Aug 11, 2011
12:01 PMCafé Connecticut
Meals on Wheels
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Food trucks are on a roll in Connecticut. Entrepreneurs are expanding the possibilities beyond hot dogs and ethnic food, offering high-quality takes on pizza, cupcakes, farm-to-table, vegan and vegetarian fare. Independent-minded chefs go mobile for the sense of freedom and lower overhead than a brick-and-mortar establishment offers.
Food lovers delight in the eat-on-the-street-on-your-feet experience. Not only are food trucks easy on the wallet, they’re fun. No wonder fans follow them. “When people come up to the truck, they see the cuteness and then they taste the cupcake. You brighten their day. They smile from the gut,” says Todd Rowe, co-owner of the Cupcake Truck. Todd and his wife, Marsha, sell $2 treats like Red Velvet Jones, Chocolate Ruin and Salted Caramel from a 1968 Grumman Olson truck that parks in New Haven.
These days, food trucks can be found on city streets, in parks, at farmers’ markets, and at private parties and corporate events. They are hired for weddings. And even funerals. Funerals? “Happy funerals, where they wanted to remember that person in a fun way,” says Rowe, who’s catered a few. Another cupcake truck, The Cupcake Brake, “bounces around” the Hartford area, says Timothy John, business partner to Larry DeNorio, who left a career in financial planning a year ago to start the mobile business. Most of the time, Cupcake Brake parks at State House Square, sometimes it’s in Bushnell Park, other times in Middletown. On Sundays June through October, it docks at the Coventry Farmer’s Market. Like most of the newer food trucks, Cupcake Brake uses social media—websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter—to let customers know where to find the truck each day and what’s on the menu.
“We don’t print our menu,” says Ami Beach Shadle, co-owner of the Gmonkey Truck with her husband Mark Shadle, chef and co-owner of It’s Only Natural vegetarian restaurant in Middletown (the two businesses are not affiliated). Gmonkey brings organic raw, vegan and vegetarian fare from “farm2street” (so reads their tag line) in Hartford County. “It varies every day,” Ami Shadle says of the menu, whose biggest seller is a black bean, chipotle, brown-rice veggie burger served on homemade bread baked in Shadle Farm’s commercial kitchen. The completely vegan burger is dressed with pesto and “nano-aise,” made of Bridge tofu, handmade from non-genetically modified soy. “We’re redefining the stereotypical conception of fast food in an innovative, green, sustainable and organic way,” says Shadle.