Food on the Go
Lauren Kendzierski and Jimmy Tarr both operated gourmet-style food trucks in the Northampton area for the first time in 2013. They learned a few hard lessons about their newly chosen industry.
Bad weather and vehicle repairs shut you right down, for instance, and city regulations can really pinch.Serving fare finer than hot dogs and hamburgers from a rolling restaurant is a concept that’s catching on, with more and more specialty trucks – like Lauren’s Chanterelle To Go (http://www.chanterelletogo.com/) and Jimmy’s Bistro Bus (http://www.bistrobus413.com) cropping up in the region.
This is the time of year to start looking for them on the streets of Northampton, Florence, Hatfield, Amherst and Springfield – to name a few.
These trucks are as clean as any restaurant. They offer innovative, gourmet offerings on the go. And the price is always right.
Lauren’s fare is made with locally raised food, and the menu is eclectic and varied, with best-selling items such as a poached salmon sandwich or a burrito made with Mediterranean braised goat.
Customers rave about her food, and when she is set up at fairs and parents discover her, “They get pumped they don’t have to have fair food for dinner.”
Likewise, Jimmy, who runs the Bistro Bus with his wife, Betsy, had eclectic best-sellers such as the sesame noodle salad with julienned vegetables and the barbeque pulled pork grilled cheese sandwich.
In launching the business, Jimmy says he and Betsy kept several concepts at the forefront: Serving unique food they could prepare quickly at reasonable prices; their priciest item was chicken or tofu pad thai for $7.
He says customers were looking for something tasty and healthy, in a hurry.
“People that go to food trucks aren’t the same people that go to restaurants,” Jimmy says. “When you go to a food truck, you’re looking to grab something quick and leave. That’s one of the critical things about food trucks.”
Lauren, a former restaurant owner, added: “You’re never going to take your Gramma out to lunch at a food truck or have a business meeting there.”
One of my favorite food trucks – for the chicken Caesar sandwich and the very convenient location, is Foley’s Franks on Route 5 near the Clarion.
This is a prime location for owner Michael Foley because regulations in the city of Northampton forbid food trucks from parking in the downtown areas, where the most concentrated pedestrian traffic can be found. Mike’s got the next best thing.
He leases his space from a farmer whose field runs along Route 5.
When I say food prepared in one of these trucks is safe and healthy, I am not kidding. These vendors have to jump through hoops to be licensed and certified. And any food prepared in advance must be prepared in a certified commercial kitchen – as opposed to in their kitchens at home.
“People need to understand (food trucks) are not just fly-by-night operations,” Jimmy says. “It takes a lot of doing and effort to get certified to operate a food truck.”
Jimmy got into the industry after catering with Betsy for many years. Lauren is a former restaurant owner.
For Foley, who serves traditional food cart fare as well as pulled pork sandwiches, meatball subs and those Caesar wraps I love, the industry was a helpful fallback after he was laid off from a sales job he had in the commercial printing industry for 20 years.
Look for them all this spring, and have a bite to eat!