel pretty proud to be a part of it and the local food and small business community.”

Many of the food truck restaurateurs like Lefebvre are thrilled with the Truck Stop because of the exposure it brings to their businesses. The event “highlights the local food truck talent in the state that sometimes gets overlooked,” Lefebvre said. In showcasing the restaurants on wheels, the Truck Stop will introduce food truck flavors to many Rhode Islanders’ palates and hopefully foster growth in the consumer community.

“Every time I’m out it’s an opportunity to meet new customers,” said Karen Krinsky, owner of Like No Udder. “I want to serve something so delicious that someone will try to find me again and try something new.”

Not only does the event showcase the mobile restaurant contingent of the Rhode Island culinary scene, but also it serves to bring together members of the already tight-knit Providence culinary community itself. “We are all so supportive of each other,” said Julia Sweet, owner of Gilded Tomato Company. “We all get along really well and support each others’ businesses.”

There is even a strong relationship between restaurants and food trucks. “Restaurants inspire us to grow,” Lefebvre said. “There are lots of small businesses that grow bigger because of the availability and the market there is for growth.”

Food trucks such as Like No Udder are not hindered by the burgeoning culinary community in Providence because their products are unique. “The reality is that we are the only dairy-free frozen dessert business in the state,” Krinsky said. “I just follow my own path.”

Similar to Like No Udder, Friskie Fries also attracts a niche crowd. “There’s so many outstanding restaurants in Providence, but I can’t say that they have influenced our business strategy,” said Tom Wright, co-owner of Friskie Fries. “Our truck was inspired by our trip to Amsterdam,” added fellow co-owner Randy Diantuono. “We created it when we arrived back home.”

The Truck Stop is not only a spotlight for the food truck genre of culinary expertise, but also serves a magnanimous purpose by benefitting the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, which serves approximately 60,000 clients on a monthly basis, said Hugh Minor, director of communications for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. Raising $110,000 last year for the food bank, the Truck Stop is the food bank’s most successful fundraiser, he added.

“The food industry has always been really supportive of our work because the people in the food industry understand hunger and the need to get access to food,” Minor added. “When we started this five years ago, food trucks were really popular, and we thought it would be a great partnership to have this event.”

The philanthropic purpose of the event is a great draw for many of the food trucks to participate. “We’ve been giving back to many organizations for years,” Wright said. “This event ties into our vision of giving back to local nonprofits. It felt like a good match.”

“There are lots of people who are hungry in Rhode Island,” Krinsky said. “The Truck Stop is a great way for community to not only give back but also have fun.”

Participating trucks are Citizen Wing, Ellie’s Bakery, Fugo Food Truck, Friskie Fries, Gilded Tomato Company, GottaQ BBQ Food Truck and Catering, Like No Udder, Mijos Tacos, Noble Knots, O’Crepe The Rolling Creperie, Pat’s Pastured, Presto Strange O Coffee Truck, Rhode Island Community Kitchen, Rocket Fine Street Food, SoulFull and Tallulah’s Taqueria.