Note: Friday, June 29 is “National Eat at a Food Truck Day”…be sure to celebrate!
Food Trucks have been around long since the days of the chuck wagon and pioneers heading west towards undiscovered country. However, it wasn’t until a little food truck in L.A. named Kogi changed the game with a short rib taco and use of twitter. That was the start of the next generation of food trucks. The ones we see racing across the country on T.V. producing gourmet food out of a kitchen on wheels. While all the glamour and ease seen on T.V. is Hollywood fluff, the gourmet food isn’t. Food trucks around the country are producing high quality restaurant style food, for those on the go with a price point far below what you would expect to pay.
While the food truck industry may have begun its shift 10 years ago, it is just now starting to take off in Grand Rapids. Food Trucks were not welcomed with open arms here originally, often lumped into the category of carnival food. Which is a stigma they still content with to this day in some areas. The real push started about four years ago with What the Truck offering their menu based off the Winchester and Donkey Taqueria. Even then they were limited on where they could set up and vend.
A little while later the Grand Rapids Food Truck Association was formed. Its goal was to bring awareness of what food trucks can bring to the community. From there Mayor Bliss has been instrumental in pushing for new food truck laws with a pilot program being green light during the summer of 2016 and recently extended. This program allowed food trucks to vend in specific zones throughout downtown as well as city parks. It was a great start to allowing the food truck culture to grow in Grand Rapids.
The great aspect about food trucks that most people do not realize is that they are entirely about community. Unlike traditional brick and mortar restaurants food trucks do better in numbers. They do not see each other as competition. For one food truck to set up at a location they could do ok, however if they bring more trucks to that location it in turns brings more people. As a result, everyone does better than if they tried to go it alone. This in turn creates its own mini community amongst food truck owners.
While the number of food trucks in the area started to increase, the real problem was the public was unaware that Grand Rapids had a food truck scene. People had been seeing food trucks on T.V. for years now and even visited food trucks when they traveled to other cities. Yet they never really saw them around Grand Rapids unless it was a large event like ArtPrize.
That is when GR Loves Food Trucks was formed in 2017, with the focus of raising public awareness that food trucks not only exist in Grand Rapids, they offer some great food choices and are going to help you find them. Through GR Loves Food Trucks Facebook page word can be spread on where food trucks will be setting up, allowing them to reach a larger audience.
Just letting people know where food trucks were parking wasn’t enough and so they started hosting their own events such as Food Truck Fridays at Riverside Park to bring food trucks into the communities where they belong. Food trucks are owned and operated by local members of the community, so it is a perfect blend to bring food truck events in to the neighborhoods. What better way to support local then by being able to take your family down to the park for dinner, trying foods from several different food trucks often talking directly to the owner, and being able to be surrounded by your fellow community members.
The collaboration this year between GR Loves Food Trucks and the Grand Rapids Food Truck Association has been instrumental in the growth of food truck culture in GR. Through the joining of these organizations Grand Rapids plays host to six food truck events every week. Something that would have been unheard of only a year ago. Both organizations share similar visions on how great the food truck culture can become and are working together to help bring those visions to reality.
You can find food trucks three days a week at Calder Plaza downtown for lunch, Tuesday, Wednesday and Fridays. You can also find food truck events weekly at Riverside Park for Food Truck Fridays. Wednesday night at the Fulton Street Farmers Market for the Summer Night Series and Fulton St. Artisans Market on Sundays for the Summer of Brunch Series.