Food-truck fever reaches Atlanta
Atlanta officially became part of the food-truck nation this weekend with the opening of Atlanta Food Truck Park and Market on April 26.
Two young entrepreneurs leased a lot in the high-traffic quadrant between Howell Mill Road and I-75 and turned it into an outdoor eatery where patrons can choose from a range of menus.
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Ten to 12 trucks will operate every day in the park on a rotating schedule. The park’s co-creator Howard Hsu says the park gives an opportunity to food truck operators to fill their schedule on those days between other gigs, such as weddings and fairs, when their truck would otherwise be idle.
Speaking of filling the schedule, Hsu says that starting in May, the park will become a farmers’ market on Saturday mornings.
Hsu came up with the idea for a food truck park a year ago after his request to locate his own truck in a small vacant lot in Howell Mill Road, a busy commercial street lined with fast-food restaurants, was turned down by surrounding businesses, which thought the idea of a food truck was unsightly.
In a true entrepreneur’s move, Hsu looked across the street and saw a larger area that could easily accommodate not just his truck but as many as 10 or 12 more. He partnered with Brian Harvin, a high-school friend and now a real estate broker, and the plan began to take place.
This is Hsu’s third restaurant business venture. Last year he opened Sweet Auburn BBQ and he also owns Geezo’s Surf and Grill in South Atlanta.
More than 3,000 people visited the park on opening day, according to Hsu.
The next day, Bobbii (who, like other food truck operators interviewed for this story, did not want to give a last name), regional manager of Yumbii, was optimistic about the new park’s opportunities. Yumbii, a two-truck operation serving a fusion of Mexican and Korean food, has been in the food truck business in Atlanta since 2010.
Food trucks may be one of the latest food trends but the food truck concept goes back to the days of the Old West and American cowboy. According to the American Chuck Wagon Association, the chuck wagon grew out of necessity during the expansion to the American West, when trailblazers and cowboys needed to be fed conveniently with the closest thing to a home-cooked meal.
In more developed food truck markets like Los Angeles, the typical fare has evolved from the burgers, hot dogs and tacos to on-wheels interpretations of gourmet food.
According to restaurant research firm Datassential, “restaurants on wheels are so trendy that websites have begun to pop up compiling all the Twitter accounts for the area’s top trucks.”
Indeed, it’s as if food trucks and social media were made for each other. In Los Angeles, several sites such as foodtrucksmap.com and findlafoortrucks.com aficionados to find where to get their next meal, while Twitter allows truck owners to alert their fan base as to they are heading next.
A find-a-food-truck app will debut in Atlanta, according to Hsu, sponsored for the Atlanta Street Food Coalition.