Food trucks are ditching the solo act in Seattle and congregating in pods around the city, creating a festive atmosphere for hungry lunchtime — and even late-night — crowds.
They seem to come in pairs or in threes now, these food trucks, congregating in vacant lots.
They line up in front of the Starbucks headquarters in Sodo on weekdays, hawking Korean tacos and burgers. The University of Washington has food-truck “pods.” And they’re at the Queen Anne Farmer’s Market, too.
It’s the biggest change in the street-food scene, trucks ditching the solo act and congregating in mini pods, like they do in Portland, creating an ambience all its own.
Now that the Seattle City Council has loosened its restrictions, giving food trucks more leeway to operate around the city, expect a wave of new vendors to roll out before the end of the year, and expect many of them to join existing pods on private lots. Most new food trucks prefer pods to take advantage of the existing customer base, piggybacking on established vendors who already have a street-food following.
The largest pod was born in June, when six trucks leased out the parking lot on Saturdays at Harvard Avenue between Pike and Pine Street (9 p.m. to around 2 a.m., www.caphillnightmarket.com) by the HG Lodge nightclub. Lots of dog walkers stroll over early to grab a cookie ice-cream sandwich at Street Treats. Later at night, the scene shifts toward bar hoppers noshing on naan-shaped tacos and banh mis.
“I thought there might be an opportunity to try it out, aka Portland, to see if it could work out,” said Diane Skwiercz of Street Treats, who helped organize the pod on Capitol Hill. The group has a lease until the end of August and hopes to renew again.
The pod in front of the Starbucks headquarters, 2401 Utah Ave. S. (11 a.m.-2 p.m. or so, weekdays) has been popular with the food-truck lovers. There’s ample parking and plenty of seating and shaded areas.
The pod was intended for workers at Starbucks while its cafeteria gets a face-lift. But this pod has morphed into one of the city’s liveliest food-truck scenes. Taxi drivers converge on the pod during lunch. Downtown workers carpool here. Marination Mobile, the Hawaii- Korean fusion truck, draws the longest lines on Thursdays and Fridays. On a recent visit, Marination Mobile ran out of Kalua pork sliders and beef tacos before 1 p.m. — the crowd let out an audible “aww” every time an item was crossed off the menu.
Nearby, the yellow-and-pink Barriga Llena truck, specializing in Mexico City-style comfort food, hawked its artery-clogging meat-lover’s sandwich stuffed with steak, chorizo, pork leg, sausage and cheese. And Charlie’s Buns ‘N Stuff featured a burger topped with peanut butter, blackberry jam and bacon.
You might need a pocket guide to the other trucks that work on a rotating schedule around town:
• In July, vendors have added a second truck most days at Fairview Avenue North and Harrison Street (11 a.m.- around 2 p.m., www.southlakeunioneats.com) to grab the South Lake Union lunch rush.
• Downtown, nine food trucks, including the new gourmet sandwich on wheels, Blue Truck Special, rotate at Second Avenue and Pine Street (11 a.m.-2 p.m. and on Fridays, extended hours 4-8:30 p.m., www.2ndandpine.com). (Not to be confused with the corner of Second Avenue and Pike Street, where Maximus Minimus is parked near two food carts.)
• Last fall, the UW (10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays, www.hfs.washington.edu/UWStreetFood) got into the food-truck game and now has five: two stationed near More Hall and three in Red Square, selling Spam musubi and barbecue sandwiches. All are owned and operated by the UW and don’t travel beyond the campus.
The pods were added to give students more options on campus while the university’s student union is being renovated, a job that won’t be done until fall 2012. The pods have drawn enough interest — about 1,100 customers daily — that the UW may keep some trucks permanently and even use them for tailgating events.
• Queen Anne Farmers Market, Queen Anne Avenue and West Crockett Street (3-7:30 p.m. Thursdays until Oct. 6, www.qafma.net) is a favorite among foodies. About 10 food stalls hawk empanadas, tacos and pizza and share the market with four trucks, Buns On Wheels, Maximus Minimus, Parfait and the anchor, the popular Creole soul-food truck, Where Ya At Matt. A new food truck, Big Foods, specializing in braised meat, will join the market by the end of August.