Phoenix: Valley Food Truck Scene Rolls Out Gourmet On-The-Go

Gourmet food trucks congregate each Friday in Phoenix.

By Cortney Bennett | College Times

Gourmet food trucks congregate each Friday in Phoenix.

A group of food lovers in the Valley recently banded together to serve up delicious grub with a twist: they use local ingredients to craft up gourmet meals in their mobile kitchens. These food truck owners identify themselves as the Phoenix Street Food Coalition and they’re cooking up something mean in a neighborhood near you.

You don’t have to hunt down or wait for these cuisines on four wheels to come to you, either. A handful of the trucks set up shop every Friday at the Phoenix Public Market for several hours during lunchtime. Other days, they use social media to tell their customers where they’ll be driving to or parking next.

These aren’t your grandpa’s hot dog stands, either. All the trucks in the coalition serve artisan food, but no two have the same menu – hybrid New Orleans-Mexican, gourmet grilled cheese, hot dogs served on Naan flatbread and salted butter ice cream are all up for grabs.

Jason Klonoski and Trevor Chait of Phoenix both enjoyed their first visit to the mobile food court. They tried and shared food from Short Leash Hot Dogs, Torched Goodness, a crème brulee outfit and Sunshine and Spice, a truck with an Asian-fusion inspired menu.

“It’s great to see something like this come to Phoenix,” Chait said. “It brings people together. Cities like LA, Portland and New York are big on street food. It’s cool to see Phoenix try.”

“I think we all want Phoenix to have a deeper culture in finding food like this,” he added. “Even though it’s food trucks, it still gives us the sense that you’re eating from something created locally.”

Klonoski and Chait said they liked the mobile food court’s atmosphere. Live music, yoga and socializing customers can keep the food court buzzing.

“It’s fun,” Klonoski said. “It’s got a great vibe.”

“It’s outside, it’s a great day,” Chait said looking around. “When you think about it, there aren’t many places that you can sit outdoors and eat.”

Through strategic planning, the Phoenix Street Food Coalition is doing its part to help boost Arizona’s economy. They have the ability to park next to businesses and help push foot traffic into them. Stir in their local ingredients and you’ve got food trucks that are serious about getting Phoenix’s street food scene on its feet.

Jason Fimbrez, policy director of the coalition, sees benefits in several ways from the gourmet eateries. The organization is trying to promote a good reputation for itself and the Valley’s street food scene. The business transactions are also coming out of and going back into Arizona’s market.

“We wanted people to know that we were going to get out there with an organized group of people who were really going to be responsible about everything,” Fimbrez said of the group’s organization in August 2010.

“We have a great relationship with Maricopa County and the Mobile Food Unit division. And to top it all off, so far the mobile food court on Friday has been a great success. We’ve attracted all sorts of people from different demographics to go out there and enjoy the food.”

According to Brad Moore, head of the organization and co-owner of Short Leash Hot Dogs, 14 of the 17 trucks are operational. Their rotation varies from Friday to Friday, but there are more places to find them. The coalition just had its debut at First Friday and has plans to be present at Third Fridays as well. The trucks also have individual agendas between festivals, private catering services and hitting the road on their own.

Kat Moore, wife of Brad and co-owner of their food truck, likes her job. Georgia Parker, co-owner of Sunshine and Spice, does too. They love the feeling they get when they serve quality food to their customers.

“It’s really incredible,” Kat said. “It’s weird, it’s instant gratification. You get instant feedback. People are very supportive. It’s amazingly supportive. It’s like everyone’s excited for it.”

“It’s the strangest sense of satisfaction,” Georgia added.

The coalition plans to increase its size. Truck owners who wish to join the coalition must fill out an application. Kat said they have to use at least one-third local ingredients to ensure the integrity of the coalition.

“We definitely want to make sure we’re fostering in a little bit of growth,” Fimbrez said. He wants to start driving a truck this fall with a fresh Southern Mexican menu.

“I’ve always enjoyed cooking ever since I was small,” he said. “So getting a food truck is going to be a little more cost-effective than a restaurant. It’s sort of the way to go.”