Food & Drink

Festival signals food trucks’ rising popularity in Sacramento

Derek De Glymes De Hollebecque prepares a sandwich in the Drweski’s truck at the SactoMoFo festival on Saturday.
Derek De Glymes De Hollebecque prepares a sandwich in the Drweski’s truck at the SactoMoFo festival on Saturday. bnguyen@sacbee.com

Lines were long at the eighth SactoMoFo food truck festival Saturday, in what may be the last time the event is held under the concrete canopy of the Capital City Freeway at Sixth and W streets.

The festival continues to grow in popularity, with 15,000 patrons expected to sample the offerings this year, said festival founder and director Paul Somerhausen.

The number of vendors, too, has increased, with 36 food trucks participating Saturday. Last year, the event drew 29 trucks, up from 24 in 2013, Somerhausen said.

The popularity of the food truck came to the fore in 2010, when a 10-truck festival was held at Sacramento’s Fremont Park.

At the time, it was anybody’s guess how popular food trucks would be in the city. Thousands converged on the park that year, with waits over an hour long at many trucks.

“The very first SactoMoFo at Fremont Park was kind of a fluke,” Somerhausen said. “We brought in 10 trucks. We were terribly unprepared.”

Back then, there were few food trucks on the scene for Somerhausen to recruit. Of the 10 trucks, half were from the Sacramento region, including Drewski’s, now one of the most well-known local operators.

Outside of the festival format, the trucks are still severely restricted in Sacramento. An ordinance lifting a 30-minute limit for food trucks in Sacramento was scheduled to be heard this month but was delayed. That ordinance would allow food trucks to stay as long as posted parking signs allow on city streets and would also make permits simpler for truck “pods” to park on private property with no time limit. The ordinance required the trucks to remain at least 50 feet from seating areas and restaurant outdoor seating areas.

“Some have been quite successful, like Chandos and Drewski’s. They translated their food trucks into a very large business model,” he said. “That should be encouraged, not discouraged like the city of Sacramento has been doing.”

Somerhausen said he may move the festival, in part because of the difficulty of city getting permits for the current location at Sixth and W streets. He said the permitting process takes six to eight months.

“And that is even after doing the festival for several years there,” he said.

He also thinks the festival is ready for a change of scenery. He said he would not be averse to holding the festival somewhere like William Land Park.

“I’d like to hold it somewhere that has plenty of greenery, shade and parking,” said Somerhausen, who in November left his consulting job for a state Senate committee to run his company, SactoMoFo Inc., full time.

Some patrons Saturday welcomed that idea.

“That would definitely be better than underneath the freeway,” said Som Keo. “If you had a wide-open area, a lot more people would be able to sit down.”

On Saturday, many ate while perched on the concrete parking blocks and raised surfaces scattered throughout the festival site.

But the current site has its positive side.

“A park setting may be nice, but then you won’t have the shade that you do under the freeway,” Noah Willsmore.

Last year, the company held almost 600 food truck events in the region, including the festival, said Somerhausen, who oversees a staff of eight. The events range from lunches at a predesignated spots to private parties.

Business for the trucks is booming, he said. This year, Somerhausen expects food trucks will participate in nearly 1,000 events through the company.

“In my mind, the consumers want this,” he said of the festival and food trucks in general. “They like the variety, they like sampling different things, and they like giving small entrepreneurs an opportunity to rise.”

Call The Bee’s Edward Ortiz, (916) 321-1071. Follow him on Twitter @edwardortiz.

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