Ontario, CA: Food Trucks Roll into Inland Empire

The crowd at Food Truck Fest 2011 at the Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario. Credit: Matt A. Gonzales

By Bill Norris | Patch.com

The crowd at Food Truck Fest 2011 at the Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario. Credit: Matt A. Gonzales

Banned by both San Bernardino and Riverside counties, the popular gourmet restaurants on wheels get a day in the Ontario sun.

For Leslie Dorticos, it was about time.

The co-owner of Stella Pierres Gourmet Grub based out of Yucaipa, had the chance, on Saturday, to introduce her food to the masses in her home county.

People lined up to try everything from their Muddie Mutt – a bacon-wrapped all beef hot dog covered with mustard, chili, cheese and onions – to their chocolate covered bacon. All of it prepared in their kitchen on wheels.

The truck, co-owned by head chef Dana Sherwood, was one of more than 50 to set up shop on the parking lot of Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario on Saturday for the first Inland Empire Food Truck fest.

And the pair was more than excited for the chance.

“Finally,” Dorticos said. “This is a wonderful opportunity for the people in the IE who follow these food trucks.”

Popular food trucks from across Southern California made the trip, including Nom Nom (Vietemese sandwiches), BaconMania (everything bacon) and the Grilled Cheese Truck (gourmet style sandwiches).’


The Grilled Cheese Truck - Credit: Matt A. Gonzales

It was the Grilled Cheese Truck, and its options that included brie with fig paste and almonds between slices of bread, that garnered the crowds early, with a line of people at least 25 people deep.

But after the gates opened to the general public, every truck had a line.

The trucks, which have large social media followings in Los Angeles and Orange counties, are only allowed at special events in Riverside and San Bernardino counties due to health concerns and their past reputation as “Roach Coaches.” Catering trucks are allowed to sell their food in some locations, as long as they are precooked and packaged.

But the modern trucks are gourmet kitchens on wheels. They are strictly monitored and inspected, and are shut down if something is wrong, as the Dos Chinos truck was mid-day when their hot water heater was broken.

Opinion is changing in some areas of the region. Riverside City Councilman Paul Davis brought two fellow councilmen to the event in an effort to dispel myths surrounding the trucks.

“We need to open our eyes and become more modernized,” Davis said. “We’re in an different economic environment, and this is part of it.”

“And I think as we peruse through the various trucks and talk to the owners that we’ll find that many of the issues that have been brought before us that caused us to ban it, that we need to look at that, write an appropriate policy so that we can include those here in the Inland Empire.”

And it won’t come soon enough for Dorticos and her partner in the Stella Pierres truck.

“We’re hoping for that,” Dorticos said of the event leading to a change in regulations. “It would be beneficial for everyone if other vendors were able to get the chance, especially in this economy.”

And the customers will come, especially judging from the early reactions the truck was getting from customers.

After one returned for more napkins, giving a thumbs up to Sherwood, she said “See, you don’t get that reaction with pre-prepared or packaged food.”