Thursday, June 28, 2012
This time last year, food trucks were a relatively new concept for the Scenic City, with just two or three driving around. This year, the food truck scene has expanded to include five regularly traveling trucks and as many as seven food carts that accompany the trucks and belong to the newly created Chattanooga Street Food Project coalition.
“It’s amazing to see a city the size of Chattanooga having these things that are usually only available in big cities,” said Chattanooga Street Food Project spokeswoman Lindsay Nash. “The variety of what’s available here is the kind of thing you would see in cities like Atlanta or on the West Coast.”
In an effort to pool resources and work together to provide a united street food front, many of the local vendors have joined the coalition that markets all of the vendors through a single Facebook page in addition to providing a forum for the vendors to communicate.
“Our goals for the coalition are to educate the city on what food trucks are and bring us all together at different venues to form what is like a food court in the mall, but is actually way cooler and with better food,” said Nash.
According to Nash, whose husband opened the Taco Sherpa truck earlier this year, bringing everyone together under one coalition may seem counterintuitive to growing a business since other food trucks could be seen as competition. But that’s just not how the food truck community operates, she said.
“When we were looking into starting Taco Sherpa we talked to a lot of food truck owners and it was amazing to see what a community it is,” said Nash. “It’s a community that comes together and a community that believes in its products.”
With local food trucks and carts ranging from Korean tacos to cheeseburgers to gluten-free baked goods and specialty sodas, Nash said the community’s uniqueness and wide variety help attract a large audience and prevent anything other than friendly competition.
“With everyone all together you can have one big progressive lunch in one place,” she said. “Or you can focus on one vendor like with Nate [the owner of Famous Nater’s World Famous] who is a world-class chef and get an amazing slow-food sandwich made with all local ingredients. To get that kind of quality at lunch for $10 is unheard of at a restaurant.”
While the coalition seeks to strengthen Chattanooga’s existing street food community and increase its visibility, it also hopes to add more vendors in the coming months. Two new food trucks, which are rumored to serve pizza and Cajun food, will hopefully be up and running later this summer, said Nash.
The important thing for now, she said, is to get more people trying Chattanooga’s street food and encouraging that sense of community it provides.
“For anyone who hasn’t tried it yet, come out and talk to the people in and around the trucks,” said Nash. “Everyone wants you to feel welcome and try something new or different, whether that’s through free samples or trying a new dish.”
For more information visit www.facebook.com/chattanoogastreetfood.