Arts & Culture

Food Truck Friday arrives at Thayer

Nine food trucks parked between Sciences Library, George St. for first Food Truck Friday

By
Contributing Writer
Monday, November 6, 2017

Food trucks parked on Thayer Street provided students multiple multicultural and distinct food options. The event, which usually takes place at Roger Williams Park in Providence, made its way up College Hill.

Nine food trucks parked between the Sciences Library and the corner of George Street last week for Food Truck Friday — the most food trucks Thayer Street has ever seen at one time, according to a Facebook blurb for the event. ­

Though some food trucks park near campus every day, Friday represented the first time Food Truck Friday has ever come to Thayer Street, said Eric Weiner, who coordinated the event through PVD Food Truck Events, the local event-planning division of Providence-based organization FoodTrucksIn.com.

From May to September, Food Truck Friday usually takes place weekly at Roger Williams Park in Providence, Weiner said. Judging from the crowds and the sold out menu items, Brown students and other community members would likely welcome a more regular food truck event in this area, said Purvi Goel ’19.

“Whenever we get to October and November, when the weather cooperates, we’re always looking for locations that people are familiar with (and) that have a good density of population where people will enjoy having food trucks,” Weiner said.

The gray sky initially threatened to put a damper on the evening, but, after a light drizzling between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m., the food trucks opened for business. With the skies cleared, the sidewalk grew crowded with customers chatting, chewing and enjoying everything from waffles on sticks to barbecue pulled pork.

“The idea is that whatever type of food you like, there’s something there for you,” Weiner said. “It doesn’t matter if you are on a date, or you’re a student, if you’re younger or older, if you’re going out to eat with three or four people or a large group — everyone can eat the type of food they want,” he added.

Each truck had its own style and colors, from the camouflage print and cheery fairy lights of Open Season, which serves hearty game options, to the bright red of Poppy’s Place, which serves up gourmet waffles.

The waffles from Poppy’s Place had “better toppings” than those served in the Verney-Wooley Dining Hall, said Troy Li ’20, and managed to be somehow simultaneously “fluffier and doughier,” according to Katie Armstrong ’18.

Fork in the Road, a truck built around a farm-to-table ethos with gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian menu options, is one of the newest additions to the local food truck scene.

“I decided to start this food truck with my wife around May, so I’ve been open on the road since Memorial Day,” said Lou Cruz, the truck’s owner.

After being in the restaurant industry for 22 years, Cruz said leaving the brick-and-mortar setup gave him more flexibility. “All the hard work I was doing (had been) for somebody else. I decided to do for myself.”

Cruz said he strives to run a uniquely “food-conscious truck.” Many food trucks have a less health-conscious fast food model, and, by not conforming to this model, Cruz’s truck, which is not equipped with a fryer, faces less direct competition, he added.

Further up toward Waterman Street sat the distinctive green-and-purple Buddha Belly, which has been in business since June 2013. Founder Paul Gervais owns one of the few Chinese food trucks between New York and Boston.

His food is set apart by his use of “wholly imported authentic ingredients” complemented by an authentic process of preparation, Gervais said. Gervais has visited Brown before, he said, but had faced complaints from restaurants and parking disputes, which is why he spends weekends at his “sweet spot” by the Rhode Island School of Design Museum instead.

Several spots down, inside of the FanTex-Mexical food truck, a stovetop sizzled as steam wafted from homemade queso. Similar to Gervais, the owners occupy a gastronomic niche, said Dylan Brown, who works on the truck, which is an offshoot of the grilled cheese-offering Fancheezical food truck Owning two trucks creates more options and business, which affords them a competitive edge in the business, Brown said.

But establishing a food truck and keeping it running is not exactly a piece of cake. “The first challenge is definitely getting the name out there; starting out, it’s definitely hard to try to book events because the hardest part is … trying to find something that hasn’t already been done,” Brown said.

Other food truck chefs described the time commitment as the greatest challenge and sacrifice of the industry. “Before I’m even on the truck, I’m on the road four hours per day before I even actually really get going,” Cruz said.

“The time. The time is a killer,” Gervais confirmed. “This is three times more than I ever anticipated,” he added. “Tonight … you see me for three hours, … but no one’s seen the four hours ahead of time,” he explained.

Yet each chef expressed appreciation for perks of the industry. When Gervais started out, buying a truck presented less of a business gamble than being “tied into a three-year lease” or other binding contracts associated with a brick-and-mortar investment, he said.

Cruz voiced his own appreciation of the industry’s benefits. Not only can you be independent, but it also allows for creativity and mobility, “instead of being stuck in one location, as in a restaurant,” Cruz said.

“It’s …all a family, so we trade our food off of different vendors, and you get to try everybody’s different stuff. It’s really cool — (an) awesome culture to be a part of,” Brown said.