By Kyle Jahner | News Observer
Hungry people by the thousands packed five city blocks on Fayetteville Street for the first of four Food Truck Rodeos, as Raleigh hitched onto a trend started in Durham in 2010.
Attendees sampled culinary offerings including barbecue, crepes, gyros and pizza. Ice cream, pie and flavored ice provided dessert, and drink vendors including regional breweries offered various methods of washing it all down.
“Is this the line for the dumplings?” one attendee asked.
After receiving a nod in response, the young customer looked at the food truck a good 50 feet away – and back at the line that extended even farther behind the person he asked. In the background, a city street swarmed with a river of customers at dozens of food trucks in downtown Raleigh.
In all, more than 40 food trucks lined the streets, and patrons literally ate up the offerings.
“The waits have been crazy long all day,” North Raleigh resident Roxanne Hoover said as she waited in line for Parle-vous Crepes, one of the more popular trucks. She said she’d been in line for nearly 45 minutes.
“At least it’s nice out,” Hoover said.
But the longest line belonged to Chirba Chirba, the dumpling truck. For much of the day, at least 100 people waited in the line, which stretched across Fayetteville and then along the street.
Attendees tried a variety of ways to deal with the lines. Richard Mihm, a Raleigh resident who learned the virtues of Chirba Chirba and Parlez-vous Crepes at a food rodeo in Durham, said having one person in a group hit the longer lines helped max out the experience. Having a friend bring a beer to the person doing the waiting would help too, he said.
“You have to divide and conquer,” concurred his friend in line, Dean McCord of Raleigh.
Even at 5 p.m., when the 5-hour rodeo ended, more than 40 people waited in the line at Chirba Chirba and there were plenty of people remaining on Fayetteville Street, which was blocked off from Davie Street to the state Capitol. The event extended to parts of Martin and Hargett streets as well.
The Mother’s Day edition of the Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo will not be the last of the season; encores are scheduled for June 9, Aug. 11, and Oct. 13, all Sundays. The one in August will run from 4-9 p.m. while the other two will last from noon-5 p.m., like the Mother’s Day event.
Raleigh’s City Council initially resisted the idea of allowing food trucks to freely operate in the city two years ago. Members cited food safety, impact on existing restaurants, litter, crowds, noise and parking as concerns. Food trucks have since been seen as increasingly legitimate and have operated without problems.