Food Truck Rally Roars Ahead

After a shaky start in 2013, this year's food truck rally rises to challenge

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By David Hammond

Nobody said it would be easy to organize a food truck rally in Oak Park, and in 2013, the rally suffered from vendors who, apparently ill-prepared and definitely under-stocked, left early, sometimes an hour after opening, because they simply ran out of stuff.

 

The website for this year's food truck rally assured "Don't fear, there WILL BE LOTS OF FOOD AVAILABLE ALL AFTERNOON

Yesterday, in the parking lot of the Pilgrim Congregational Church, we saw several vendors who werethere last year, like Tamale Spaceship, as well as some new ones, like Bridgeport Pasty (pronounced pass-ty, not paste-y). I spoke to Carrie Clark, co-owner of the pasty store and food truck (more like a motorbike with back), and she said she'd heard that vendors ran out of product last year, so she brought 500 frozen pasties with her, ready to heat and serve. We had the vegetarian pasty, and it was very good, lush with greens with a crisp, browned shell.

 

We tried some other stuff, including some curry and a lassi (yogurt and mango drink) from OMango's truck; the lassi, cold and sweet, was a good complement to the slightly spicy curry.

 

I was at the rally when it opened, and then again at 4:30PM (event was scheduled to go until 6PM) and every truck was still serving, though some had run out of specific menu items.

 

Overall, this seemed like a successful food truck rally.

 

I have two suggestions (of course!) for making the 2015 Food Truck Rally even more of a success: put out dispensers of waterless antibacterial soap and provide more tables and chairs. I counted about 18 tables with chairs for a crowd of many hundreds. There was a lot of space where tables could have been set up; more places to sit and eat would make it so much more pleasant to eat in the parking lot.

 

But such are relatively minor concerns. This year's rally was much better than last, and it's clearly a popular event.

 

I'm still very much in favor of allowing food trucks to park in the downtown areas of Oak Park or, at least, near the new Ridgeland Commons playing fields, where hungry athletes and their families would no doubt appreciate the opportunity to buy some good food after a game rather than resorting to the tired options offered by the usual ice cream trucks.

 

Admittedly, I am not fully aware of the licensing or other restrictions upon food trucks in our village, and I'm sure that food trucks in the Pilgrim parking lot can, because it's private property, exercise more freedom to prepare and serve foods than one might on a city street. But is there really much difference between parking on the street and parking in a parking lot and serving people? There are safety considerations, but if the trucks only serve people standing on the curb, rather in the street, as is normal with ice cream trucks, then I can't believe regular drivers would have to exercise any more caution than they normally would in an area where many kids, some exhausted from hard play, are crossing the streets randomly all day long.

 

Oak Park traditionally seems, to put it mildly, somewhat anti-business (at least that's the rep it has among the business owners I've spoken with who have left Oak Park for that reason). Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Village actually took steps to promote food trucks by letting them offer their products on the streets of the Village during the warmer months, generate some tax revenue, and, not incidentally, make it more tasty to live here?

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