2 years ago today was the 1st Food Truck Event in South Florida. The Fall for the Arts Festival took place on Sunday September 12th from Noon to 6PM.
How exactly did it come about?
The Adrienne Arsht Center was having a giant Arts Festival and needed food vendors. The Miami Herald was involved with the promotion of the event and suggested to them that maybe I curate all the food for the event. It was a great opportunity that they presented to me and to this day I still have a great relationship with them both. I’m extremely thankful they didn’t shoot me down and went along with it when I suggested we get some of the new Street Food folks that were popping up all over Miami. I was allowed to invite whoever I liked and they were both very accommodating with whoever I wanted there.
The term Street Food never really caught on in South Florida, it was the 2 words, Food Trucks that hit. It was easy to decide who would attend as the Food Truck pool was tiny at that point. gastroPod and Latin Burger & Taco were the most recognizable names and I added Latin House Grill, the Yellow Submarine, Jefe’s Original Fish Taco & Burgers, Wing Commander, Feverish Ice Cream and Joy Wallace’s BBQ. The Rolling Stove who was all the way in Delray Beach at this point came down here for their first Miami event and Nacho Mama’s Mexican Grill drove up from Key Largo where no one got exactly what they were and what they were doing. La Camaronera’s Fish Box and Sakaya Kitchen’s Dim Ssam a Gogo but debuted at this event. Richard Hales, owner of Sakaya Kitchen had just literally picked up his truck from Food Cart USA just few hours earlier to break it in at this event. Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink had recently debuted the MGFD Cart that they were taking out to events and so I invited them as well.
Feverish was the only cart really serving desserts although if memory serves me correct, Jefe’s was selling cakes in front of his truck that day. To fill the dessert slots I asked Sweetness Bakeshop who my friend Caveman had turned me onto and Fireman Derek who I had met because he made the Key Lime pie for La Camaronera to set up tents. Sweetness who would create a sensation as Sugar Rush just a few months later and Fireman Derek both eventually moved into trucks. Totally Bananas and I had been at an event together and their Frozen Bananas dipped in Chocolate were a great fit for the event. Del’s Frozen Lemonade inquired about being a vendor through the Miami Herald and after investigating they sounded pretty cool to me so they were aboard too.
The final food dude was Bites on Wheels. I was able to sneak him in at the last minute. If anyone had a true street food look, it was him with his little vehicle which I believe the Miami New Times referred to as a small roach coach. That comment caused him to sell off his little truck to try and save for a “Food Truck”. And he hasn’t been seen or heard from since unfortunately.
What exactly do I remember about that day?
It was extremely hot and I was lucky that Caveman and my father accompanied me. I would like to point out that they did leave me with an hour to go because the heat was just utterly unbearable. I didn’t blame them. I had to remove my polo shirt and stay in my white under shirt to try and keep cool. The Miami Herald had a tent set up for Burger Beast which was directly across from The Rolling Stove (lucky for me) and I invited my friends edible South Florida to share the tent. Katie from edible and I suffered together the whole day.
Other things I remember:
- One of the Police Officers had an issue with Jeremiah of gastroPod when he arrived which quickly escalated into an argument that I had to get involved in.
- Latin Burger & Taco and Wing Commander were having a turf war over a couple of inches of space because his awning and their tent almost ran into each other.
- One of the dessert tents and I don’t remember who it was came to complain to me that their placement was unfair and that they should be able to set up closer to the curb because of it.
- Joy Wallace’s BBQ which for some reason changed from BBQ to selling Kettle Corn at the last minute was taking so much space that Latin House Grill and gastroPod did not fit in their spots. I was within a hair of telling them to go home with their Kettle Corn you know where.
- No one expected the mass insanity that ensued and the lines were ridiculous. The trucks went from serving a few folks an hour at their regular lunch spots to this madness.
- Like I said before, the heat was unbearable and all drinks everywhere were selling out with the quickness. I must have had like 10 Mexican Cokes that day from Sweetness and Latin House Grill. And one of those giant cups from Del’s Frozen Lemonades.
- I had greeted everyone as they parked and set up but didn’t see Richard Hales till he stepped out of the truck at the end of the event. I remember him being very focused to making sure everything went off without a hitch.
- The Fish Box’s line was the fastest moving by far.
- It was great meeting a bunch of folks who read my blog and future truck owners who came by to introduce themselves.
- The only thing I got to eat was a Yellow Dog from The Yellow Submarine and Ron’s Bites from The Rolling Stove.
- And at the end of event Jim Heins from Latin Burger & Taco helped me load everything back into my car after I had been forsaken. I was thankful for that.
What’s changed in the 2 years since?
- Latin House Grill and Yellow Submarine are no longer in the Street Food game and have restaurants, Latin House and Rock That Burger.
- Bite on Wheels, Wing Commander and Nacho Mama’s Mexican Grill are no longer around.
- The Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink Cart has been retired.
- The Fish Box and Dim Ssam a Gogo trucks come out here and there but are not on any regular rotation.
- gastroPod’s empire now includes 2 Airstreams, his new Pickle People project and he’s the Chef for the upcoming new resto at the Freehand Hotel.
- Sweetness has a truck called Sugar Rush which is now on hiatus.
- You can find Fireman Derek in his truck around town at events.
- The Rolling Stove is still my favorite truck 2 years later.
The Fall for the Arts event kicked off the craze here in South Florida. It may not have been the perfect event but it’s great to be able to look back and remember, hey this is where it started. And that’s something no one can take away from anyone who was involved with its success that day.