Moment of tension between restaurant and food truck in Oak Park

Oak Park aims to 'strike balance' regarding food trucks

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By Ashley Lisenby

Digital Editor

Food trucks are one of the things Oak Parkers want on the streets, according to a recent survey done by the village. But because there are only four licensed food trucks in the area, the village is working on ways to make Oak Park more food truck friendly.

"Food trucks have proven to be really popular," David Powers, the village's communications director, said. "But there can be friction between them and brick and mortar restaurants."

A moment of friction did arise Oct. 28. between mobile restaurant The 206, owned by Seattle native Valentino Ganacias, and longtime Oak Park restaurant Al's Grill, 1100 Madison St.

The 206, which specializes in waffles and coffee, parked on Wisconsin Avenue near Rush Oak Park Hospital early Tuesday and planned to stay from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., said Ganacias.

Al's Grill general manager Tony Loutos said he noticed the food truck taking up metered parking spaces.

Ganacias said his truck was parked three parking spaces away from the business.

"I'm really conscious of where I park," Ganacias, a new Oak Parker, said. "I want to be respectful and I don't want to be seen as trying to divert traffic."

Loutos said his concern was not so much the food truck being nearby local businesses but the parking spaces, a major concern because of limited parking availability in the area. 

Loutos asked Ganacias to move around 8:30 a.m.

The food truck owner turned to Twitter to let customers know he would no longer be set up outside the hospital, but his tweets did incite a couple questions about what happened that morning.

"@rushoakpark @the206foodtruck apologies. We caught some flak from a neighboring business and were asked to leave." The 206 tweeted Tuesday morning. "We are addressing it now."

Both Ganacias and Loutos reached out to the village for clarity.

"To my surprise," said Loutos, "the village had issued a license to the food truck but there are no regulations on the books."

After a five to six week process, The 206 was granted a license by the village and officially opened for business in mid-September. Ganacias said the process of obtaining the license was fairly easy, crediting fellow Oak Park food truck MoJo Express for "opening doors" for his business.

The 206 is not his first business venture. Ganacias opened Empire Espresso with friends in his hometown of Seattle in 2009. It is because he has been in the food service industry for 21 years and owned a brick and mortar restaurant that Ganacias said he understood the Oak Park restaurant's reaction, especially when considering the cost of running a business.

"I really feel supported by the village and customers, I just think there is a need for more communication," Ganacias said.

Powers said the village and the Business Association Council, a group of local business leaders, will be working during the winter months on ways to strike a balance between food trucks and existing businesses in the area.

Until more concrete rules are put in place, Ganacias said that food trucks operate under ice cream truck laws. Under those stipulations food service trucks are only allowed to be parked in one spot for 30 minutes.

Ganacias said he is considering starting a crowd funding campaign to open a brick and mortar restaurant in Oak Park in the future that could be a "community hub" similar to the cafe he operated in Seattle.

Until he fully understands the consumer culture in Oak Park, Ganacias said he is not moving too quickly on that goal. He is however, sticking with his truck for the time being.

"I love the culture and physicality of having a truck," said Ganacias. "But it also makes room for young entrepreneurs to own their own business."

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Reader Comments

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Brian Slowiak from Westchester  

Posted: November 7th, 2014 7:02 AM

A license was issued, however there are no guidelines on the books. Does this mean there are no guide lines for sanitation on the food trucks? Since Oak Park is a diverse community and the trucks are mobile, will OP insist the trucks serve the food deprived area around West Suburban Hospital and Loretto? Will the Village insist the food trucks set up within three spaces of Maya Del Sol?


Posted: November 5th, 2014 5:30 PM

Al's is not without its own issues. They have been known to be less than welcoming to people dining alone and, at least in the past, had a nasty little habit of locking the back door (aka the fire exit). What was that about throwing the first stone . . .

Paddy Boy  

Posted: November 5th, 2014 4:12 PM

First a little history ... Back when Al's was across the street everybody referred to the "grill man" as "Al." But that wasn't his real name. Then when they moved the counterman took over as manager and told everyone his name was "Billy," however his son says that's not his real name. Now they're in a beef with a guy named "Tony," if that's his real name. Which leads us to the question as to why the "Oh My God Man!" wasn't in the fight? Sounds like he's working with the food truck guy.


Posted: November 5th, 2014 1:16 PM

Oak Parkers also want asphalt on their streets, but that's not always a reality. So, tough noogies.

Lily from Jordan  

Posted: November 5th, 2014 12:54 PM

This article says that they are 4 licensed food trucks in the area. Does anyone know what the other 3 are and how to find them? Thanks.


Posted: November 5th, 2014 7:21 AM

I seem to read this differently from most of the other posters but find no "Tension" in this and that Tony was probably more concerned with parking spaces being taken up than with the food truck selling near him. There is extremely limited parking for Al's Grill and it seems that Valentino appreciated that and moved willingly. Sorry, no drama seen here by me, just good business by both.

truck off from oak park  

Posted: November 5th, 2014 6:55 AM

the best example of food trucks is in Portland Oregon. In Portland, they take unused parking lots or a vacant lot and let all the trucks park there. It works really well. Pretty lame this truck taking up spaces and parking in front of als. No class

Bonus for Employees  

Posted: November 5th, 2014 1:14 AM

I love following The 206 on twitter to find out where it will be parked in OP! I was at The 206 when it parked in front of Rush Oak Park the first time (for some delicious waffles) Hospital employees were super excited at the idea of gourmet food "on the go", and based on social media response they definitely wanted to see The 206 more often. Not necessarily as instead of, but in addition to the likes of Al's Grill. The Truck was parked across Madison from Al's, easy for employees.

Oakparker from Oak Park  

Posted: November 4th, 2014 8:13 PM

Agree with "Need more info from Oak Park." Do Oak Parkers want more food trucks or to support brick and mortar restaurants that pay a variety of taxes that sustain Oak Park services?

Need more infi from Oak Park  

Posted: November 4th, 2014 7:32 PM

The article doesn't say the truck was parked across the street, just that it was 3 spaces away from the business. If it was right out front, it doesn't seem fair. I understand that the food isn't the exact stuff Al's serves, but it's close enough. Al's has invested in Oak Park-- probably many hundreds of thousands. And they no doubt employ Oak Parkers to some extent. That should count for something. How does the truck's revenue benefit the Village? Not sure if their sales tax goes to OP or not.

pete from oak park  

Posted: November 4th, 2014 7:29 PM

Love the 206! Don't let the bullies get to ya. Many of us love the concept and go out of our way to find food trucks. How anyone can feel intimidated by the 206 is just silly. Go out, try it. Then make a judgement. I am losing the willpower to resist another batch of the "Gusto"!

Curious from Oak Park  

Posted: November 4th, 2014 6:29 PM

Does the headline match the tone of the conversation between Tony from Al's? Was there friction or was it a reasonable conversation? Tony is a reasonable, pleasant guy and Valentino sounds like he might be too. Tony had a right to question the parking status of the truck. His business pays high property taxes, the truck presumably was paying a parking meter for an hour or two. Parking outside the emergency room is not leveraging hospital foot traffic, it's leveraging Al's.

breakfast fan  

Posted: November 4th, 2014 5:04 PM

This was not Al's finest moment. The 206 was across the street and 3 parking spaces away. Al's has been a great local business for a long time. I have eaten there many times. They aren't going to be put out of business by the 206 truck. Sensitivity to the brick and mortar businesses is one reason the truck isn't there every day. But you can't blame a business for wanting to be where potential customers are. Al's doesn't own all the business over there. And Al's could have handled it cordially.

Amazed by OP government  

Posted: November 4th, 2014 4:53 PM

Why food trucks? We have no shortage of restaurants. Let the trucks open "to go" store fronts. This is crazy! Get these things off our streets.

Katy from Oak Park  

Posted: November 4th, 2014 4:49 PM

In response to the 1st comment below, the 206 does NOT sell identical fare to Al's. I love Al's Grill, and am a patron of many years, but the waffles that The 206 sells are very different from the ones that are offered at Al's. I will stick with the delicious Greek Skillet at Al's, but when I want waffles, I will seek out The 206. Please come back! You can park in front of my house any time!


Posted: November 4th, 2014 4:17 PM

If Al's Grill wants to complain about being a good neighbor, they could start by asking their patrons and deliveries to not block the alley behind their establishment.

Need more info from Oak Park  

Posted: November 4th, 2014 3:28 PM

It does seem decidedly unfair that a food truck (which btw pays no property taxes ) would park 3 spaces from his business. The 206 sells the identical fare as Al's at that hour and it gives the appearance of trying to steal business. Look, Oak Park is a big place. Be sensitive to where you set up shop. It's one thing to park in front of the library, but to park adjacent to a breakfast joint is uncool. And if you take up metered spaces, feed them like everyone else. No exceptions but Sundays!!

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