Charlotte: Food Truckin’ on a Roll

The Roots truck at Atherton Market set up shop one recent Saturday morning. photo - HELEN SCHWAB

By Helen Schwab |

The Roots truck at Atherton Market set up shop one recent Saturday morning. photo - HELEN SCHWAB

So, between the political and the popular, is it finally time to discuss some food-truck fare?

No, we haven’t got them popping up everywhere, but we’ve reached enough critical mass that this Thursday, you can check some out at the Chow Down Uptown Food Truck Rally. Operators of at least eight trucks have committed to sell food at the event.

The rally will be 5-9 p.m. in the Seventh Street parking lot, across from Seventh Street Station at 260 E. Seventh St.

Lynn Henderson, Charlotte Center City Partners director of programs and event operations, says her group started pondering “the whole food truck culture” several months ago.

Alert readers will recall food-truck advocates presenting a petition to Charlotte City Council recently with the catchy slogan “Carne Asada Is Not a Crime.” That reflected the difficulty taco trucks, also called loncheras, have had with an ordinance the council tightened in 2008, citing complaints.

It restricted mobile food vendors from being closer than 400 feet to residences and each other, from staying in one spot more than 90 days and from selling later than 9 p.m. Truck supporters hope the council will do what it recently did with music complaints – namely, decide to deal with problems individually rather than through ordinances.

Trucks are hardly new elsewhere, of course. There’s actually a Mobile Cuisine magazine and a multitude of apps that pinpoint trucks for diners by aggregating Twitter feeds and even GPS technology. (None that I’ve seen geared for Charlotte, though.)

With some trucks able to collaborate with private property owners uptown, the idea of a rally seemed promising. “In a very low-key manner, we put the word out,” says Henderson. “It’s grown and grown, totally by social media.”

If the rally is a success, gatherings could continue – ideally, says Henderson, run by the truck owners themselves, who would decide how often to gather. Some would probably anchor the events, with other trucks rotating in and out. Several were interested in the May 19 event but had conflicts, so she expects the list to grow.

The eight confirmed (with their Twitter handles, through which they often tell followers where they are and what they’re serving that day):

Holy Matrimony World Famous Wings & Pizza (@WingzzaTruck on Twitter): Just what you’d think.

Roaming Fork (@RoamingForkNC): Eclectic offerings, from fried deviled eggs to blackened fish tacos.

Roots Farm Food (@RootsFarmFood): Another eclectic one, from housemade tagliatelli pasta with asparagus to lamb sliders to grilled cheese.

Napolitano’s Market (@NapolitanosMkt): A big red truck with Italian sandwiches and more.

Southern Cake Queen (@southerncake): Gourmet cupcakes in a noticeably pink vehicle.

Jim’s South Philly Steaks (@JimsSteakTruck): Philly cheese steaks, naturally.

Sticks and Cones (@SticksandCones): A classic ice cream truck.

Outdoor Feasts: Applewood-smoked pulled pork barbecue sandwiches, ribs, boudin balls (“souped-up hush puppies”), plus fruit pops made with local fruit and cream.

Note: These aren’t all uptown-centric; some are more often in other locales.

I recently checked out two trucks I hadn’t been to:

The new Roaming Fork was set up in a lot off Camden Road in South End, and I got a cheerful greeting (Requirement No. 1 of a truck). Blackened fish tacos sounded unmissable, and how could anyone not try “fried deviled eggs”? A paper cone of three deviled egg halves, crusty with breading, proved a mite rubbery for my taste, but the tacos? Nice. Two flour tortillas encasing tender, lightly blackened moist white fish with well-roasted corn salsa and a drizzle of cilantro sauce. Plenty for $6.

Roots is often at the Atherton Market, and on a Saturday morning was offering duck confit tamales with a guajillo mole and fried egg on top, along with veggie omelets and sausage and egg burritos. The tamale was exceptional: beautifully moist, and perfectly set off by the lush mole, spiked with scallions. At $6, this was small, but so rich that it was filling.

Bring on the rally.