By Heidi Hall | The Tennessean
Drivers rolling into East Nashville on Friday nights this summer have a new option for dinner to go — or to stay, if they want to stick around for a combination of food-truck culture, beer and music.
Riff’s Food Truck Jam launches at 5 p.m. July 12 in the Main Street parking lot, located between the Fifth and Main condominiums and Interstate 24. It will offer 15 trucks and a beer tent and continue weekly at least as long as the weather is good, organizers say.
B.J. Lofback, owner of Riff’s Fine Street Food and president of the Nashville Food Truck Association, said similar events in Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon, inspired the jam.
“They’re ahead of us in this street food and outdoor hangout world,” he said. “I’ve been blown away by what they do.”
With Nashville’s similar creative class, Lofback said, it made sense to bring it here.
A smaller version will continue on Saturdays at the former Mrs. Winner’s Chicken & Biscuits at 311 Gallatin Ave.
It closed about three years ago with the Mrs. Winner’s chain reorganization, but restaurant operator Emmanuel “Manny” Hatz bought the building last summer for $550,000, planning to put in a Jet’s Pizza. He owns four of them already.
Instead, Hatz is weathering the loss of one of his other restaurants, Feast, located in the Fifth and Main building. It closed after less than a year of operation and will reopen soon as a “new concept,” he said. In the meantime, he’ll use his catering license to provide beer for the food truck jam, plus invite four trucks to his Mrs. Winner’s lot on Saturdays.
Construction on the Jet’s Pizza there could be started by the end of this year or the beginning of next, Hatz said. Even after it’s open, he may invite food trucks to share his space — a case of trying to beat them, but also joining them.
“Creative synergy is so much better than scarcity mentality,” he said. “I’ll compete, but there’s enough business for everyone.”
Getting the building in use will be good for the neighborhood, although it hasn’t been problematic even empty, said Ryan Adams, manager of the Sherwin-Williams paint store next door and an East Nashville resident.
“Jet’s Pizza has been really good every time I’ve had it,” he said.