Chicago food trucks gather weekly near UIC

September 21, 2011 (CHICAGO)

New food trucks seem to be opening up almost weekly in Chicago. They're gathering every Thursday night near the UIC campus to sell their pre-made food to hungry fans.

It's another Thursday night at 6 p.m. near the UIC campus and the trucks are rolling in. For the past two months, they've made a parking lot at Ethyl's Beer and Wine Dive a haven for mobile food trucks.

"This slow build across the country, and it just kind of sparked our interest; we kept seeing more and more trucks pop up on the streets," said Daniel Barrett, the owner of Ethyl's Beer & Wine Dive. "Sat down in a brainstorming session, just realized we had the space for it and this is what we had to do."

There are local pioneers, like the Gaztro-Wagon, serving up tidy, flavor-jammed naan-wiches like a moo shu boar; as well as The Southern's Mac and Cheese truck, offering three flavors, including one scented with truffle oil. But there are plenty of newcomers too: Haute Sausages, with a few bite-sized options; a couple of Mexican-themed trucks with carne asado tacos dressed with purple cabbage and a massive skirt steak torta with a side of spicy serrano chile sauce. There are also sweet trucks, like Flirty Cupcakes and Sweet Miss Giving's, which donates sales of its fantastic red velvet cupcakes to Chicago House, a social service agency.

"We have people knocking on our door, calling, sending emails; it's kind of a first-come, first-served, whoever shows up first sometimes.. We have people driving around and circling the block but it works out really well," said Barrett.

For relatively new trucks, like The Slide Ride, it gives them a chance to show off their gourmet sliders to an enthusiastic crowd.

"It's great, all the food trucks get together, we've got easy parking; a lot of people come out to meet a lot of people here," said Nida Rodriguez, the owner of The Slide Ride. "Whenever you have a bunch of food trucks in the same place you get more people that come out so I found it really great to do events with other trucks."

There's even, yes, a food truck that's gone to the dogs. The Fido Canine Catering truck has all kinds of treats for your best friend. Experts who keep track of the mobile food truck scene say there are more than 20 in Chicago right now, but even more are eagerly waiting for the city to approve actual cooking on the trucks.

"There's a number of trucks that are chomping at the bit to the point where they've gone to other cities to operate, almost to fine-tune their menus and how they prepare the food, so that once the ordinance passes, they'll be able to actually come back to the city and get rolling as soon as the ordinance is ready," said Richard Myrick, the Editor of Mobile Cuisine Magazine.

So Truckin' Thursdays is every Thursday, from 6 - 9 p.m. here in this parking lot. And they say they're gonna go all season long, until there's snow on the ground; at that point, they might even go a bit further, depending on tough these food trucks are.

And there's another weekly truck meet-up in the city every saturday.. But it comes to an end this week. It's at "694 wine and spirits" on the near north side.

Ethyl's Beer & Wine Dive
324 S. Racine Ave.

Truckin' Thursday happens every Thurs. from 6 - 9 p.m.

Also mentioned:

Food Truck A Go-Go at 694 Wine and Spirits every Saturday, ending Sept. 24
694 N. Milwaukee Ave.
4 - 7 pm.

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