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Thursday, November 18, 2010

FOX16 NEWS Little Rock- Ahead of the pack again on food vendor story

Little Rock food truck scene growing in popularity

Reported by: David Goins

There are hundreds of restaurants to walk into in central Arkansas but if you're looking around, you might be noticing more places to eat that you simply walk up to. We're talking food trucks. So what's out there and how safe it is to eat at one of Little Rock's food trucks?

"People are standing around these outfits for a reason," says Lee Nelson.
We're not talking restaurants.

"The biggest reaction we get is 'wow.' This is the best food I've gotten in town," says Jeffrey Palsa.

We're talking Little Rock's food truck scene.

"When I first moved here there was nothing, I didn't see a food cart or truck or anything," says Mike Juiliano.

But take a look at street corners throughout the city. More taco trucks are popping up. 

"This is a torta de chicken, chicken torta," says Julio Mendoza.

There is southern cooking. 

"Just taste a little bit. After that, we got them,” Jackie Ray says.

From gourmet franks from "Hot Dog Mike" to gourmet sandwiches at The Food Truck.

"This is our garlic-roasted lamb with red onion marmalade that we make all in house," Palsa says.

One challenge facing mobile food vendors is convincing people their food is safe. 

“Because they're out in the open and everyone can walk up to it, I think the first assumption is they're scared that it's not clean,” Juiliano says.

So how clean are they? We turned to the Arkansas Department of Health, which inspects mobile food vendors the same way as restaurants. 

FOX16 News pulled the most recent inspections for over a dozen vendors. So what was the most serious violation?

Sud's CafĂ© at 9215 Colonel Glenn was shutdown for not having a permit last May. They reopened two days later after getting the right paperwork. 

And a September inspection of Taqueria Lourdes at 36th & Colonel Glenn turned up the need for paper towels at the sink.  But all the food preparation areas for every mobile food establishment we checked in Little Rock came out clean. 

"I want you to be able to stand outside that window and look in here and have no fear about eating," Ray says.

Lee Nelson drives into Little Rock from Drew County several times a month on business.  He says he makes a point to stop at Taqueria Samantha II on Geyer Springs near Interstate 30 each time he's in town.

"Some of the best food is in some of the areas that you're skeptical about going in,” Nelson says.

Depending on where you are on the food truck timeline, some in Little Rock have only been open a few weeks, others have been open for several years.

"Take a chance, eat there, you'll get hooked,” Nelson says.

And for some, it's about more than just the food.

"[It’s] not just eating from a taco truck, I just believe in entrepreneurship," says Maxine McIntosh.

"It's not something, nothing is like that where you're just going to set up and be rich, which is what some people think,” Juiliano says.

But you never know where the next great idea for a truck will pop up.

"Our philosophy is one order at a time," Ray says.  "Cook the food the way you'd want your food cooked. And that's how we do it."

And Jackie’s Mobile Cafe on Asher Ave thinks Little Rock food fans are primed to try it all.

Little Rock Mobile Food Vendors

Below is a list of the mobile food vendors visited for our story.  Some you can reach through social media sites Facebook and Twitter to track where they set up each day.

Jackie's Mobile Cafe - - 4203 Asher Avenue, 501-838-6167
The Food Truck - - Updates locations on Twitter, 501-291-2695
"Hot Dog Mike" - - Updates locations on Twitter
Taqueria Samantha II -- 7521 Geyer Springs Road, 501-744-0680
Taqueria Lourdes - - 36th & Colonel Glenn Road
Taqueria Jalisco San Juan - - 11200 West Markham
Taqueria Guanajuato - - 6920 Geyer Springs Road
Sud's Cafe - - 9215 Colonel Glenn Road
Lucheria Mexicana Alicia - - Bowman & Chenal (Best Car Wash parking lot) 501-612-1883

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