They've spread from Austin to LA to Montréal, and now food trucks have reached a critical mass in Burlington. In a few weeks, Pine Street will gain its own semipermanent mobile food lot: the South End Food TruckStop.
Every Friday night beginning May 24, the parking lot behind Speeder & Earl's will morph into a bazaar of trucks and carts peddling barbecue, tacos, ice cream, fresh juices, beer and even maté. Live music and a few late-opening galleries will add to the festivities.
"There's enough food vendors around to constitute a rally, and we said, 'Hey, other places do it and it's a lot of fun,'" says Felix Wai of ArtsRiot, who organized the event with his partner, PJ McHenry. He says they will put out tables and chairs, provide access to bathrooms, and carve out "a little stage for music."
Nine vendors have signed on so far, says Wai, each with its own niche. There will be tacos from Muchacho Taco; burgers from the Burger Barn; ethnic street food from ¡Duino! (Duende); sandwiches and hot dogs from Cloud 9 Catering ("Either the Hindquarter or the [Local] Grind [will take part]," says Wai); barbecue from Southern Smoke Foods; fresh juices from Tomgirl Juice Co.; maté from Mocean Maté; ice cream from Lake Champlain Chocolates; and beer from Fiddlehead Brewing, which is one of the event's sponsors.
"We're at max capacity now," says Wai. He and McHenry will see how the space shakes out before changing the balance of vendors.
The event will run from 4 to 9 p.m. every Friday until November 1. ArtsRiot plans to donate a portion of each week's proceeds to the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. "That's what we hope to do," Wai says. "Our mission is to destroy apathy through art, food and music."
Roving chef Brian Stefan, who runs Southern Smoke, is planning to serve up Cajun and Caribbean-inspired foods such as smoked-pork sandwiches, empanadas stuffed with crab or smoked chicken, savory lobster, ham or chorizo beignets and — depending on availability — small plates such as fried dandelion heads. "I'm going to tap my farm friends to see what I can get," says Stefan.
He will also draw on spices he brought back from working on St. John this winter, bay leaves among them. "When you pair them with citrusy orange, bay rum sauce is really great with seafood," says Stefan, who will also park his cart outside of Maglianero and Burton Snowboards this summer.
The South End Food TruckStop isn't the only culinary plan up ArtsRiot's sleeves. In the building out front — specifically, the former Fresh Market — Wai and McHenry are busy building out an art gallery, event space and café, with chef Richard Witting running the last.
An ArtsRiot logo already hangs on a sign on the brick façade of 400 Pine Street — underscored with the words 'We destroy apathy." This summer, the cultural entrepreneurs will bring live music, performance, and interactive events to this stretch of road, along with noodles, steamed buns and other Chinese and Asian dishes.
"[The menu] will take a much different form than what you usually get at Chinese takeout places," says Wai, who says they're still in the "throes of permitting," but he hopes to open by July 1. And because Witting is still planning the menu, "That's all I can say right now," says Wai.
Burger Barn photo by Tim Santimore