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By Becca Griesemer

trucksgastrobook

For about as long as there have been automobiles, refrigeration, and a job force, there have been food trucks.  But two Decembers ago, the first gourmet food truck —gastroPod, a 1962 Airstream customized with the latest in modern culinary technology by Johnson & Wales graduate Chef Jeremiah Bullfrog —came on the scene on time for Art Basel Miami with more than just fast food.

It was soon followed by Latin Burger and Taco, a gaudy black and red truck that gave work to unemployed locals, and even caught up to the higher echelons of gastronomy.   Chef Michael Schwartz hopped on the bandwagon to sell hotdogs, sausage sandwiches and buttered popcorn ice cream outside of his restaurant Michael's Genuine Food & Drink during a Design District Gallery Walk; and chef Jonathan Eismann sold smoky barbecue from his Q American Barbeque before it closed.

The success of these initial attempts began a sweeping food truck craze in Miami, and the trucks started roaming around Miami independently.   Last Tuesday, 25 of these social media-fueled food trucks lined a street just off Biscayne Boulevard.

The trucks method of attraction is a popular media tool, Twitter.  The operator of each truck creates an online profile with the trucks’ name, and tries to gather a following.  This means that Twitter-users search for truck’s pages, and if one grabs their interest, they click “follow.”  Then, when trucks post their current location, their followers will get an instant notification declaring their coordinates.

One food truck, Jefe’s Original Fish Taco and Burgers, has 1,973 online followers.

Jefe’s twitter page will shoot out a message, like this one: BTTR Tuesdays are the new Fridays. Check out what we are talking about the Party starts @ 5:30p 127th & Biscayne "Light bulb!!"

 

The comment refers to the new phenomenon the intense popularity of the trucks has caused: independent owners now come together and organize food truck courts, so customers don’t have to drive all over town to get what they want.

BTTR, complete with jazz and reggae bands, goes down every Tuesday and brings hundreds of people out into the street.

“I think they’re so popular because it’s family friendly,” Monica Arana, 28, said.

Arana, from Peru, watched a reggae band that was set up on the field in front of the trucks while her 3-year-old daughter danced about.  Her husband brought over bites from Jefe’s truck, which is best known for its Ensenada Style beer-battered fish tacos.

“We come often, and always try something new,” Arana said.

This has definitely become a family-oriented trend, as there was everyone from newborn babies to an elderly person being pushed in a wheelchair.  Children played tag, a cop wandered through the scene casually, and adults sat on blankets drinking beer.

There are few limitations on what a chef in a food truck can whip up.  International and ethnic menus range from basic to complex; at Gastropod, one can order a Bánh mì Oxtail Taco (with trotters, country pâté, carrots, pickled radishes, and nuac cham), or a tangy espresso Q-sauce-drenched Sloppy Joes. The food truck fare extends to Latin Macho Burgers or three Amigo Tacos (chicken tomatillo, pulled pork, or chicken mole).

But trucks aren’t limited to dinner-style food.  Those craving a sweet can have vegan cupcakes or artisan gelatos at the prettily pink Dolci Peccati truck, or someone desiring a smoke can go to "Smoking with the Caballos,” a mobile cigar store.

Wrapidito is fairly new on the scene.    Daniel Gonzalez, 23, of the “Wrapidito team,” which was started two months ago by his cousin’s family explained: “They saw that the trucks do well in NYC and in the press, and we thought, America was built on small businesses.”

He said things are going well so far;  in the truck, which runs on a generator, the team sells 300-400 wraps on a good night.  Which is good considering it’s not a cheap business to start.

“A truck costs from 20-70 thousand [dollars].  But a pimped out truck could be 200 thou,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve seen one with plasmas and an iPad menu.”

A mobile food court

At a Saturday afternoon fashion market in Wynwood, five trucks were set up and busy: Daddy’s Grill, Ms. Cheezious, Kona Ice, Montaco, and Divan Coffee.

Ivan Hernandez started Divan Coffee a year ago, and employs his teenage son, David, who helps translate for his Venezuelan father.

On a hot day, selling coffee could be tough, but Hernandez thought that problem through.

“We’re selling iced coffee too, so business remains strong,” Hernandez said. “I’m glad I saw the food truck concept in Paris and could afford to do this there.”

Photo Credits:

Gastropod: from Food Trucks, a book by Heather Shouse

The mischievous Ms. Cheezious truck, Paula Niño, NewTimes

GastroPod Mobile Gourmet in Miami: dishes with a modern twist. Scott Wiseman

    

Find out about your next Food Truck gathering from their Twitter addresses:

GastoPod @gastropodmiami

Latin Burger @latinburger

Feverish IceCream @FeverishMiami

Ms Chezzious @MsChezzious

Dolci Peccati Gelato @gelatotruckMIA

Montaco @MontacoTruck

Grill Master Café @GrillMasterCafé

Jefes Original @JefesOriginal

Wing Commander @MyWingCommander

Divan Bakery @divanbakery

Miso Hungry @misohungryFT

Latin House Grill @ LatinHouseGrill

Yellow Submarine @yellowtwitter

Cheese Me @cheesememobile

Slow Food Truck @slowfoodtruck

 

 

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