Houston, TX: Food truck park adds to suburban cuisine landscape

Photo: Melissa Phillip, Staff

By Kyrie O’ Connor  | Houston Chronicles

Photo: Melissa Phillip, Staff
Photo: Melissa Phillip, Staff

The air conditioning is on the fritz, which bothers Brandon Wolf, but it doesn’t seem to be a worry for any of the customers at Bernie’s Backyard, the just-opened food truck park on I-45 near Old Town Spring.

Wolf is the marketing director for Bernie’s Backyard, but really he does everything. And for the record, there’s no Bernie: The name is an homage to a deceased family member.

The backyard consists of seven permanent food trucks, a shaved-ice stand, a roomy bar with sports on the TVs and classic rock on the sound system, and a large covered, fabric-sided patio area that holds about 18 picnic tables. The outdoors is scattered with open tables and funky metal cactuses.

The food truck park soft-opened July 3 – the grand opening is July 25 – but it’s already attracting repeat customers like Russell and Elizabeth Gage from Conroe, who waited in line at the Black Garlic truck. “Everything we’ve tried has been really great,” Elizabeth Gage said. “We’re trying all the stuff we didn’t get to try last time.”

Though food trucks have grown to be an urban staple across the country in the past decade, Wolf doesn’t know of another locale anywhere just like Bernie’s Backyard. Wolf is aware of fairly informal food truck parks, including one in downtown Houston, but nothing with the infrastructure Bernie’s provides. He is planning live music, a beer festival, a crawfish festival and a monthly farmer’s market. The park has a close association with the Karbach Brewing Co.

Photo: Melissa Phillip, Staff
Photo: Melissa Phillip, Staff

‘Something fun’

And it’s especially unusual to find such a spot in the suburbs. “This side of Houston there are not many places you can go where there’s something for everyone,” Wolf said.

The park is deliberately non-corporate and not at all sterile. “We wanted to create something actually fun,” Wolf said.

The air-conditioning situation is one reason for the soft opening. Wolf wants to get all the problems identified and ironed out before July 25.

Wolf, a longtime member of the local food truck community, interviewed food-truck owners to choose the ideal ones for his park. “The concept asks more from food-truck owners,” because they have to serve food all day and evening, Wolf said and, in some cases, uproot themselves from am existing customer base. The park is closed Sundays and Mondays.

Tony Faour, who owns the BBQ Godfather truck, thinks the steady location is an advantage. “People will know where to find us,” he said.

Viri and Daniel Ceniceros were enjoying a cold one at the bar Saturday. “It’s good to have a food-truck location out here versus going into town to find a place,” said Viri Ceniceros. They’re also big fans of Karbach beer, “so it’s a win-win situation,” she said.

Big plans in the works

The trucks on the property range from H-town strEATS, which Wolf said is the second-oldest truck in the area, to Rustica, a brand-new truck that sells Italian street food. (The others are Black Garlic, The Naked Fry, Luv Me Tenders and Paradise on a Bun.) The trucks lease their spots. Wolf wants to build up the business of the existing trucks before adding any more.

Wolf has big plans down the line and plenty of land to work with. More TVs for NFL season will, he said, make Bernie’s the rare venue with good food and the sound of the game turned on. Karaoke, live-mic events, car shows, family events, they’re all part of the future. He plans to open a sweets shop for desserts and, down the line, a banquet hall. “This is going to be an event center more than just a food truck park,” he said.

Bernie’s Backyard is located at 22318 I-45 N. Visit www.berniesbackyard.com for more information.