Gainesville, FL: The Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally Back for Seconds — Actually, Fifths

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By  Emily Cardinali  |  Alligator

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Pelican Brothers Food Truck (via Facebook)

It started with an ad on Craigslist.

The locally loved Pelican Brothers food truck was up for sale, and roommates Charlie Brown, Stephanie Norman and Pattee Green seized the opportunity.

“We bought it at the end of June, and it’s been a blur ever since,” Norman said.

Within that blur was meeting new local food truck owners and serving thousands of customers at the Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally. The food truck trend that struck the nation a few years ago is quickly gaining momentum locally.

The fifth Original Gainesville Food Truck Rally will be on Sept. 28 at 5 p.m. in the newly paved High Dive parking lot. This time, a few more out-of-town trucks will be rolling in.

“Gainesville has a special-event culture to begin with,” explains Pat Lavery, owner of Glory Days Presents, the event promotion and production company that organized the first food truck rally in Gainesville. “It’s different and new. Anything different and new, people get excited about,” he said.

Gainesville residents gave the rallies an extremely warm welcome from the beginning.

“What started as a small idea has really blown up into something huge,” he said. “The first time we did it, we started later and had less vendors, so the lines were really long. Since then, we’ve doubled the vendors, we’ve extended the hours, and wait times are 10 minutes or less.”

Pelican Brothers serves as the host food truck for the rallies. The decision to take over Pelican Brothers, found in front of High Dive at 210 SW 2nd Ave., was an easy one for Brown, Norman and Green.

“It’s a lot more fluid (than a restaurant),” said Brown. “You can do late nights a lot easier, and you can take it to places and events.”

This flexibility, unavailable to brick-and-mortar restaurants, is part of the reason behind food trucks’ popularity.

The trio, however, loves to experiment with new recipes. This includes trying neighboring restaurant Five Star Pizza’s pizza dough deep-fried and deep frying bacon to add to the chicken and waffle slider.

“Customers expect to see something different at a food truck, so we like to switch it up,” Green said. “We cater to our customers. If we have the ingredients, we will try to make it.”

For Robert Tyler, owner of newly opened Gator Kart, starting a food truck was about exactly that: catering to the community.

“In the food industry, you are there to service the community,” Tyler said. “What I learned from my mom was to prepare food where it tastes good, soul food, you know?”

His aim is to provide people with quick, nutritional food that is also filling and affordable.

“Once, I was a student, so then I can make that transition to know the quality that a student needs,” Tyler said.

Vendors aren’t the only ones who love their local food truck culture.

“I like the variety of food you can find,” said Evangeline Culbreth, a 19-year-old East Asian languages and literatures sophomore at UF. “Beside, food trucks are significantly faster and cheaper (than restaurants), and the quality is usually the same.”

The original Gainesville Food Truck Rally is a social event.

“It’s a really community-oriented event,” Pat Lavery said. “We bring a lot of people downtown that otherwise wouldn’t come downtown.”