Sacramento, CA: Walk Up, Order Up and Mobile Food Festival

RANDY PENCH / rpench@sacbee.com Davin Vculek, right, fills an order as Mandi Pisano takes another order at one of Mini Burger's typically quick stops. Mini Burger will be among 21 such gourmet food trucks and carts stopping for a six-hour run Saturday at Fremont Park for the Sacramento Mobile Food Festival. Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/04/29/3584259/walk-up-order-up-at-mobile-food.html#ixzz1KvyKa0kP

By Chris Macias | SacBee.com

RANDY PENCH / rpench@sacbee.com Davin Vculek, right, fills an order as Mandi Pisano takes another order at one of Mini Burger's typically quick stops. Mini Burger will be among 21 such gourmet food trucks and carts stopping for a six-hour run Saturday at Fremont Park for the Sacramento Mobile Food Festival. Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/04/29/3584259/walk-up-order-up-at-mobile-food.html#ixzz1KvyKa0kP

Davin Vculek cruised his Mini Burger food truck through downtown Sacramento, prowling for state workers who wanted a quick lunch. He found a parking spot at Sixth and R streets, near the California Public Employees’ Retirement System building. The sidewalks were nearly empty. Then he sent a tweet to Mini Burger’s nearly 2,000 followers on Twitter.

In less than two minutes, about a dozen hungry folks had lined up and started placing orders, and a well-seasoned steam started wafting to the sidewalk. But everyone had to move fast. Sacramento ordinances mandate that mobile food trucks like this one may stay in one spot for only 30 minutes.

“How much time we have?” Vculek called to his fellow cook as burgers sizzled on the grill.

The pace will slow way down, however, on Saturday when the Mini Burger truck will remain parked for six hours. Vculek will join 20 other food vendors for the Sacramento Mobile Food Festival, a.k.a. SactoMoFo, a festival in midtown’s Fremont Park that celebrates mobile food while raising awareness about the city’s burgeoning food-truck circuit.

Along with Mini Burger, which buys its beef from local sources and makes some tasty sweet potato tots, you’ll find super-stuffed grilled cheese sandwiches from Drewski’s Hot Rod Kitchen. Street tacos and burritos will be served from a cart run by Chando’s, a local hot spot for Mexican food. And there will be frozen treats from Davis’ Fat Face.

Some of the country’s most noted food trucks will be on hand as well, including the Bay Area’s Chairman Bao. Spencer on the Go, the San Francisco truck featured on the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race,” will serve its signature escargot lollipops, braised lamb cheeks and other dishes.

“A lot of people are very familiar with taco trucks and those that serve construction sites,” said Joshua Lurie-Terrell, a SactoMoFo organizer. “For the most part (at SactoMoFo), these are gourmet trucks operated by successful restaurateurs and caterers who know how to cook a very wide range of creative stuff. Even the pickiest eater will find plenty to eat.”

SactoMOFO is about more than just grubbing down at these 21st century chuck wagons, however. SactoMoFo was founded to raise awareness about the strict city ordinances that keep mobile food vendors from flourishing in Sacramento, unlike the bustling food-truck scenes in such cities as Portland, Ore., and Los Angeles.

In most sections of Sacramento, including downtown and midtown, ordinances prevent food trucks from staying in one spot for more than 30 minutes. They also have to shut down and roll home after 6 p.m. November through March.

Some City Council members, including Rob Fong, have expressed support for revisiting these laws, which were passed in 2008 – right before gourmet food trucks boomed in popularity around the country.

“There’s really a great movement with mobile food, and the festival will highlight that,” said Fong. “It’s working in other cities, so there’s got to be a thoughtful way to do this. (SactoMoFo) is a springboard opportunity for discussion.”

Vculek feels this frustration just about every time he brings Mini Burger downtown. With his crew – two people preparing food and another person to take orders – Mini Burger can crank out more than two-dozen orders in 30 minutes. But the line sometimes gets up to 50 people long at a busy stop, leaving some to gripe when the truck has to shut down and move on.

Such was the case after Mini Burger’s 30-minute stint at Eighth and Q streets.

“Sorry, that’s it,” was the announcement from inside the Mini Burger truck. “City ordinance. We’ll send a tweet as soon as we know our next location. Hopefully, we’ll be close.”

Dick Burton, who works for the state Department of Social Services, was happy to have placed his order in time. He’s hungry for the fare of modern-day food trucks and also planned to stop by SactoMoFo on Saturday.

“I’ve been reading about these kinds of food trucks in L.A. and it’s fantastic,” said Burton, with his three-pack of burgers in hand. “It’s so nice to walk out of my building and get something high quality to eat. This is just fun.”

But for Mini Burger, the lunch rush had just started. Vculek swept up stray fries and produce from the truck’s stainless-steel floor, and hopped into the driver’s seat. Then, with Twitter on standby, it was on to the next stop.

SACTOMOFO

WHAT: The Sacramento Mobile Food Festival will feature food trucks and mobile food vendors from Northern California.

WHEN: Noon to 6 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Fremont Park (16th and Q streets, Sacramento)

COST: Free admission. Most food items cost under $10.

NOTE: Many food vendors will take cash only. Organizers also ask that you leave your dogs at home.

INFO: www.sactomofo.com