By Leah Hughes | Greensboro.com
One evening in early 2012, Greg Munning sat on the patio of the Tasting Room and looked across the street. The parking lot at Fordham’s Cleaners would make a good spot for a taco truck, Munning thought.
That spring, Munning pulled his Taqueria El Azteca truck onto the corner of Spring Garden and Chapman streets and opened the large window on the side. Before long, people began lining up for shrimp tacos and guacamole Azteca.
Food trucks were a new concept for Greensboro, but they began to catch on.
Munning now operates two El Azteca food trucks, which he calls ambassadors for his brick-and-mortar business on West Friendly Avenue.
In September 2012, Munning worked with event organizer Shari Kumiega and neighborhood businesses to put together the first Spring Garden Food Truck Festival. This Sunday, the festival takes place for the fourth year.
“We didn’t know what to expect the first year,” says Alison Breen, manager and partner at the Tasting Room, which participates in the festival. “We had no idea. It was great. … This year is going to be the ultimate.”
Forty trucks will line Spring Garden Street from the intersection of Chapman to just past the Time Warner Cable building. That stretch of the street will be closed. Parking will be available behind The Blind Tiger, on the street and in the Greensboro Coliseum parking lot. Last year, 25 food trucks participated, and about 2,500 people came out. With 15 additional trucks signed up this year, organizers expect an even larger crowd.
“The food truck festival is important because it brings awareness and reminds people that, ‘Hey, we do have food trucks,’ ” Munning says. “It brings attention to that corner.”
About half of the food trucks are from Greensboro. Others will travel from Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Durham, Salisbury and Concord. The menu descriptions resemble an international trip: Mexican, French, Caribbean, Korean, Italian. There are burger trucks and bacon trucks; a truck selling organic-bean coffee; and dessert trucks with ice cream, cupcakes and doughnuts.
Food trucks often focus on one type of cuisine that they can do well, says Nick Benshoff, owner of the Bandito Burrito food truck. He spent time in traditional restaurant kitchens before opening his food truck in 2012. Bandito Burrito sells southern California-style burritos and tacos. Because of their narrow focus, food trucks benefit from events that bring several trucks together to offer a variety of flavors in one location.
“There is that community involvement with the food trucks,” Kumiega says. “When you sit down at a restaurant, you don’t turn to the next table and say, ‘What did you get?’ But here people start talking and saying, ‘Hey, what did you get?’ ”
Petra Hookah Bar & Lounge, Tasting Room and The Blind Tiger will serve beer and wine and have live music. Foothills Brewing, Carolina Brewing Company, Natty Greene’s Brewing Company and Highland Brewing Company are all event sponsors.
A bounce house and slides will be set up for the kids, as well as a tent with games.
Event organizers will collect nonperishable food, gently used clothing, hygiene items, school supplies and cash donations for local nonprofit BackPack Beginnings.
“It really is about promoting small business and bringing business to that corner,” Kumiega says. “The more you bring the community together and the more you help each other, the more business comes your way.”