Get ready, Evanston. The city council approved a food truck ordinance on Monday, and the applicants behind the trucks are gearing up to bring new culinary options to the city.
Evanston is now a place "with just a bit more culinary excitement for those who are interested in a tasty little adventure," says Heather Behm, a partner in Hummingbird Kitchen, one of Evanston's largest upscale caterers.
Hummingbird's 28 foot long, sparkling clean silver truck, complete with an on board kitchen, is capable of going anywhere and preparing food anywhere, and now Behm and her partners chef Vince DiBattista and Stephen Schwartz will take their food to the streets. The trio wants food trucks to freely roam the streets of Evanston, though the ordinance requires them to stay away from brick and mortar restaurants.
The mobile food truck kitchens are late to come to the Midwest. For the last few years, west coast cities, in particular Portland and Los Angeles, have seen an explosion in food truck popularity. Southern California fans are obsessed with tracking the movements of their trucks. Entire websites aggregate the Twitter and Facebook feeds of colorfully named trucks, like GrillEmAll, the GreasyWeiner and the GastroBus.
Most prized is the location of the KogiBBQ truck. Hungry Los Angelenos line up to wait for what are reportedly amazing tacos made with Kogi beef. One tweet of the truck's location can clog an intersection with eager, hungry diners and beleaguered production assistants, creating snarls in areas already rough for traffic.
That's just one of the concerns that Evanston legislators are worried about. Public safety, in the form of traffic control, was a concern. Local restaurant owners are worried that nearby food trucks might sap their business. Lawmakers were also slow to come around to the idea that food cooked in a truck is sanitary. Behm, at least, is confident that they have nothing to worry about. "We do this all the time when we cater," she says. "At private events, we cook everything on the truck, made to order, and it's actually better because it hasn't been sitting in warmers for hours."
Now that the measure has passed, is Evanston on the way to mobile food nirvana? Not so fast, says Behm. For one thing, the streets won't be clogged with instant food trucks, as anyone hoping to operate one needs to already own a brick and mortar establishment.
Obviously excited, Behm and her team are eager to get to work. "We'll be winging our way to remote locations around town offering a range of delicious and healthy options in places where you couldn't easily get good (or any) food before," she says. "We're always open to suggestions on spots where hungry people gather without the hope of a finding good meal."