Another Food Truck Roundup Coming on December 5

November 29, 2011

By Teya Vitu


The next Food Truck Roundup is coming December 5 to Dinnerware Artspace, 119 East Toole Avenue from 5 to 9 p.m.

The first Food Truck Roundup attracted some 500 people to Dinner Artspace. Photo by Patrick McArdle.

One suggestion: come early.

The first food truck roundup at Dinnerware shocked organizers and food truck vendors as some 500 people dropped by a stretch of road that usually would draw fewer people on a Monday evening.

“I would say it far exceeded all our expectations,” said David Aguirre, Dinnerware’s executive director.

The first time around lines had 15 or more people by 5:45 p.m.

“I prepped what I usually prep for the full night,” said Jamie Castro, owner of Jamie’s Bitchen Kitchen, where jerk chicken and pulled pork is the specialty. “Three hours later I ran out of food. Next time I’ll have a backup car of food.”

Julie Ray, who dreamt up the Food Truck Roundup idea, reports that Trucking Good Cupcakes sold out its 75 cupcakes; MaFooCo served 160 people its Korean/Mexican food; and Street Delights sold out its pies.

They will all be back for the second roundup, being promoted as Food Truck Invasion, as will KborK Tacos & Gorditas, and Cyclopsicle.

Other food truck owners sampled the first event and will come on board for December 5, where at least 10 food trucks are expected.

The newcomers are Planet of the Crepes; Dragoon Café with burgers, burritos and pulled pork; Patty Wagon and its gourmet burgers; and Pin Up Pastries.

The huge turnout clearly demonstrated Tucson indeed has a nascent gourmet food truck culture in line with Los Angeles, Portland, Boston and Chicago. In just the past two years, food truck culture has found its way into Bon Appetit and Time magazine along with newspapers far and wide.

The crowd grew larger after the sun set at the first Food Truck Roundup. Photo by Patrick McArdle.

Tucson certainly has an abundant food truck scene, still mostly of the taco and Sonoran hot dog variety. But Ray notes that 2011, in particular, is a year that the gourmet truck took hold in Tucson.

Castro launched Jamie’s Bitchen Kitchen on October 17 after 25 years in this kitchen and that, most recently at Skyline Country Club. She has mostly parked her truck at The Hut on 4th Avenue on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from about 7 p.m. to 2 a.m.

The Roundup was unlike anything she had experienced at The Hut.

“It was entertaining. It was a big adrenaline rush. I just had fun with it,” Castro said. “When I looked out and saw all those people in this little spot, I thought this is awesome. I told Julie Ray whenever there is a food truck event, count me in.”

The funny thing is Ray did no recruiting for the first Food Trucks Roundup. She just put up a notice on her Tucson Food Trucks Facebook page seeking food truck owners and six responded. Same thing applied for attracting an audience. She made Facebook posts and a brief interview on KOLD a few minutes before food trucks started serving.

Aguirre had sent a mass email to Dinnerware subscribers, and Ray sent a release to media. And then the Roundup took up a life of its own in the blogosphere and people “sharing” via Facebook.

Ray became a Tucson advocate for an elevated food truck culture about two years ago as a media blitz hit Kogi Korean BBQ To Go in Los Angeles. Kogi is famed for its Twitter announcements informing Angelenos where their five trucks are located.

“When I heard about Kogi on NPR (in March 2009), I was really intrigued by the idea,” Ray said. “There’s a lot of Mexican food trucks, but this was a twist. I call them the new wave of food trucks. Food trucks for foodies. I saw food truck getting more creative in L.A.”

Early in 2011, she started the Tucson Food Trucks Facebook account.

“I hardly promoted it and people just came to it,” said Ray.

In spring 2011, Ray and Aguirre put on an exploratory food truck meeting at Dinnerware and some 20 people showed up, several of them food truck owners.

Aguirre and Ray have had regular brainstorming meetings every week or two for years. The roundup emerged from one of those sessions.

“We chose Monday because food trucks are available,” Aguirre said. “I want to do this on a regular event bases every several weeks.”

Aguirre has had food carts on his mind for Dinnerware ever since he committed to moving to the 119 East Toole warehouse in fall 2010. The idea was to have culinary artists create food, just like artists in many realms work inside.

Food trucks speak loudly to the budget-conscious Tucsonan. Ray noted people voicing just such thoughts at the first roundup.

“There’s a community piece to it that I didn’t realize until I was in the middle of it,” she said. “People were standing around talking to each other. Some were saying ‘this is where I can afford to eat.’”

Portland has formalized the cluster of food trucks as food truck pods – permanent locations with utilities where many truck congregate. Ray equates the roundup or pod as the 2010s evolution of the mall food court, “a hipster food court.”

“There’s more an element of surprise,” Ray said. “You get to interact directly with the chef. A lot of these folks are chefs. It’s something different. You can go to with a group of friends and everybody can choose something different.”

Food truck cuisine can be as good, if not better, than much that is served at restaurants. The food often is more authentic than many restaurants.

“A lot of it is about the food,” Ray said. “They don’t have to worry about filling seats or interior design. They can think about the food.”


The lineup for the Food Truck Invasion on December 5 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Dinnerware Artspace, 119 East Toole Avenue:

  • Jamie’s Bitchen Kitchen
  • MaFooCo
  • KborK Tacos & Gorditas
  • Street Delights
  • Trucking Good Cupcakes
  • Planet of the Crepes
  • Dragoon Café
  • Patty Wagon
  • Pin Up Pastries
  • Cyclopsicle