The food truck movement is finally coming to Raleigh ... in a big way.
Of course, the City of Oaks has had smaller rodeos as these collections of food trucks are called. I've been to a few of them, picking up an ice cream cone at Lumpy's at one or a sandwich at Baguettaboutit at another. A neighbor had Captain Poncho's stop in her cul de sac. Another had Chick-N-Que stop in for a party.
But I've always looked longingly at our neighbor, Durham, which has had big events featuring dozens of food trucks, for a few years now. Sadly, those events, what with birthday parties, soccer games and all the usual kid activities, seem to always land on busy weekends for my family.
So when I heard about the plans for the Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeo, held for the first time on Mother's Day, I knew we'd be there. It was a Mother's Day wish.
For the uninitiated, including the man who sat next to us at last Sunday's event, these aren't your garden variety sandwich and taco trucks, which move around to construction sites and other workplaces during the day. And it's not usually the food that you find at a fair or festival either (though I've seen some food trucks at these too).
Though they do make stops on a regular basis at office buildings and elsewhere during the week, they often have more gourmet or unusual offerings. Some feature locally made products. Others excel at just one type of food - burgers, pizza, barbecue, Chinese style dumplings, cupcakes, ice cream. Photos: Downtown Raleigh's food truck rodeo
I expected huge lines at Sunday's event, the first of four planned this year. Luckily, the church my family attends gets out at 11:30 a.m. on Sundays. So we walked over to Fayetteville Street and were among the first in line when it opened at noon.
This event was huge. More than 40 trucks were parked along Fayetteville Street and a few other streets. Even before the rodeo opened, lines were forming at some of the most popular ones. Within 20 minutes or so, there were really long lines at those places.
Getting there early and getting our food at the very beginning were key to our family's great time. After we ate, we walked up and down the street to see a bit of the scene and then headed on to our next stop for the day.
Here's what we'll do when we go again with our kids, ages 3 and 8:
1. Before the event, we'll research each of the trucks and figure out which ones we want to hit. My eight-year-old really loves food of all kinds. The number of choices was a bit overwhelming for her when we got there ... burritos or crepes or pizza or dumplings. Next time, we'll be better prepared. I'll probably even check in on the truck's different Facebook and Twitter pages to see what the menu will be.
2. We'll get there early again. It was nice to be able to check out the scene without huge lines getting in our way. We could inspect the menus and make decisions without feeling rushed. Getting there early also meant that we had absolutely no problem finding a table to eat at.
3. Eat at the trucks with smaller lines. Yes ... I did want dumplings from Chirba Chirba. I was craving an Only Burger. And the Urban Street Grill's Korean dishes looked amazing. But I also had absolutely no desire to wait in a long line with a hungry, antsy three-year-old. If I wanted to keep my sanity, I would have to enjoy those dumplings on another day. And bonus: Now I know which trucks to keep an eye on in case they stop somewhere near me again.
4. Get out of there once the lines get crazy. I'm sure this would be a fun date afternoon with the husband or some friends. We'd get a beer, walk around, wait in line and try some amazing food. That kind of leisurely pace is not going to happen with my kids right now. So once it's busy, we'll be out of there.
What can I recommend? The cheese pizza from Pie Pushers, the pulled pork sandwich from The Humble Pig, the chicken burrito from D'Burritos, and the tomato, basil and mozzarella panini from Deli.icious. Oh, and the Italian ice from SweetWater Ices was out of this world.
The prices were all responsible. We paid between $2 for a small Italian ice and about $7 for the pork sandwich. Bottles of water were just $1. I definitely didn't feel like were being gouged there.
And hats off to the organizers for setting up so many tables and the city workers for keeping it all so clean.
Three more Downtown Raleigh Food Truck Rodeos are scheduled through October. They are noon to 5 p.m., June 9; 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Aug. 11; and noon to 5 p.m., Oct. 13, Can't wait!