LOUISVILLE, KY – As a small crowd of 20-somethings hangs out at Groucho’s, a little bar on Goss Avenue, a brightly painted van pulls up.
“Is anyone hungry?” calls Stanley Chase from an old step van that has been converted into “Morels,” one of several new food trucks serving up gourmet street food across Louisville.
Already established in major cities like Los Angeles and youth-culture capitals like Austin, Texas, and Portland, Ore., and fueled by television shows like Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race,” the food truck movement is suddenly kicking the city’s sidewalk cuisine to the next level.
You can buy a brie-and-walnut grilled cheese sandwich from Lil Cheezers or a pizza margherita from MozzaPi. El Rumbon’s Cuban food truck can be found at suburban auto dealerships and authentic Mexican fare at the Las Gorditas trailer stationed at the Eastland Shopping Center in Buechel.
San Diego Sandwich Works sells light sandwiches and wraps downtown out of a brightly painted school bus. And soon, a taco truck cheekily dubbed Holy Mole will hit the circuit.
And while there are restrictions to where these trucks can park and sell food, the city has pledged to work with these entrepreneurs to increase their freedom to set up in commercial zones.
Chase initially dreamed of owning a bricks-and-mortar restaurant, but a stint living in Philadelphia inspired him to take a different road. “There were all these food trucks there, and I started wondering how much that would cost instead,” he said.
Rather than spend decades trying to raise “hundreds of thousands of dollars to open a restaurant,” Chase turned to the online funding platform Kickstarter, which helped him rally the community around the idea and raise $13,000 to get rolling. He also took out a small loan for his vegan operation — which he expects to pay off within a year.
On a slow, winding road
While food trucks have exploded elsewhere, they’ve been relatively slow to catch on in Louisville, in part because of a complex web of conflicting state and city regulations that weren’t designed with modern food truck operations in mind.