By Toby Lewis | The Press Tribune
The food truck has come a long way from what was once commonly referred to as the “roach coach.”
Davin Vculek, founder and owner of Mini Burger Truck, believes the gourmet food truck concept is rapidly growing into an industry in and of itself.
“This really fills a niche,” he said. “It’s something that a lot of us think is not necessarily just a fad, but it could be a new major segment of the restaurant industry.”
Vculek, who recently moved from Roseville to Sacramento to be closer to where he stores his mobile restaurant, began operating his truck in February, serving up gourmet mini hamburgers around city streets, private events and festivals.
The typical gourmet food truck menu is far removed from traditional street fare.
Look for items such as pulled pork sandwiches with pineapple slaw, marinated tri-tip, pesto pasta salads and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches with Granny Smith apples and Brie cheese on these trucks.
Vculek said one of his most unique menu items is the Ninja, a mini hamburger with Asian slaw, pea shoots, spicy aioli and lotus chips, all stacked between a petite bun that can be consumed in about four bites.
“It’s probably something you don’t see every day,” he said.
Vculek credits Kogi Mobile Korean Barbecue in Los Angeles with creating a concept that has spread to cities including New York, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco.
“Now most of the other major cities are following suit, Sacramento being one of them,” he said. “We were the first one to do it here.”
The concept quickly caught on in the area as other food truck operators opened up their own gourmet restaurant on wheels, including Granite Bay resident Chris Jarosz.
Jarosz co-owns and operates the food truck Wicked ‘Wich, which began serving East Coast-inspired sandwiches last month made with rare Italian meats.
“Our sandwich is basically a knock-off of a sandwich that I grew up with,” said Jarosz, who hails from Pittsburg. “You have your French fries and slaw right on the sandwich.”
Wicked ‘Wich is one of five food trucks now joined up with the Sacramento Food Truck Alliance, a coalition founded by Vculek in an effort to make sure operators are following city ordinances and staying respectful of other local restaurateurs.
The alliance was in Roseville Thursday evening at Future Ford in the Roseville Auto Mall, each truck serving up their individual brands of not-so-run-of-the-mill mobile food fare.
“We know there are going to be a lot more food trucks coming (in the future),” said Andrew Blaskovich, owner of Drewski’s Hot Rod Kitchen and member of the alliance. “We want to make sure that we don’t step on each other’s toes and become a problem for the city.”
Blaskovich has been running his truck since April and said that he expects the alliance to grow from five trucks to close to 20 by this time next year.
“It’s been super busy,” Blaskovich said Thursday. “People are taking this really serious. It’s like a cult-like following.”
Dave West and Jim Lind are two such food truck followers. The pair drove down from Coloma after hearing the food trucks were going to be parked in Roseville.
“This isn’t our first time,” West said. “We heard they were out here today, so we came over. We live up in the hills, so when we are down in town, we look for something good to eat.”
Much of the marketing for the food trucks is done through social media, Vculek said. Truck owners will announce on Twitter and Facebook where and when they plan to visit a given location.
Roseville resident Tavis Fiscel is studying to be a chef at the Institute of Technology in Citrus Heights and said he has been following the Mini Burger truck for quite some time.
“Any time they come close to home, I try to jet over,” he said. “They are making it easier for people to get really good food without having to sit down at a restaurant. They are bringing the restaurant to the streets.”
Fiscel’s fellow culinary scholar Trish Guerrero said she and her mother went to Downtown Tuesday Nights for four weeks in a row just to get Mini Burger’s sweet potato tots.
“I wish they would change the laws because I guess they are not allowed to be out at certain times,” Guerrero said.
One of the things that hinders the growth of food trucks in most metropolitan cities are ordinances that restrict them from being in one place for too long, Vculek said.
The city of Sacramento currently has an ordinance in place that allows mobile food trucks to be parked in a single place and conduct business for no more than 30 minutes.
Vculek said that while that ordinance has been the biggest challenge for him conducting business in that city, it has also forced him to explore other options by venturing out into the suburbs.
“There’s plenty of business out there for us,” Vculek said. “That ordinance drives us away from Sacramento.”
That is why members of the Sacramento Food Truck Alliance say if all goes well, they plan on visiting Roseville more often.
“We try to come out as much as possible,” Jarosz said. “It’s taken a little time to build. It’s the idea of getting the mentality that, ‘Hey, there is good food out here on these trucks.’ If we can do that, we’ll stay in Roseville 75 percent of the time.”