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Diners flock to food on wheels

A lunch crowd lines up at The Mac Shack. PHOTO/JOHN OLDANI

A lunch crowd lines up at The Mac Shack. PHOTO/JOHN OLDANI

BY JOHN OLDANI
OU News Bureau

Fast, fresh and mobile, food trucks are on the rise and expanding the traditional meal industry.

Traveling diners such as the mac-and-cheese serving Mac Shack, can be found almost daily in Detroit near Campus Martius Park and frequently on Wayne State University’s campus, offering people dining alternatives.

“We have bricks and mortar shops that we are all accustomed to,” Gavin McNamee of Lincoln Park said.  “Then these pull up and you have more choices, and it’s good food.”

Customers are drawn to the uniqueness and high quality fare.

“The menus are so different,” Devin Drake of Southfield said. “The food is always more eccentric than a lot of the franchise chain restaurants that you can go to, and they care about what they’re doing and there’s love in the food.”

For owners, a food truck means more business.  If sales are not steady at one location, it is easy to pack up and move.  There is no confinement to one location.

Bill the Hot Dog Guy, owner of Franks Etc, serves food from his 1965 VW pickup truck. PHOTO/COURTESY OF FRANKS ETC

Bill the Hot Dog Guy, owner of Franks Etc, serves food from his 1965 VW pickup truck. PHOTO/COURTESY OF FRANKS ETC

For Bill the Hot Dog Guy, owner of the Franks Etc truck, a mobile cuisine is more than a business.

“Being able to set up anywhere is great, but it isn’t about the money,” Bill said. “There’s a certain intimacy for me that’s created when I serve people food.  They get nourishment and joy from my food, and that alone makes me love what I do.”

His distinctive truck is a 1965 Volkswagen pickup.  He hauls propane tanks, steamers and grills, and serves food right out of the side of the vehicle.

“You get such a rich experience that I didn’t get when I owned a restaurant,” said Bill the Hot Dog Guy.  “Because it takes a talent that’s more than just running a restaurant. You have to always factor in driving to the location, the time setting up, and turning the propane and everything on.”

Oldani food truck logoThe history of street vendors stretches back to ancient times. In the U.S., the chuck wagons of the 1800s evolved into modern food trucks a century later. In 2008, the Los Angeles Kogi Korean BBQ vehicle sparked the industry into what it is today by trending on social media.

Food trucks are on the Food Network in “The Great Food Truck Race” and “Food Truck Face Off,” and recently in the critically acclaimed movie “Chef.”

Organizations such as United Way have taken notice of the popularity.  It came together with local vendors Sept. 19 at the Fairlane Plaza parking lot in Dearborn.

The Mac Shack, Stockyard, Detroit BBQ, The Chicken Coupe, Concrete Cuisine, Buffy’s Mexi-Casian Grill and Treat Dreams parked and served hundreds of customers during lunch, with 10 percent of all sales going to United Way.

Customers can use social media to track their favorite trucks and drive to its location.  Vendors will gather near businesses, making it easy for employees to grab something to eat on breaks.

Gourmet food items from the Stockyard food truck draw in hundreds of customers daily. PHOTO/JOHN OLDANI

Gourmet food items from the Stockyard food truck draw in hundreds of customers daily. PHOTO/JOHN OLDANI

“A co-worker found out about this event and she shot an email out and let everyone know that the food trucks were here,” Chantal Cox of Redford said.

Food Truck Friday is a mobile gathering that takes place Fridays somewhere in metro Detroit.  From parking lots, to bustling parks, to busy streets, the trucks drive just about anywhere, making the events flexible and appealing.

Some fanatics, such as Dearborn native Bret Wall, have been to more than one such event.

“I went to one in Dearborn about a month and a half ago and another one in Traverse City,” Wall said. “I think it’s cool. I’ve never been disappointed.”

Traveling diners bring individuals together to support local business and enjoy diverse eats.

“People of every demographic eat from food trucks because we are always traveling,“ Bill said. “I could be serving a millionaire or someone who is has little money, but both those people are right next to each other in line by my truck, asking for the same thing … it’s perfect.”

To find Detroit food trucks, check out the Motor City Street Eats Facebook page.

 

 

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Posted by on Sep 30 2014. Filed under Featured article, Wayne C.. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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