While the food truck phenomenon is old news in most larger, U.S. cities, it’s just beginning to catch on in Houston as the city opens its first food truck park!
by Sir McMillen
Houston Food Park
1504 St. Emmanual Street
I recently went to the grand opening of Houston’s first food truck park on St. Emmanual Street and you know what I saw?
Food trucks as far as the eye could see; well, not quite. After all, this is Houston and despite Houston being a leader in the world of energy, medicine and space exploration, we seem to be lagging behind in this area, but not for long. After years of watching this trend grow in popularity, and Austin becoming one of the food truck capitals of the world, some Houstonians are angling to get Houston’s food trucks “on the map.” The opening of this food truck park is just the beginning. Aside from the heat, I couldn’t find a single complaint from the patrons. Houstonians have a genuine hunger for these meals on wheels.
Currently, we have a few hundred food trucks in Houston and they work all the usual hot spots. If you look, you will find them in the Galleria, Heights, Midtown, Downtown, the Museum District, etc. Going to a new trendy night club, odds are when you leave you’ll find a food truck ready to serve you before you hit the road. But the fact is, it’s been difficult for these entrepreneurs. Houston, for the most part, just doesn’t allow a food truck to roll into a parking space, pay the meter and open their doors for business. There are a myriad of regulations that they must contend with wherever they seem to go.
I understand completely. Like any restaurant business there are the concerns of health and safety. These are matters that should be taken seriously and we citizens do expect our city government to do their duty. But food trucks also create other “problems.” They sometimes create larger traffic issues in already congested areas, park in front of other restaurants, operate in residential areas and the list seems to go on and on.
So, why do these food trucks exists? They fill a need. If they didn’t, like any other business they wouldn’t last long. Food trucks operate in the areas they do because that is where the people are. It is convenient to be able to walk out of your office building and within a minute, or two order a meal. And, in another minute or two, be on your way. Traditional sit down restaurants are great, but not everyone has that kind of time. Also, it is more than just convenience. I’ve eaten from food trucks from LA to NYC, and simply stated, zthe food is good and the price is right. Houston food trucks are no different. I had at least a little something from every food truck during my visit to the park; not all the cuisines were my favorite, but I enjoyed them all and everything was priced equal to or better than traditional restaurants.
Another need food trucks and especially food truck parks take care of is variety. I absolutely love my food hot and spicy. If I could swallow fire, I would! Guess what? In my family, I’m out voted every time. If I’m out with my wife and two daughters, my restaurant of choice never gets picked. With a food truck park, I put a few dollars in everyone’s hands and send them on their merry way. Everyone gets what they want and the first to get their food is required to find a table for four and we enjoy our meal together.
It’s taken a few years, but it would appear that Houston is finally getting on board with the food truck phenomenon. We still have a way to go, but Houston is starting to recognize that food trucks are here to stay. The food truck operators aren’t asking for special privileges and we customers like the options that food trucks provide. With everyone starting to work together, I have high hopes for Houston’s food truck industry. The St. Emmanual park is just the start. With continued support and patronage, this food truck park will grow and in time spur other locals to do the same. In a few years, I hope we can look back on the enterprising efforts of this park and its food trucks and say this was the start; this helped make Houston a food truck capital to rival Austin.
The Food Patty Wagon
Cuisine: Comfort food with a Southern flare
Most famous for: Owner Mrs. Patty claims, “Everything!” However, there is something special about her catfish.
On the menu: Chicken wings and waffles, catfish and grits, po’boys and burgers
About the owner: Mrs. Patty loves to cook, so about a year ago, she opened her food truck business. Between the lunch and dinner hours, she is also an interior decorator and a registered nurse who consults with attorneys on medical cases. But her first passion is cooking. Her food is, “always fresh, fast and delicious!”
On the web: www.thefoodpattywagon.com
Cuisine: French gourmet
Most famous for: Escargot
On the Menu: Burger on Baguette, Crab Cakes on Baguette and the Fries Royale (fries with bacon, tomato, green onion and bleu cheese sauce and crumbles)
About the owner: Mr. Pascal took over approximately six months ago. He has a long history in the food industry as a chef both here and in Europe.
On the web: www.les-car-go.com
The Pink Box
Most famous for: The tortillas and sour cream are pink!
On the Menu: Sirloin beef fajitas, marinated chicken breast and signature Mexican cheesesteak
About the owners: Owned by Greg Hernandez, John Hindman and Zack Swamp. The trio saw how much their wives where enjoying their cupcake food truck and decided to give it a try themselves. The truck is a very popular choice outside of clubs and after hours.
On the web: www.facebook.com/thepinktaco
Cuisine: Vietnamese, Asian fusion
Most famous for: Pork belly and tenderloin
On the menu: Imperial eggrolls, vermicelli noodle bowl, Vietnamese sandwiches and musubi (meat on top of a block of rice wrapped in dried seaweed)
About the owners: Owned by Cat Huynh and Angie Dang. MuSuBi’s routes include the Galleria, the Heights and downtown. They describe their food as “delicious mischief” and pride themselves in being the number one Vietnamese food truck, an assertion that has been backed up by several reviews.
On the web: www.twitter.com/musubihouston
Betton’s Comfort Food
Cuisine: Comfort food, Cajun/Creole
Most famous for: Catfish and Dragon Wings (fried wings in homemade sweet and sour Thai sauce)
On the menu: Po’boys, boudin balls, fried catfish and shrimp
About the owner: Michaela Betton is a former paralegal. Two years ago, when she realized she was no longer happy with her profession, she decided to take a leap of faith and do what she loves—cook. Betton’s is usually found in Montrose and Midtown.
On the web: www.facebook.com/bettonscomfort
Most famous for: The Mexican hotdog
On the Menu: Burritos, tostadas, tacos, quesadillas and tamales
About the owners: Juan and Melleson each have 18 years of chef/kitchen experience. Tamalito’s Café has been written up in several Houston publications. They are normally found in the River Oaks area, but they love the idea of the Houston Food Park and plan on making it a part of their regular rotation.
On the web: www.tamalitoscafe.com
Pocket to Me
Cuisine: Specialty pita pockets
Most famous for: Fish Pocket and Brazier Grilled Chicken Pocket
On the menu: Aside from many other pita pockets, they have spring rolls, jalapeño poppers, fried mushrooms and hummus
About the owners: Keith Griffin is an aspiring chef and is joined by his wife, Joy. Despite having been in the business less than a year, their family recipes are a big hit with customers.
On the web: www.twitter.com/pockettome
Cuisine: Cake, cake and more cake!
Most famous for: Cupcakes on a Stick
On the menu: Custom cakes, cupcakes and cookies
About the owners: Liz and Jerry Hale have several years experience in the food industry and bought a food truck two years ago. They saw a niche for portable desserts. It was an instant hit. Their two children have even gotten into the act. You can normally find them in the Museum District.
On the web: www.zeapod.com