By Marissa Cabrera | KPBS.org
SAN DIEGO — On a typical day, taking a lunch break for Jermaine Wright involves a drive down to the nearest fast-food chain. But lately, he’s been trading the drive-thru for a meal made out of a food truck.
His most recent food-truck experience was in Sorrento Valley, where the Devilicious food truck is considered a regular.
“I got a bacon-wrapped hot dog with some truffle tots,” said Wright.
Dyann Huffman and Kristina Repp own Devilicious. They debuted their food truck three months ago.
“Our name is kinda interesting,” Huffman said. “We came up with it one afternoon, it describes who we are. We are a little devilish and our food is delicious, so we put that together and we came up with Devilicious.”
Repp describes their food as a twist on comfort food.
“Our lobster grilled cheese is hands down a staple of this truck,” Repp said.
Devilicious is parked at a different location every day of the week. In fact, San Diegans may notice more food trucks parked all around San Diego County.
At least five trucks have made their debut in the county within the past couple of weeks. They serve food you would think come out of a fancy kitchen. For example, Manga, Manga offers Italian cuisine. Another truck that hit the road recently was the Green Truck. It serves 100 percent organic meals.
The menu options have taken some by surprise.
Kelly O’Laughlin maintains a Facebook page that tracks food trucks in San Diego. She sends out daily messages with location information.
“There is still this perception that food trucks are still roach coaches. And it’s not this gourmet, fresh, interesting food,” O’Laughlin said. “I think it’ll take a while to get more San Diegans to realize that.”
Even fast-food chains are still getting into the business. Despite having 200-plus restaurants in the area, San Diego-based Jack in the Box debuted its food truck on a recent Friday night in the Gaslamp.
The fast-food chain calls it the Munchie Mobile.
The 34-foot truck looks like something out of the ’70s. The restaurants bobble head mascot is plastered on the side of the truck, donning armor, brandishing a lighting bolt all while riding a tiger.
The Munchie Mobile will be roaming primarily from downtown San Diego to beach areas three days a week.
Jennifer Kennedy with Jack in the Box says its time for Jack to drive straight to his customers.
“So when they’re out downtown, or when they’re at a Charger game or Padre game, instead of having them go the extra mile to come find us, we’ll be there for them when they’re ready,” said Kennedy.
But not everyone is thrilled about Jack jumping into the food-truck business.
“Anytime you have a big corporation that might be against independent, small-business people you’re going to have some push back, ” O’Laughlin said.
O’Laughlin said she’s received some negative posts about Jack in the Box on her Facebook page.
“It’s corporate and goes against the very basic definition of the food truck, which is a lot more mom and pop and a lot more intimate and personal,” said O’Laughlin.
Jack in the Box isn’t the only corporate chain jumping into the food-truck business.
Sizzler, Subway, In-N-Out all own food trucks, and Fatburger is getting a full fleet.
But Huffman with Devilicious doesn’t see fast-food chains as competition.
“The corporate chains are not on the street everyday doing what we do. They’re pushing their corporation. They do big events. Plus people want to see the little guy succeed I don’t they it will affect us,” said Huffman.
Jack in the Box doesn’t see the smaller trucks as competition either.
“People don’t eat at the same place every day, so I think there’s room in the industry for us to work together and be good partners,” said Kennedy.
If there is one city in the country where there’s room for both corporate chains and small businesses to jump into the food truck business, its San Diego.
Comparable cities such as Austin and Portland are home to hundreds of food trucks. San Diego has about 20 modern-day food trucks and more gearing up to hit the streets in the coming months.