More than 10 years ago, the very first food truck event took place in South Florida. The Fall for the Arts festival happened on Sunday, September 12th, from Noon to 6 PM. It was a scorching hot day with the possibility of rain looming overhead during the entire afternoon. It would rain all around us but somehow we were spared.
How Exactly Did the 1st Food Truck Event in Miami Happen?
The Adrienne Arsht Center was having a giant arts festival with live music and needed food vendors. The Miami Herald was involved with the event’s promotion and suggested to them that maybe I should curate all the food for the event.
It was a great opportunity that they presented to me. I was allowed to invite whoever I liked, and they were both very accommodating with whoever I wanted there.
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.
Why the Term, Street Food Vendors?
The phrase Street Food never really caught on; it was Food Trucks that hit the bullseye. The food truck pool was tiny at that point so It was easy to decide who would attend.
gastroPod and Latin Burger & Taco were the most recognizable names, and then 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 up in Delray Beach at this point, came down for their first Miami event. Nacho Mama’s Mexican Grill drove up from Key Largo where they were struggling to make ends meat. The good word about food trucks had not reached there yet.
La Camaronera’s The Fish Box and Sakaya Kitchen’s Dim Ssam a Gogo both made their debuts at the Fall For The Arts. Chef Richard Hales, the owner of Sakaya Kitchen, had picked up his truck from the food truck manufacturer just an hour earlier and drove it right over 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.
No Dessert Food Trucks?
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. So to fill the dessert slots, I asked Sweetness Bakeshop, and Fireman Derek to set up tents.
Sweetness Bakeshop, who would create their own sensation as the Sugar Rush food truck just a few months later came fully stocked. I visited their tent multiples times for sweets and Mexican Coke.
Totally Bananas and I had been the dessert at a small burger event where I judged, and their frozen bananas dipped in Chocolate was a perfect fit for the event.
Del’s Frozen Lemonade inquired about being a vendor through the Miami Herald. After investigating, they sounded pretty cool to me, so they were aboard too.
A few weeks prior to the festival, I had met Fireman Derek Kaplan at La Camaronera. At the time, his key lime pies were sold at La Camaronera. Fireman Derek eventually moved into a truck and then his first shop in Wynwood. And, not not the one you’re thinking of. This was a commissary with a pickup window.
Who was Bites on Wheels?
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 the Miami New Times unfairly referred to as a small roach coach.
That comment caused him to sell off his little truck to try and save for a full fledged food truck. Unfortunately, he never returned to the street food scene.
Fall For The Arts Food Truck Menu
While digging through the Burger Beast archives, I came across the menus that all food trucks had submitted to me. After compiling them into a pdf, I printed a few copies for whoever dropped by my tent that afternoon. Other than that, these haven’t seen the light of day in over ten years.
What Do I Remember About That Day?
It was sweltering, and I was lucky that my dad and my bud Manny accompanied me. I do want to point out that they did leave the event with an hour to go because the heat was just utterly unbearable. So I couldn’t blame them.
I had to remove my trusty polo shirt and stay in my white undershirt to try and keep cool. The Miami Herald had a tent set up for Burger Beast, which was right across from The Rolling Stove (lucky for me). I invited my newish friends, edible South Florida, to share the tent. Katie from edible and I suffered together the whole day.
Other Things I Remember From That Day
- One of the police officers had an issue with Jeremiah of gastroPod when he arrived. It quickly escalated into an argument that I had to get involved in. She then refused to let him in through the vendor entrance. I found myself in the middle of Biscayne Boulevard walking him into the event from the other side.
- Joy Wallace’s BBQ which for some reason changed from BBQ to selling Kettle Corn a few days before the event was taking up so much space that Latin House Grill and gastroPod did not fit in their spots. I was within a hair of telling them you know where with their kettle corn .
- Latin Burger & Taco and Wing Commander were having a turf war. They were facing each and LB’s awning and WC’s tent were bumping into each other. The Miami Herald had to get involved to settle the dispute.
- 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, He wanted to make sure everything went off without a hitch.
- No one expected the mass insanity that ensued. The lines were ridiculously long. 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 drank like 10 Mexican Cokes from Sweetness and later on, Latin House Grill after Sweetness sold out. That’s not even counting all the giant cups of Del’s Frozen Lemonades I shared with family and friends.
- The Fish Box’s line was the fastest moving by far.They were a freakin’ machine.
- It was great meeting a bunch of folks who read my blog and a handful of future truck owners who came by to introduce themselves.
- The only thing I ate was a Yellow Dog from The Yellow Submarine and Ron’s Bites from The Rolling Stove. Both at the very end of the Fall For The Arts festival.
What’s Changed in the Years since?
- Fireman Derek, gastroPod (now Square Pie City), Latin House Grill and Yellow Submarine (now Rock That Burger) are no longer in the food truck game and now have restaurants. In the case of Fireman Derek, with multiple locations.
- Bite on Wheels, Feverish Ice Cream, the Fish Box (La Camaronera restaurant is still going strong), Jefe’s, Latin Burger, Nacho Mama’s, the Rolling Stove, Sweetness Bakeshop, and Wing Commander are no longer around.
- The Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink Cart was retired.
- The Dim Ssam a Gogo comes out here and there for special events but are not on any regular rotation.
- Even all these years later, the Rolling Stove is still the greatest food truck of all time for me.
The Fall for the Arts event kicked off the food truck craze here in South Florida. It may not have been a perfect event, but it’s great to be able to look back and think hey, this is where it started!
It kicked started my secondary life as a food truck event curator and organizer. Less than six months later, the income from events I was making allowed me to be a full time Burger Beast.
Don’t forget to check out the slideshows from Miami New Times & here too.