It seems almost unfathomable that just a few years ago Sacramento was devoid of food trucks, save for the occasional taco truck or construction site “roach coach.” Local food enthusiasts looked at places like Portland, Ore., and San Francisco with envy, wondering when Sactown would have its own gourmet food trucks rolling around offering over-the-top burgers and ethnic eats.
Then, as the food-truck trend gained traction, naysayers scoffed, saying all this mobile-food madness was just a flash in the pan, the culinary equivalent of “Gangnam Style.”
But it’s become clear that the trucks are here to stay, having become an integral part of local food culture. Tacos from Chando’s, a Hemi sandwich from Drewski’s Hot Rod Kitchen, shaved ice from Local Kine – all signature Sacramento food staples. SactoMoFo food truck roundups under the freeway at Sixth and W streets draw thousands.
There’s so much mobile food business now that Paul Somerhausen, a co-founder of SactoMoFo, recently left his job as a Capitol consultant on economic development between California and Mexico. He’s working full-time on mobile food and expects to oversee a staff of 10 by summer. He largely spends his time organizing events and advocating for regulations that would make Sacramento a more food-truck-friendly place.
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“After years of working in restaurants, event planning and politics, it all comes together in one job,” Somerhausen said. “It’s a fortuitous twist. I can always go back to a government job, but I think this is an opportunity that won’t present itself again.”
SactoMoFo organizes an average of 50 events per month, which include food truck roundups during lunch time at office parks and family-friendly events at regional parks on weekends. Somerhausen hopes to bump that number to 100 local events per month.
The rise in local craft breweries has also become a boon for food truck business. Since most local breweries don’t have permits to run a commercial kitchen or food service on their own, the trucks help fill that gap.
“The breweries and food trucks go hand in hand,” Somerhausen said. “They’re craftsmen on both ends, and most of these foods go well with beer. It’s a safe, legal way to complement what the breweries do.”
But all is not settled with Sacramento’s mobile food scene. City staff were asked to re-examine food truck issues by then-Councilman Rob Fong after the first SactoMoFo event in 2011, which drew 10,000 to midtown’s Fremont Park. City leaders have yet to make any final decisions regarding ordinances related to food trucks, including how long they are permitted to park and what parts of town may be off limits. The issue is expected to be taken up at the March 10 meeting of the city’s Law and Legislation Committee.
Meanwhile, more food trucks keep coming online. By Somerhausen’s count, Sacramento is home to more than 40 gourmet food trucks. But not all of them make it for the long haul. Local food trucks that have ceased operations include Ciao Chow and OMG Burger.
The hustle and grind of running a food truck hasn’t deterred a new wave of mobile food vendors from hitting the road. Here’s a taste of some new local food trucks as well as others expected to start their engines soon:
Concept: Comfort foods with a flavor-forward, gourmet touch.
Sample items: Peruvian fries with stir-fried rib eye, hand-cut fries and other ingredients over rice; crab mac ’n’ cheese grilled cheese sandwich; lemon pepper chicken Philly melt. (www.flavorface.com)
Concept: Burgers and sandwiches with an Asian flair.
Sample items: Vietnamese barbecue pork sandwich, Thai curry chicken sandwich, “White Belt” burger. (www.facebook.com/DojoBurger)
Cluck N’ Chuck
Concept: Diamond Springs-based truck specializing in chicken and burgers.
Sample items: Fried chicken, buffalo wings with custom sauces, a half-pound “Papa Burger.” (www.clucknchuck.com)
Concept: Breakfast and lunch items with modern techniques and pronounced flavors.
Sample items: Apple sausage sandwich with fried egg and apple relish; brioche stuffed with bacon, cream cheese and more; chunky carrot soup.(www.brunchboystruck.com)
▪ Also coming soon: A gluten-free truck by 7 Sisters Italiano of Citrus Heights; Peruvian foods from Ajicito, including empanadas and sandwiches; a Sacramento franchise of the Cousins Maine Lobster truck.