Food truck roundup a haul of tasty treats
Call it a party, a picnic, or a foodie flash mob, Sunday's food truck roundup will provide nourishment for those with adventurous appetites.
The evening event will bring 25 mobile chefs and their kitchens to the parking lot of Benjamin Plumbing Supply, at 6th Street and 7th Avenue. Big names on the scene will be the Korean-Mexican fusion favorite MaFooco and the nationally noted Planet of the Crepes.
In recent years, food trucks have transformed from seedy roach coaches to gourmet get-ups on wheels.
"I just got really excited about the new wave of food trucks," Julie Ray said. She is a graphic designer who started blogging about food trucks several years ago.
In 2011 she started a Facebook page, Tucson Food Trucks for local trucks to communicate and share resources. She joined with David Aguirre last year to plan the first "roundup."
Aguirre is the director of Dinnerware Artspace, a nonprofit pop-up art movement that occupies vacant spaces in downtown Tucson at pre-arranged times.
"While food trucks aren't related to visual arts, when I talk to these food truck chefs — Oh my God, it is an art. This is a different kind of art," Aguirre said.
They organized the first roundup in 10 days in November 2011. Though there were only eight trucks, over 300 people showed up, Aguirre said.
"Everybody sold out of food in two and a half hours, " Aguirre said. The most recent gathering in early January drew almost 1,000 people, he added.
At first the Aguirre worried about a culinary clash among the vendors, but instead a unique community grew.
"We have three barbecue trucks coming, but I look at the menus and they're all different," Aguirre said.
"There's a coalition evolving between us," said popsicle bike cart owner, Gus Coliadis. The owner of MaFooco even helped him design his website.
Both Aguirre and Ray agreed the goal is to unite the public and the elusive, mobile eateries.
"They're out there in the wilderness of the city, really independent. They occupy a corner somewhere. I like to bring them all in so people can taste them," Aguirre said.
"That's why I call it a roundup, it's like wild stallions," he said.
Jane Lee of Jane's Rolling Wok will be attending her second food truck roundup on Sunday, but she's been a fixture in the Tucson scene since 2002.
"It's a wonderful idea to have a food truck party like this, it builds the community," Jane said, "We talk about shopping local and we need the business."
Jane and her husband, John, joined the league of Tucson food trucks because they wanted to spend more time with their family. John had been working as a chef in a Chinese food restaurant for 16 years and the days were long.
"We needed to change our lifestyle," Jane said. So they set out on the road to entrepreneurial independence.
Jane's Rolling Wok cooks up a mixture of Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese dishes and also serves bubble tea. Bubble, or boba tea, is a traditional milk tea or smoothie served with chewy tapioca balls and sipped through a giant straw.
They sold out of bubble tea at the first roundup and hope for a repeat performance on Sunday.
One of Tucson's smallest food vendors has also enjoyed success at the roundups.
Cyclopsicle may only have two wheels, but it delivers unique flavor. Coliadis opened up his popsicle dispensing bicycle in November 2011, but his fanciful frozen creations have sold even in chilly weather.
"I was trying to design a job for myself that brings together everything I like," Coliadis said.
He's been riding a bike for most of his life and his floral design background inspired a love of color and texture. Flavor was a natural addition to his creative palette.
Despite starting his business in the dawn of winter, Coliadis has attracted a small following through word of mouth.
"It was like 10 degrees and people were still trying (the popsicles)," Coliadis said, admitting he may have exaggerated the temperature a little.
His distinctive flavors include strawberry thyme, chai tea and banana peanut butter. Crowd favorites like mango dipped in chipotle chocolate have been known to sell out at past roundups.
Despite the promise of a busy summer and future food truck roundups, Coliadis is proud of his modest establishment.
"I don't have a master plan of the taking over the popsicle world. I like being small," Coliadis said.
Coliadis, the Lees and other mobile chefs will assemble in the Benjamin Plumbing Supply parking lot, across the street from 440 N. 7th Ave., at 4 p.m. on Sunday. There will be tables, chairs and entertainment for those eating, waiting and socializing.
"During the day it's a vacant lot and we come in at night and activate it," Aguirre said.
Jazz musicians The Shawn Kebler Trio and Those Beatles Guys, a tribute band, will provide music. An art library will be set up so guests can page through books as they eat or watch local artists Mel Dominguez and David Tineo create art on the spot.
"It's a great expression of what Tucson is, real independent-minded food trucks with their chefs," Aguirre said.