Roving Chefs Hope to Gather Gastronomes
Following a national trend, mobile kitchens are ready to roll in city
BUFFALO, NY - The menu of food available on Buffalo streets is going upscale.
Competing for gastronomic attention alongside the hot dogs and sausages and bags of chips will be pulled pork sandwiches, fish tacos, braised beef and homemade macaroni and cheese sold from trucks and promoted via Twitter.
Such culinary convoys are part of a movement gaining momentum across the nation and about to gain a foothold in Buffalo.
“This isn’t about a dirty truck that pulls up where people are a little worried about what’s going on inside,” said Kathleen Haggerty, whose rolling kitchen called the Whole Hog serves a variety of pork dishes.
It’s happening in San Diego and Seattle; in Boston and Kansas City; in Austin and Los Angeles.
Buffalo leaders are discussing a new permit policy that would allow the food truck culture to expand from a handful of fixed downtown locations and some private parking lots that are occupied by invitation only.
The goal is to get the traveling chefs to the Elmwood Village, the Chippewa strip, Allen Street, Hertel Avenue and perhaps even into some residential areas. Currently, there are no clear city guidelines for roving food trucks.
Several vendors already have had special vehicles designed and built — rolling kitchens that are equipped to serve everything from pulled pork wraps and grilled chicken to salad entrees made from locally grown produce.
Peter V. Cimino and Christopher Dorsaneo are lauded by peers as local pioneers in the street food movement. Since they introduced Lloyd the taco truck last year, their enterprise has been wildly successful. They can be found many afternoons at Main and Mohawk streets. On a recent Friday, lunchtime customers lined up 35-deep, some waiting up to 45 minutes for tacos and burritos.
Mobility is critical to expanding the street food culture, Cimino said. He’s convinced that with the proper safeguards, food trucks will strengthen other business districts in the city by keeping people on commercial strips longer and increasing foot traffic.
Bricks-and-mortar restaurants shouldn’t feel threatened by the movement, Cimino said, but they will have to adapt to change.
“The people who manufactured typewriters didn’t get up in arms when the computer came along. They found a way to make their business happen.”
The city lawmaker who has been championing new policies to accommodate roving chefs gave assurances that food trucks would be barred from setting up near restaurants unless they’re closed. North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. said the response he has received from businesses has been overwhelmingly positive.
And individuals who might not have resources to open a restaurant could ply their cooking skills and serve up specialty dishes via trucks.
Here are some other key players in Buffalo’s emerging street food movement:
È Renee Allen launched R&R BBQ Food Truck and Catering earlier this year after financing problems torpedoed plans to open a Subway franchise. Allen serves more than two dozen sandwiches, wraps, side dishes and desserts from her yellow and red truck. She has spent most of her lunch hours outside private firms in the suburbs, and also recently began selling her fare on Main Street in the central business district. In the near future, she’s hoping that city permit policies will allow her to expand her enterprise.
“It would be awesome to have several different trucks moving around the city, serving the different areas,” Allen said.
R&R BBQ recently rolled into the Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park in South Buffalo. Al Ware, an employee at Sonwil Distribution, sampled his first item from the roving chef — a pulled pork sandwich topped with coleslaw that cost $4.50.
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