By Teri Carnicelli
Phoenix has seen an explosion in the growth of food trucks roaming its streets in the last few years, and these aren’t your dad’s roach coaches. These are high-end, specialized, gourmet eateries on wheels.
One reason for the influx of food trucks could be the recession. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, despite signs of economic recovery, countless Americans are still dealing with layoffs and unemployment. As often happens when the economy slows, many Americans respond by using unemployment as a springboard to business ownership. Food trucks don’t have the overhead of a physical restaurant and have relatively small staffs, which are usually the owners themselves. Plus, they can go where the customers are, rather than waiting for the customers to (hopefully) find them.
Another reason might be that Phoenix itself has become something of a foodie mecca, with great gastro-pubs and other grassroots eateries that appeal to localvores—people who deliberately look for places where food is locally sourced and produced, such as meat, produce and grains/breads, and not shipped in from long distances.
These days you can find Phoenix-area food trucks regularly parked at locations around the city. A half-dozen or so are typically found at the Phoenix Public Market, at Central and McKinley in downtown Phoenix, on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. You also can find a couple at the Central Farmers’ Market at the southeast corner of Central and Northern avenues on Saturday mornings.
But it’s not just farmer’s markets that draw the mobile eateries. Short Leash Hot Dogs can be found every Friday night, starting at 6 p.m., in the lot across from the small shopping center at Central and Camelback that houses Frances Vintage, Halo Piercing, and Stinkweeds Record Exchange. Short Leash also “sits and stays” at Urban Cookies Bakery, 4711 N. 7th St., on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Stop by Urban Cookies at the same time on Thursdays and you will find Luncha Libre’s mobile taste sensation parked in front.
Jamburritos Cajun Grille-Express rolled into a semi-permanent space on Roosevelt Row beginning in January. They hold Cajun court each week on Roosevelt between 5th and 3rd streets, Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (excluding the third Thursday of each month). This is the first semi-permanent location for Jamburritos since hitting the streets in 2010.
If you’re not sure what your taste buds are in the mood for, or where the food trucks are out and about on a given day, you can check out http://roaminghunger.com/phx/vendors. The website doesn’t yet show where the trucks are at that moment but it does have links to dozens of trucks’ individual websites that offer information on where they are serving up their delicious dishes at the moment or where they will be soon. You also can find a comprehensive list of Phoenix food trucks at http://www.foodtrucksmap.com/phoenix/. The website is part of the Phoenix Street Food Coalition, an organization dedicated to increase awareness of innovative street food in the Phoenix metro area.
Or, you can just head down to one of the many spring festivals that will feature food truck “pods,” sort of like a gathering of whales—large and mobile and full of food.
In fact, nearly two dozen of the Valley’s top gourmet food truck vendors will serve everything from barbecue to Asian cuisine as well as organic health food, homemade pies, coffee, beer and “lunch-aritas,” at the First Annual Spring Food Truck festival, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, April 20, at Park Central Mall’s southeast parking lot, on Central Avenue between Thomas and Osborn roads.
A coalition of 22 of the most popular food trucks have committed to the event, which in part benefits Chicanos Por La Causa, a local social services agency. There will be free admission and parking, face painting, music, local retail and grocery shopping, and booths with jewelry, crafts, personal training and massage.
For more information, call Jennifer Cisneros, one of the event organizers, at 480-626-6290.