By Heidi Knapp Rinella | LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
There won’t bea roach coach in sight when the Vegas StrEATS food-truck festival sets up shop adjacent to the El Cortez, 600 Fremont St., on Saturday. There will, however, be about nine upscale food trucks, serving a variety of foods including sliders, cheesesteaks, meatballs and more.
Alex Epstein, executive manager of the El Cortez, said Vegas StrEATS will be on the second Saturday of each month. Last month’s inaugural festival brought out a cluster of food trucks and plenty of food-truck lovers who didn’t mind the long lines as they waited for their favorites.
“We didn’t do an official count, but there were hundreds upon hundreds,” she said. “I’d say at least 1,000 people were there. From what I heard, there were people saying they had waited an hour and 45 minutes, and there were no complaints.”
Those attending were “good sports” about the wait, Epstein said, in large part because Vegas StrEATS has enough to keep them busy, with live musical entertainment, live art and a bar offering $3 Budweisers, Bud Lights, Jameson Irish Whisky shots and Jaegermeister, as well as Pepsi products.
Epstein said the March event, which “happened serendipitously,” coincided with the Neon Reverb music festival. The May festival, she said, will coincide with Helldorado, “so we really expect a large group of people.” She’s hoping to close down a block of Sixth Street for use exclusively by pedestrians and to have even more food trucks — upward of 18 to 20 — and vendors.
Ric Guerrero, owner of Slidin’ Thru, who was the first to bring the high-end food truck trend to Las Vegas (and has opened a brick-and-mortar operation, Slidin’ Thru HQ, at 955 Grier Drive), is an organizer of Vegas StrEATS. He said he doesn’t mind doing events that support his direct competitors, partly because he’s been a pioneer in the food-truck business.
“I think a lot of people were thinking of doing it, but nobody was willing to take the risk,” he said. “When we did it and people saw we were successful, it was right away, within a month, that there were trucks hitting the road.”
Now, he estimates, about 20 high-end food trucks operate in the valley.
“I kind of approach things a little differently,” he said. “We’re not your traditional business, in any sense of the word. I feel by us supporting these new up-and-coming businesses in our industry, it makes us look good as a brand.
“As the first, we’re kind of known for creating the industry” in Las Vegas. “As the industry gets bigger, naturally it helps our business.”
Among the trucks expected to participate in Saturday’s event, besides Slidin’ Thru and its sliders, are Muncheeze (grilled cheese and more), Fukuburger (Asian-inspired burgers), Sloppi Jo’s Roving Eatery (pork with chile sauce, tacos and more), TastyBunz (stuffed buns), Haulin Balls (meat balls), Food Slingers (cheesesteaks and slingers) and The Cheesesteak Truck.
Epstein said she and her family are foodies who love the food-truck concept, and she and her associates are big supporters of local talent who want to highlight the many positive things Las Vegas has to offer.
“It’s a fun, community-building event,” she said. “It’s something that’s great for downtown. It’s a great way to highlight local talent and bring people to the area.”