In memory of food trucks | Rock Candy

Friday, September 27, 2013

In memory of food trucks

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 9:35 AM

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The 3rd annual Main Street Food Truck Festival is coming up on October 5, and this is an event that's due a break. The first year saw greater than expected crowds — which was great until the lines stretched hours long and trucks began to run out of food. Last year's event was also well-attended, but hampered by a fall thunderstorm that sent many people (myself included) running for the dry safety of their vehicles. Third time's a charm (hopefully) for this festival — most of our Central Arkansas favorites will be in attendance.

Weather and ingredient shortages are just two of the issues that our food trucks face — the food business is hard even under the best circumstances, and slinging grub from the back of a mobile kitchen can be even harder. Lots of restaurants close every year, and the same holds true for food trucks. Even the University Market at 4 Corners, the food truck court that once occupied the corner of University and Colonel Glenn wasn't able to survive despite gathering up some of the best trucks around. Autumn always makes me nostalgic, so in that vein, here are three food trucks that are no longer with us that I miss dearly.

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*The Food Truck: Chef Jeffrey Palsa operated The Food Truck (also known as "Preston") for several years, serving up sandwiches, soups, and hubcap-sized cookies that were among the finest in town. I've not known many folks more giving than Jeffrey — he'd feed anybody that was hungry, even if they couldn't pay. The Food Truck was a staple of the University Market, Main Street Food Truck Fridays, and it was Palsa who founded the popular SoMa Second Thursday food truck even at the Bernice Garden. Known as much for his quick wit as he was for his gazpacho, Palsa's truck was more than just a place to grab lunch, it was a chance to catch up with friends and take a break from a rough day. Fans of Preston should rest assured that even if The Food Truck is gone, the physical truck is not — Loblolly Creamery has purchased and re-purposed the vehicle for an ice cream truck.

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*Homegrown: Although better known for Loca Luna and unhinged screeds, Mark Abernathy also founded the Homegrown food truck, a burger, salad, and taco truck that for a long time was the number one draw at the University Market. Under the guidance of truck chef Richea Grant, Homegrown turned out gourmet fare that surprised many food truck first timers — loaded burgers with a fried egg on top and ahi tuna tacos with fried avocado aren't exactly what Arkansas expect from what most still refer to erroneously as "roach coaches." My personal favorite thing from Homegrown were their salads, which were huge affairs with fresh greens, bacon, egg — just great, fresh food.

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*Papa's Burgers and Dogs: Fans of fair food could find a lot to love about this truck. Hand-dipped corn dogs, funnel cakes, and burgers all made for a strong menu, but for me, the thing I miss most about Papa's are the onion rings. Big circles of sweet onion, hand-dipped in Papa's signature batter...these were some really transcendent onion rings. More than once, I ordered some rings to take back with me to work, and instead of waiting and eating at a table like a civilized person, I just ate them right in my car — they were willpower destroying. The food coming out of Papa's truck was nothing fancy, but it was prepared well and always fresh — and the folks running the truck were some of the friendliest around.

We still have some pretty stout food trucks in Little Rock: Southern Gourmasian, Green Cart Deli, Banana Leaf, and Green Cuisine all come to mind. New faces like the Waffle Wagon and Pizzeria Santa Lucia show that Little Rock still has a thriving food truck scene, but I'll always remember the trucks we've lost with a touch of hungry sadness.

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