Atlanta, GA: Broad Street, get ready for food trucks

Caroline C. Kilgore

By Max Blau  |  Atlanta Magazine

Caroline C. Kilgore
Caroline C. Kilgore

A decade ago, Barbara Asher Square wasn’t exactly what you’d call a destination. In fact, the plaza just north of the Five Points MARTA station—with its mix of unchecked street vendors hawking incense, panhandlers, and homeless people—was a place you probably avoided altogether. Since then, though, Broad Street has shown signs of life with more than a dozen restaurants to the north and an emerging arts scene to the south of the central train station. Up next for the resurgent street: food trucks.

The Atlanta City Council is now looking at letting up to eight food trucks open for business in the plaza between the Five Points station and Marietta Street. The measure further expands a pilot program passed two years ago that allowed for food trucks to operate in the public right-of-way on several streets near City Hall. Councilman Kwanza Hall, the ordinance’s sponsor, told us the measure would improve a public space in the heart of the city and boost the quality of food options. “It’s been a long time coming,” Hall said. “We’ve continued to build out what citizens and entrepreneurs and foodies have been asking for.”

In addition, food trucks would also be allowed to vend on south Broad Street near the Mammal Gallery. Kyle Kessler, director of the South Downtown Initiative, said food trucks during lunch and dinner hours could have the potential to “stimulate positive economic and cultural activity” on an once-tired block.

“Restaurants have struggled because you don’t have density,” Kessler said. “Office workers won’t venture out if there are not a variety of options. If the lines are busy at one [restaurant], they can now go to another [like on north Broad Street]. Having more choices will help other businesses, show people the positives of the neighborhood, and get folks some good food.”

Meanwhile, Atlanta Street Food Coalition President Greg Smith sees the expansion of food truck locations as a “great opportunity” for vendors. According to Smith, mobile restaurateurs haven’t slung many tacos outside City Hall in part due to the lack of foot traffic. With Broad Street, however, Smith expects there will be more of an interest—not unlike what popped up near Underground Atlanta prior to its sale.

So, when will food trucks actually arrive on Broad Street? Jay Tribby, Hall’s chief of staff, said the vending ordinance will likely pass later this month. So by the time spring rolls around, downtown Atlanta may have a whole new set of food options. Goodbye flea markets, hello fish tacos.