The intermingled food scent that is reminiscent of a fair is prominent on Tuesday nights in La Mesa. Different music from various vendors mixes into festive background noise while people sit and enjoy the sites, sounds and food. A woman from Bitchen Burgers yells for someone to pick up her food, a little girl is swallowed by an over- sized traffic cone being worn as a hat and friends are scanning the menus for something good to eat. There are no Ferris wheels or farm animals and this is not the San Diego County Fair.
Food trucks have been meet- ing to serve food each Tuesday night for approximately the past five months. This event, which takes place in the La Mesa Best Buy parking lot, draws “a couple hundred people on a good night,” said Super Q food truck employee Albert Lomas.
People spread out blankets, perch on curbs, lean against tail- gates and sit in folding chairs while enjoying their food. The food trucks Mangia Mangia, God Save the Cuisine, Bitchen Burgers, Crepes Bonaparte, Brats Berlin, Calbi and Super Q line a corner of the parking lot and bring an in- ternational flair. Amused-looking Best Buy customers who are not familiar with the event stop their cars and ask what is going on.
Possibly one of the most astounding aspects of this gathering is the lack of a governing body to organize the events. However, Lomas said the food truck community is all interconnected. “Somebody will find a place [to serve food] and they will usually let the other trucks know so we can all meet up,” Lomas said. The interaction between food truck owners is done via calls and emails.
The loose coalition of trucks has succeeded at this location where people of all ages swarm for a little weekday relief.
“It’s a lot of fun,” La Mesa resident and Crawford High School math teacher Lizlo Conner said.
The event is perpetuated by traditional word of mouth and the modern-day grapevine of social media. The trucks use Facebook, Twitter and individual websites to alert hungry San Diegans where they can locate food.
Conner learned about the event from following some of the trucks on Twitter and from a co-worker who read about the event in a La Mesa newspaper.
One blog, San Diego Food Trucks tries to track and advertise where the various food trucks will be. What started as a Facebook page is now a full blog, listing trucks, a tentative idea of when and where they will be and even interviews with some of the trucks’ vendors.
One of the challenges in the food truck industry is drawing attention to your business, Lomas said. The food truck he works at is bright green and has a cartoon- like superhero painted across it.
Another challenge of the food truck business is working in tight space where workers have to constantly share quarters with two to three other people. Fortunately for Lomas, Super Q also has a traditional restaurant in Poway, Kaminski’s BBQ & Sports Lounge, where his team is able to do the prep work prior to hitting the streets.
In San Diego, trucks cannot be parked at private residences so trucks without restaurants must find a commissary to clean, stock, fix and store trucks.
Besides traveling the county to serve food out of parking lots, many food trucks also cater and participate in special events.
Super Q recently drove to Las Vegas for a food truck carnival.
While making the lunch rounds in San Diego, Lomas has established friendships with regulars.
While event-goers enjoyed the festivities and the last lingering days of summer, Connor posed the question, “Will this be as popular in February when it is already dark and cold at this time?”
Regardless of the weather, food trucks will continue to connect community and cuisine in a way seldom seen in this day and age.