Food on Wheels Is a Tasty, Growing Idea … Everywhere, it Seems, Except in Frederick
They say New York City is the city that never sleeps, but I’d argue that it should be called the city that never stops eating.
The vast array of eating establishments in New York City is simply fascinating. Restaurants line blocks of city streets, along with pubs, cafes, cheese shops, bakeries—you name it, the Big Apple has it. But perhaps most visible of the dietary offerings are the food trucks, seemingly perched on every patch of available asphalt. Some sit stationary along busy sidewalks, waiting for hungry passersby to indulge, while others slowly cruise along the congested streets and avenues looking for just the right spot to set up their temporary shops.
Americans are notoriously good at taking a badly dealt hand and spinning it into something fabulous, and a food truck is a perfect example. They are not a recent phenomenon, but their cult followings, social-media adoption and their vast mouth-watering menus are. Over the past few years many food trucks have been elevated from “roach coach” to gourmet cuisine on wheels, due in part to shows like The Great Food Truck Race, but also because of the perfect storm of sluggish economy mixed with an adventurous, sustainable interest in food.
Mobile Kitchens have yet to stick in Frederick. A big reason is the restrictions within the city limits.
In New York City—where you can find everything from donuts to Korean barbecue on wheels—the food truck craze is entrenched in the urban landscape. Closer to home, you can find many food trucks in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., serving up barbecue, tacos and a variety of other tasty concoctions.
So, what about Frederick as a food truck destination?
Welcome to the problem.
Frederick is an innovative, social media-aware, foodie-friendly city. We’re a seemingly perfect vessel for the food truck craze with a bustling downtown business-and-entertainment district, as well as outlying business parks filled with employee who don’t have the time to venture into the city for a “quick” lunch. Also, food trucks these days depend on social networks to announce their daily locations and menu changes, with followers on both Twitter and Facebook eagerly awaiting the updates; tech-savvy Fredericktonians would certainly be up to the task.
And yet, these mobile kitchens have yet to stick. A big reason is the restrictions within the city limits: Food trucks are not allowed, per city code, although permits can be granted for temporary, private events. The application for a vendor/peddler permit in Frederick states, “Vendors and peddlers shall not be permitted to operate in the city of Frederick historic district or in any nonresidential zoned areas, except for the Carroll Creek Linear Park.” In other words, in almost every place you would like to operate a food truck, you cannot operate a food truck.
Frederick residents, local businesses and restaurant owners are fiercely protective of Downtown, and sometimes hesitate to introduce anything that might trip the momentum. Would having food trucks in and around Frederick impede the success of our local restaurants?
Frederick resident and former chef Michael Cleary doesn’t believe it would. “I think Frederick city needs to be proactive when it comes to allowing food trucks access to the city,” he says. “I don’t see them as direct competition to traditional restaurants but a chance to expand the ethnic offerings in town.”
“I don’t see them as direct competition to traditional restaurants but a chance to expand ethnic offerings in town.”
It’s not that food trucks haven’t attempted a run in the area in the past. Ask someone about their favorite local food truck, and many times they’ll come back with one of two venues: Blues BBQ Co. or GoGo Gogi KBBQ.
GoGo Gogi served up a tasty Korean BBQ in a white truck at the West Frederick Farmers’ Market and a few other spots for two years before Julie and John Kim hung up their hats and sold their truck earlier this year. One glance at their Twitter feed (@gogo_gogi) will show just how fond their mobile diners are of the simple Korean menu that consisted of barbecue beef, pork and chicken dishes.
Many miss the GoGo Gogi stationed at Frederick County farmers’ markets. Katherine Phillips, coordinator for the Middletown Farmers’ Market, says many of the markets around the county would be happy to have a food truck as part of their local offerings of vegetables, fruit, eggs and meats – something that a customer could eat on the spot, or take home for dinner. “We would love a food truck,” Phillips says.
Blues BBQ Co. is alive and well in its spot behind Snakeman’s Tattoo Studio on Urbana Pike. While not currently mobile, Frederick residents still consider it a food truck, and a very good one at that. Brothers Patrick and Chris started Blues BBQ Co. nearly 10 years ago with hopes of bringing “real BBQ” to Frederick. Their simple menu focuses on perfectly smoked meat whose rich flavor isn’t hidden by a smothering layer of barbecue sauce.
Step up to the Blues BBQ Co. truck with $7 and you’ll have your choice of seven different sandwiches: Pit ham, Buffalo chicken, Carolina-style Pulled Pork, Memphis pulled pork, pit beef, Chicago Italian beef and grilled chicken salad. A few dollars more will give you additional options, but nothing on their menu is over $14 – except a full rack of baby back ribs, which costs $23 and is served wet or dry, your choice.
It’s a tasty oasis in an unorthodox location, but it shows that food trucks can work in Frederick. Now it just needs some company.