By Ben Weathers | Capital Gazette
The trucks first start setting up a perimeter along the Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Department parking lot around 3 p.m.
They’re mostly painted in bright colors with inventive names like Greek on the Street, CrabTowne Curbs Cuisine and Pasta La Vista.
Over the next hour, before people start to arrive, the savory aromas of roasted pork, beef and lamb mix with the sweet scents of waffles, deep-fried candies and funnel cakes.
The crowd wanders in as if drawn by the smells, going from truck to truck to place their orders.
Welcome to Food Truck Tuesdays, a weekly event launched earlier this month near the Pasadena/Severna Park line. On Tuesday, there were a dozen trucks. So far, the event has brought an average of about 1,000 people each night, said Scott Hariton, one of the event’s organizers.
Hariton and business partner Chad Houck are the team behind h2 Markets, which began organizing the Crofton Farmers Market last year.
Hariton, 38, and Houck, 45, met a few years ago as groomsmen in a mutual friend’s wedding. They quickly bonded over their love of food.
Houck is also the owner of the Crofton-based Deception salsa.
“We’re foodies at heart, we love food trucks and to bring this to the community is great,” Hariton said.
The Croftons Farmers Market features a number of food trucks.
“We had so many customers at the farmer’s market who said, ‘We love the food trucks,’ and can we do just a food truck event?” Houck said.
The pair looked at launching a separate event somewhere in the Crofton area, but were unable to find a suitable site, Hariton said.
However, h2 had already been in talks with the Earleigh Heights fire department about possibly hosting a separate farmer’s market at the location. The department was amenable to the food truck idea and agreed to lease the space to h2, Hariton said.
“This area (has) great visibility, it’s a lot of families, it’s a good economic area for the trucks to be profitable,” Hariton said.
While Hariton and Houck have begun receiving inquiries from Baltimore City trucks, they’re weary to grow the event too large for fear that that it would cut too much into their regular vendors’ profits, Hariton said.
All of the trucks at Tuesday’s events were licensed and registered in Anne Arundel County, a health department spokeswoman confirmed.
The pair is thinking about offering a rotating spot for vendors outside the county who want to participate in the event, Houck said.
Food trucks have become a trend over the past few years, even becoming the subject of a reality television show on the Food Network.
“You can have a gourmet meal off of a food truck that’s just as good as a restaurant,” said Angelo Micklos, owner of Greek on the Street and Beef on the Street, and vice president of the Maryland Mobile Food Vending Association.
Micklos launched Greek on the Street two years ago. Prior to that, he ran a concession stand outside the Home Depot on Ordnance Road in Glen Burnie for two decades.
In 2013, the retailer informed Micklos it would not be renewing his contract.
“I had to reinvent myself,” Micklos said. “It was just a really scary time.”
A food truck cost between $50,000 and $70,000, Micklos said.
The trucks are full-service kitchens complete with char broilers, flat-top grills, sinks and refrigerators, he said.
Micklos now owns four trucks and has about a dozen employees, he said. The trucks generally frequent Baltimore City and northern Anne Arundel.
Micklos pointed to Tuesday’s event as proof that food trucks don’t need to be in urban areas to survive.
“Everybody with a food truck thinks they need to do it in the city, that’s not the case,” he said.
Not everybody is a fan of food trucks. Last year the Annapolis City Council rejected a request by the Annapolis Film Festival to allow food trucks to operate in the Historic District near St. John’s College.
However, from those at Tuesday night’s event, there appeared to be few complaints.
“It’s excellent,” said Carla Diffenderfer, of Glen Burnie. “Lots of variety. We’re foodies so we like to try new things.”
Mother Joyce Weiland and daughter Cait Grose of Pasadena enjoyed a turkey club waffle sandwich, a shrimp po’ boy, a Caprese salad and were waiting for an order of French fries smothered in crab dip.
“It’s definitely worth coming back,” Weiland said. “Everything I’ve had so far was so good.”
Food Truck Tuesdays will be held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Tuesday through Nov. 15, at 161 Ritchie Highway.