By Josh Baugh | MySanAntonio.com
When it comes to culinary adventures of the food-truck kind, San Antonio has been left in the dust.
No more. The Alamo City is reaching for a foothold in the traveling kitchen trend that’s become a mainstay in “foodie” culture.
The City Council on Thursday endorsed a six-month pilot program to bring 15 “high-end” food trucks to three downtown locations.
“San Antonio has been a little bit behind the curve on this,” Mayor Julián Castro said. “But we’re going to catch up, fast.”rollin
Food trucks downtown would help enliven the area, make it more “24/7,” a theme of Castro’s administration, and complement the existing brick-and-mortar restaurants.
Center City Development Office Mark Brodeur told City Council that food trucks had not previously been allowed downtown because there was not a program in place. That’s now changed.
With a pilot program set, trucks that meet the board’s approval will soon be headed to the city’s urban core.
“From Portland to San Diego, from Austin to Seattle, food trucks have become a very, very popular place-making element in center city areas,” Brodeur said. “These mobile food trucks bring a vitality to street level, unmatched by any other singular type of program.”
City officials expect food trucks to set up in three spots beginning May 1. The pilot will run through Oct. 31, when city staff will make a recommendation on whether to make the program permanent, alter it based on feedback from the vendors, or end it.
Under the program, a committee that comprises city staff and volunteers will review proposals from potential food trucks vying for one of 15 spaces at HemisFair Park, Maverick Park along Broadway and City Hall’s annex parking lot between Dolorosa and Nueva streets.
Truck selection is unabashedly subjective.
Brodeur said he hopes to get between 40 and 50 applications for the selection committee’s “culinary master planning.” Criteria for selection include truck appearance (applicants must submit a photo of their trucks) and variety of food choice (they also will turn in sample menus). The committee will avoid “food redundancy,” according to city documents.
Brodeur said they considered taste testing, but it was ruled out to reduce red tape in the pilot program.
Vendors will pay a $225 fee to help cover the cost of reserved parking and program administration, the documents said.
Councilman Diego Bernal applauded the program and said it would delight the “sizable underserved foodie population” in San Antonio.
Jason Dady, a well-known San Antonio restaurateur and food-truck operator, said allowing trucks into the city’s center is an exciting endeavor.
That format allows independent chefs who might not have the financial means to open storefront restaurants the ability to build a reputation, Dady said. Businesses will grow from their trucks, he said.
Recalling a tagline he saw earlier in the week, that great cities have great downtowns, Dady said food trucks are an important element of reaching that goal. “This is the next viable step. And there is a huge amount of excitement for it.”