As the temperatures heat up, so does the Treasure Valley food truck scene. You’ll be noticing more of these rolling restaurants out in force throughout the Treasure Valley.
There is a food truck gathering at Meridian City Hall, 33 E. Broadway Ave., from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 13, to celebrate the Meridian Library’s UnBound e-library branch and its Book-A-Bike program that gives library card holders the ability to check out community bicycles. Trucks will include Slow River Coffee, Il Sagreto Wood Fired Pizza, Highland Burgers, The BBQ Guy, Cuban Panini Mobile and more. (This rally was rescheduled from April because of weather.) You also can tour the unBound technology library branch at 713 N. Main St.
The food truck and food cart scene came on strong in Boise in 2011 with a handful of high-profile vendors. The area’s fleet is now at about 50, with more hitting the streets all the time. They serve up everything from gourmet tacos to burgers, ice cream to Asian dumplings.
For entrepreneurs, a food truck is a more affordable way to get into the food business than opening a traditional restaurant. Some use their truck as a launching pad to opening a brick-and-mortar storefront, such as Saint Lawrence Gridiron owner Brian Garrett. He went from truck to Downtown Boise restaurant in 2014.
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For consumers, food trucks are a popular way to grab grub on the go. They line the streets at community events, such as March’s Treefort Music Fest and New Year’s Eve’s Idaho Potato Drop, and pop up on street corners and in parks.
The Southern Idaho Food Truck Association holds food truck rallies and works to connect the mobile food community, says Sid Gauby, owner of Slow River Coffee and president of the association. SIFTA also produces events such as the Book-A-Bike food truck rally.
“We’re trying to help each other, not just by organizing events but through networking and referrals,” Gauby says. “When one of us succeeds, then all of us succeed.”
Gauby wants to make it easier for people to get food trucks to their company party, wedding, bar mitzvah or other event, and to refer business to each other.
Gauby turned his coffeehouse storefront in Fort Wayne, Ind., into a mobile operation five years ago. He brought the Slow River Coffee truck with him when he moved his family to his hometown of Boise four years ago. Slow River Coffee serves a mix of hot and cold espresso drinks, teas and some pour-overs, but “we named it before that whole slow-coffee craze started,” he says.
Twenty-seven trucks belong to the Southern Idaho Food Truck Association. By summer, Gauby expects that number will be closer to 35. It costs $100 a year to be a SIFTA member.
The local food truck scene is vibrant, says Jeff Hoisington, who moved his Mad Mac gourmet macaroni and cheese truck to Boise from Salt Lake City last year.
“It was a really good decision,” Hoisington says. “We love it here. And things are going great.” In May, Hoisington is launching a second Mad Mac.
Hoisington heads the Idaho Food Truck Coalition, a more informal affiliation than SIFTA that also organizes events. In between serving up his seven different varieties of mac ’n’ cheese, he acts as a clearinghouse to connect people looking to book a food truck and puts together events through email blasts.
He’s in the process of expanding the group’s monthly Food Truck in the Park events. Stay tune for locations and times.
Both Hoisington and Gauby would like to see the scene grow and establish a permanent food truck park or pod somewhere in the Treasure Valley. That would offer food truck owners consistency and the ability to build a clientele. A pod did spring up for a while in 2014 in a vacant Boise lot at 2419 W. Fairview Ave. — but it didn’t stick.
So food truckers must fend for their daily locations because zoning and other city regulations limit where the trucks can park. Customers check in through Twitter and Facebook to find the location of their favorite mobile meal from day to day.
Some new trucks to look for
▪ Banditos Mexican Grill and Gyro Factory, 16462 N. Franklin Blvd. in Nampa, recently rolled out a truck. It is currently parking at Harbor Freight, 1611 Caldwell Blvd., Nampa.
▪ Chloe and Adam Hanson of Nampa started their Spoonthumb Ice Cream mobile cart last July. The couple serve up small-batch ice cream made from locally sourced milk and other ingredients, such as Flying M Coffee. Find Spoonthumb at the Capital City Public Market; from 7 to 10 p.m. Fridays at the Flying M Coffeegarage, 1314 2nd St., South, Nampa; and, starting May 26, at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival on Family Nights. Check out the calendar at Spoonthumb.com, or follow them on Twitter for more.
▪ Greg Butcher opened his Pepe’s Food Truck a few months ago. He serves up Pepe’s “famous” fish tacos made with salmon, marinated mushrooms and Pepe’s Sauce. They also serve salads, burgers and other items. To find the truck, check the Twitter feed, their Facebook page or at PepesSauces.com.
▪ Huy “Mike” Tran’s V-Fusion hit the road last month. A former restauranteur, Tran now serves his Vietnamese fusion cuisine such as pho and other noodle dishes, spring rolls and his signature spicy chicken, from the truck. Tran just got started so he doesn’t have a website or Facebook page yet, but stay tuned.
Food truck events
▪ From 5 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, members of the SIFTA food truck fleet converge on the Cathedral of the Rockies Amity Campus, 4464 S. Maple Grove St., Boise.
▪ SIFTA Food Truck Rally at 33 E. Broadway Ave. at Meridian City Hall, music, activities, tours of the unBound technology library branch (713 N. Main St.) and learn about the book-a-bike program that lets you check out a bicycle with your card from most area libraries. It’s from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, May 13 (orginally scheduled for April 14, the event was delayed because of weather).
Food trucks at the markets
▪ At the Capital City Public Market, on 8th Street between Bannock and Main streets, you’ll find Spoonthumb Ice Cream (until Sept. 9), Calle 75 Street Tacos truck and Genki Takoyaki food cart, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays, now through Dec. 16. CapitalCityPublicMarket.com.
How to book a food truck
If you’re interested in getting a food truck to your event, you can reach out to either SIFTA or the coalition through Facebook, or just contact the truck of your choice directly. Most have either a website or Facebook page. Many are on Twitter. But be patient. Most food truck owners are chef, manager and server all in one. They aren’t always able to answer right away. And it probably won’t be free. Many trucks have a fee for showing up as well as cost of food.