By Susan Spencer | Telegram and Gazette
WORCESTER — The deep-fried Oreo cookie, drizzled with chocolate sauce, was sweet, gooey and very popular. And it was sold hot and fresh out of a food truck.
The fried Oreo’s purveyor, Super Fans Deli & Pizzeria of Fitchburg, was one of some 20 vendors at Worcester’s second annual food truck festival on Park Avenue at Elm Park Saturday.
The event, which drew a crowd that organizers expected to exceed last year’s 8,000 visitors, was well received by hungry tasters looking to sample bites from the familiar to the novel. Vendors, too, saw it as a chance to showcase a growing market for mobile foodies.
Super Fans’ owner Jamie Roy said his crew picked the best-selling menu items from the restaurant for the food truck, including the Oreos and “Insanewich” sandwiches. It was his second year at the festival and highlighted what he saw as a dominant trend in the restaurant business.
“If you don’t hop on the wagon (of food trucks), it’ll be a detriment,” Mr. Roy said.
He said when he started as a student at Johnson & Wales University six years ago, the food truck market was $5 million. Four years later, it was tracking up to $5 billion.
Michael Fedyk of Worcester finished a “Kamikaze” sandwich from Super Fans, which featured chicken and barbecue sauce, while his wife, Margaret, retrieved a bowl of lobster macaroni and cheese from the nearby Lobsta Love truck.
“I would never think of ordering lobster macaroni and cheese from a truck,” Mrs. Fedyk said, as she declared it delicious.
Both the Fedyks thought that food trucks should be available more widely in Worcester.
A 2008 city ordinance requires permission from a restaurant’s owners before a street vendor can set up shop within 250 feet of an establishment. Although the City Council discussed opening the issue for reconsideration this spring, the rule remains in effect.
Food truck fans Jessica and Sean Walsh of Worcester called the current food truck restrictions “terrible.”
Mr. Walsh said, “I think it was created by legislators who owned restaurants.”
Wearing an “I (heart) food trucks” pin, Ms. Walsh said, “Food is the great equalizer of everyone.”
The couple were enjoying a Vietnamese barbecue pork banh mi sandwich from the Bon Me food truck.
“This is part of the reason we come to the food truck festival,” Ms. Walsh said. “We love them.”
Bon Me truck manager Jenn Ngo of Boston said the company’s Kendall Square, Cambridge, restaurant owners entered on a whim and won the 2010 Boston food truck contest and have operated three trucks in Boston since 2011.
The “bon me” sandwiches, baguettes filled with homemade pork pate, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumbers, spicy mayonnaise, red onions and cilantro, were favorite items, along with Thai basil limeade and noodle salads in rice bowls.
Ms. Ngo said about the festival: “They don’t have a lot of food trucks in Worcester and everyone’s very receptive. It’s good to see this outpouring of people that are excited to see us.”
Michael Pappas of Salem, who was in charge of the Boston-based Lobsta Love food truck and Grilled Cheese Nation, was running a steady business selling lobster macaroni and cheese and lobster sliders in one truck, and grilled comfort sandwiches like “In Gouda We Trust” and “Swiss Family Boston” in the other.
Stepping out of the Lobsta Love truck, Mr. Pappas said: “In Boston, this is a home run. Here, it’s Grilled Cheese Nation. I think it’s the price point — lobster’s expensive. Grilled cheese is a little lower price point, more familiar.”
Francine and Paul Horniak of Woodstock, Conn., savored gourmet grilled cheese from Roxy’s food truck, another vendor. Ms. Horniak, who said she frequents food trucks in Boston when she goes in for work, opted for the Vermont cheddar and tomato, while Mr. Horniak dug into the “Mighty Rib Melt” with braised short ribs, fontina cheese and caramelized onions.
“I’m just a food connoisseur,” Mr. Horniak said. “I think it’s great. It (food trucks) gives you the variety and you don’t have to go to Boston for it.”
The food truck festival offered plenty to satisfy people’s sweet tooths, too.
Lauren, age 6, and William, 4, Henderson of Holden picked out chocolate chip and confetti whoopie pies from the Whoopie Wagon. Their mother, Stefanie, selected red velvet.
Lauren said she tried everything at the festival; up until the whoopie pie dessert, the grilled cheese was her favorite.
Whoopie Wagon owner Christopher Bandereck of Topsfield, who also owns a brick-and-mortar bakery and catering shop there, said his food truck business has taken off since he started it two years ago.
“It’s helped with the social media and the tweeting,” he said, referring to the mobile marketing link between food truck vendors and customers. “Both (the shop and truck) have grown, but the truck has grown more.”
Mr. Bandereck said the two sides of his business support each other. For instance, the popular “Elm Park Special” chocolate, salted caramel whoopie pie was created from a bakery catering request for cupcake offerings.
Meaghan Barron, event producer for Food Truck Festivals of New England, which organized the event, said all the food trucks at the Worcester festival seemed busy.
“When we bring food trucks to places that don’t generally have them, the community is that much more appreciative,” she said.
There were even some items available for the health-conscious and those on vegan or gluten-free diets, such as rice-stuffed grape leaves from Canton-based The Chubby Chickpea.
As for the nutritional content of the fried Oreo?
Mr. Roy said, “It’s called, ‘You don’t want to know.’ ”