WALNUT CREEK — Food trucks bearing gourmet goodies are just around The Bend.
A food truck market dubbed “The Bend” is on track to set up shop on Main Street, at the site of former French restaurant Le Virage, in March. The family behind Le Virage — French for “the turn” — are the owners and operators of The Bend, which will offer eight rotating food trucks six days a week for lunch and dinner.
Le Virage, remembered for its Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec-themed murals that once adorned its funky building, operated for 34 years before closing in 2005. The building burned down seven years later.
The name for the food market comes from its location, at the bend in the road where California Boulevard and Main Street split near the Walnut Creek BART Station, said Matt Marinelli, co-owner of the market. He and his father Ed, former manager at Le Virage, are the duo behind the market. With a preliminary approval from city planners, The Bend should be open by March 1.
“We are trying to create a diverse food environment and plan to never have two trucks with the same kind of food at the same time,” Matt Marinelli said.
The Bend will be the first daily food truck market in Contra Costa County.
Originally another duo wanted to start a food truck market at the Le Virage site, and one at the Martinez marina, but those plans fell apart, according to Marinelli.
He believes the secret to The Bend’s success will be location.
“We are in a really good area; there is nothing like us around,” he said. “There is literally a food void in the area. The closest restaurant is a quarter-of-a-mile away.”
The market will back up to buildings which house 2,000 offices, and several car dealerships are nearby. And for many it’s a little too far to walk to downtown Walnut Creek, especially for lunch, said Walnut Creek Community Development Director Sandra Meyer. In economic development terms, she said, having a food truck market may attract more office rentals.
“That office market is really underserved in terms of services,” Meyer said. “We think it’s going to really help get the vacancy rate down over there.”
There will also be parking spaces for those who don’t live or work in the area, Marinelli said.
The Bend still needs final approval from the city Planning Commission, which will probably come in the next few months.
A food truck smackdown may be coming to Walnut Creek, with mobile food giant Off the Grid — which has markets across the Bay Area — trying to set up a weekly market downtown. The city has no mechanism to allow such a use, Meyer said. But Walnut Creek Downtown, formerly the business association, may work with the city on a code amendment that would allow Off the Grid to set up shop, Meyer said.
This could lead to some opposition from downtown brick-and-mortar restaurants whose owners “aren’t wild about the idea,” she said.
But one person who is excited about food trucks in Walnut Creek is Kiem Nguyen, owner of Blue Saigon, a Vietnamese food truck that has signed on with The Bend. Walnut Creek is the place to go to eat, he said, so it makes sense to have food trucks there, and a variety of them.
“When there are a lot of trucks, it attracts more people because people want a selection,” he said. “People bring the whole family and everyone can eat a little bit of everything.”