Owners offer details on Philly's food truck scene
Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online blog: C.L.: We did a mega-blow-out package in last Thursday's food section on the burgeoning new food truck scene in this town (http://www.philly.com/foodtrucks) - cooking serious food on four wheels from LOVE Park to Drexel and Temple. So I invited the cooks a
Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online blog:
C.L.: We did a mega-blow-out package in last Thursday's food section on the burgeoning new food truck scene in this town (http://www.philly.com/foodtrucks) - cooking serious food on four wheels from LOVE Park to Drexel and Temple. So I invited the cooks and entrepreneurs behind three of the best trucks I came across to discuss the phenomenon. "The grandpa" of the movement - 29-year-old Tom McCusker of Honest Tom's; the wood-fired, dough-tossing crew from Pitruco Pizza, Nathan Winkler-Rhoades, Jonah Fliegelman, and Eric Hilkowitz; and the duo behind the relatively new Yumtown truck on 13th Street on Temple's campus, Lanie Belmont and Andrew Tantisunthorn. Tell us where each of you are from originally, what kind of food your trucks focus on, and where you typically park.
Pitruco Pizza: We're all Philly natives (Germantown and Mt. Airy represented!). We do Neapolitan-inspired pizzas cooked on the truck in a wood-fired oven, and we divide our time between LOVE Park and Drexel's campus.
Honest Tom's: I'm originally from the Delaware County suburbs, moved to the city in 2000. We make tacos at Drexel University and Aviator Park. Also breakfast at the Clark Park farmer's market.
Yumtownusa: We both moved here after college a few years ago, and have been involved in one way or another in Philadelphia food businesses during that time. We serve sandwiches and soups made from local ingredients. Currently we're parked on Temple's campus at 13th and Norris.
C.L.: What inspired you to start a food truck instead of opening a restaurant?
Honest Tom's: I was down in Austin, Texas, eating breakfast tacos and decided I wanted to start making them in Philadelphia. Storefronts were out of my budget so I decided on a truck. Met a guy who was selling a truck, took out a cash advance and hit the streets three months later.
Pitruco Pizza: We didn't have much restaurant experience, didn't have many funds for start-up, and thought a truck would be much more manageable in general. We wanted to be able to learn on the job without too much risk. Plus, we thought a pizza truck was a more original way to go ...
Yumtownusa: We'd patronized food trucks in N.Y. and Austin and San Francisco and thought small mobile businesses were providing a vital energy to the culture.
Reader: How has the health department reacted to you? Pressure is mounting in other cities to curb the trucks by brick-and-mortars.
Yumtownusa: The Health Department has been mostly friendly, although I think they have some history with unlicensed or poorly run mobile vendors in the past.
Honest Tom's: The health department can be a little tedious and seem ridiculous at times, but as long as you keep calm and do as they ask you will not have any problems. Do not try to fight with them.
C.L.: We all know Philly is a dynamic food town, so why, in general, has the food truck phenomenon hit our town later than in a lot of other cities like N.Y. or L.A. or Portland?
Pitruco Pizza: We think it has a lot to do with the weather - trucks work best in hot, dry climates. But it might also have to do with population density - New York just has a huge market for gourmet truck food. Finally, Philly's street grid is so old, there just aren't many places to park.
Yumtownusa: We've watched Philly become excited, revitalized, invested in by a huge wave of young creative people. We're amazed by all the small businesses and art galleries our friends and peers are running successfully. I think the food truck scene is part of that zeitgeist
Pitruco Pizza: As for rules that could change, we'd love to see late-night vending be legalized as well as vacant lots made available to trucks.
Reader: What do you think is a reasonable turnaround time from the time of order to receiving food from a truck?
Honest Tom's: 7 minutes.
Yumtownusa: Depends on the weather and the crowd, but 10 minutes would be the limit for reasonable service time.
C.L.: Definitely under 10! I'd say 5 ideal ...
Reader: Hypothetical - if the prohibited streets rule didn't exist, what streets/intersections/areas would you all like to try business at?
Honest Tom's: By the river on 25ish and Spruce.
Yumtownusa: South Broad (Avenue of the Arts).
Pitruco Pizza: If we had our choice, we'd start the day in front of the Comcast Center, do a dinner service near Rittenhouse Square, a late-night snack in Old City, get to Delaware Ave. for the club let-out.
C.L.: Tom, when is the brick-and-mortar restaurant opening? Did you always see the food truck as a stepping-stone onto a fixed location?
Honest Tom's: Health inspection Friday, so early next week. I didn't think I wanted a restaurant as I didn't want the long work days. I thought the truck would be a 5-hour-a-day cash cow, but I was dead wrong. Ended up consuming my life so I figured I might as well move indoors and get out of the elements.