The restaurant business hit the road this year as the emergence of food trucks, or lunch wagons, have taken over the chic side of food service in America.
Food trucks are mobile restaurants with specialized menus that change location and hours every day. Patrons refer to the truck’s Web site or Twitter for updates on the upcoming locations and menus. The food served is commonly known as street food.
Oahu, not being immune to the craze, has also seen the explosion of the food truck genre of restaurants in the past year. There are now food trucks for every palate and craving, whether it’s sweet, salty or local.
One of the factors that appeals to repeat customers is the socialization aspect of events like food truck rallies, where many lunch wagons gather in one parking lot. For Honolulu rallies there are predicted turnouts in the thousands and the events never disappoint. Eat The Street is an on-going food truck rally, usually in Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park from 5 to 9 p.m. The day of the rallies vary.
New food truck rallies are being created to meet the demand of the thousands of Honolulu food truck fans. The first annual Great Hawaiian Lunchwagon Festival took place on April 9 in Kaka‘ako Waterfront Park, and thousands flocked to the circle of trucks in just six hours.
These rallies have the ability to attract so many people because they are family friendly. The Great Hawaiian Lunchwagon Festival had moon bouncers for children and family friendly entertainment including instrumental bands and a beat-box performer.
The most important factor, however, is the affordability of the food. Most trucks have servings that are less than $10. An advertised attraction for The Great Hawaiian Lunchwagon Festival was the requirement of trucks to have at least one menu item that was $5. This encouraged people to buy from many different trucks.
“I think it is because of the recession happening,” said Summer Duarte, owner of Summer’s Lava Dogs at The Great Hawaiian Lunchwagon Festival, about the food truck trend. “I think people are a little bit more frugal with their money and they’re looking for deals and value in food. Lunch wagons travel a lot, they’re cheaper and it’s more of a home cooking kind of feel. That’s why it is so popular [in Honolulu], too.”
The diversity of food served also contributes to the popularity of the rallies. There are dessert trucks like Lickety Split, an ice cream truck specializing in old-fashioned sundaes, and there are sandwich trucks like Melt, that serve gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches with ingredients like gruyere cheese and pear slices. Patrons like to sample from truck to truck, getting full on Asian fusion tacos at Gogi’s Korean Tacos and then getting a sweets fix on homemade whoopee pies from the Fairy Cakes Hawaii truck right after.
Since the lunch wagon craze started on the mainland, tourists visiting Oahu also have a craving for street food and are attracted to the local island flavors.
“It’s actually pretty trendy in San Francisco right now,” said Colleen Cambling, a tourist from San Francisco who attended The Great Hawaiian Lunch Wagon Festival. “It’s high-end food, and they’re bringing the truck to you rather than you making the reservation. It’s pretty similar to this, so it’s exciting.”
Cambling stood in line for almost an hour to order food from the Koi Catering truck, which specializes in salads, steak and fish.
“I’d like to try it,” said Cambling. “I think this is more of that Hawaiian scene.”
The food truck fad won’t be fading anytime soon, so hit the streets and get a taste of the Hawaiian scene.