Summer Food Truckin’ Across the Ocean State

Outdoor events at community venues have kept the motors running for pop-up businesses

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Everyone has their favorite: Maybe it’s a taco truck or a burger joint on wheels, frozen ice or rice bowls. Followers of the food truck circuit are the new concert groupies when it comes to summer dining, and far from stifling this trend, the pandemic has spurred many businesses into the mobile pivot. Organizations like PVD Food Truck Events have paved the way for new and long-standing trucks to pop up on the scene through last summer with socially distanced events that satiated communities’ cravings for fast and novel eats.

“These events helped the food trucks salvage the 2020 season while being prepared and ready to come back strong this year,” explains Eric Weiner, organizer behind PVD Food Truck Events. “We continue to support over 50 locally owned food trucks that attend our events in a rotation.” Food Truck Fridays are a staple at Roger Williams Park, but gatherings are also hosted statewide at outdoor destinations, adding Safe Harbor Boat Works in Portsmouth and Goddard Park in Warwick to the itinerary this month. 

From horse-drawn cart to their “Aluminum Room” trailer dining and fleet of trucks selling burgers and hot dogs today, seasoned veteran Haven Brothers is a frequent flyer of Food Truck Fridays. “The same things that brought people to the lunch cart in 1893 bring folks and families today to the growing food truck venues,” explains owner Patrizia Prew. “In gathering a number of food trucks and diverse offerings at a single venue, there is a benefit to both families (choice) and new vendors (exposure). It can become a generational thing between grandparents,
parents, and kids.”

Other staples of the circuit note the industry’s growth. “When we started as the Salad Man & Juice Bar in 2013, there were maybe 10-15 trucks. Now there are well over 60 trucks in the state,” says Russell Spellman of Incred-A-Bowl. Their orange and green trucks make their rounds at spots like RWP and Diamond Hill in Cumberland with multicultural bowls like Cuban Chili Mango and Spicy Kimchi Noodles. Spellman credits less strict laws concerning food trucks and more events as a couple of factors behind the boom. 

For HG80, which turns favorite dishes like BBQ and chicken parm into handheld
tacos, the key to breaking into the industry is a unique concept and quality. “Just like brick-and-mortar restaurants, there are good and bad food trucks, but I think that the quality and variety of food coming out of trucks has really grown,” says owner Josh Berner. “At HG80, we make everything from scratch with good quality, local ingredients, and we’re not alone.” Add music, funky lighting, dancing, and authentic interactions with guests, and you can expect an overall lively experience at HG80.

Meanwhile, newcomers to the scene like Atomic Burger, Farm to Sandwich, and Lulu’s Little Pancakes (which opens this month) echo that the food truck model has allowed for optimal flexibility while opening a new business during the pandemic, along with the opportunity to take a leap on an unconventional idea. Entering a summer of many folks fully vaccinated, there’s never been a better time to sample what these nimble trucks have spent the past year perfecting.

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