Making Vietnamese coffee at The Roots Coffee Lounge in Johnson City, Tennessee.
If you drive by the Johnson City, Tennessee, Kmart on the first Saturday of the month, you’ll notice a circle of trucks in the parking lot and people with all kinds of food. This is the kind of event that happens when food trucks become fashionable.
“I think food trucks have become popular the past two to three years,” said Samantha Lopez, owner of Sam’s SnoBall Paradise. “There haven’t been as many food trucks as there [are] now.”
Michael Archdeacon, owner of Foodie Fiction, said food trucks took off after Noli Truck food truck came to Johnson City.
“We were the second … real deal food truck,” he said. “By the end of 2015, I think there were around 11 of us operating in Johnson City.”
Now, there are many food trucks in the area that serve everything from pizza and tacos to desserts.
“We saw a niche in this area that was unfilled: Gourmet, fresh, inventive, restaurant-caliber cuisine served in a super disarming and unpretentious venue … from the side of a truck,” Archdeacon said.
Food truck vendors enjoy their units because they allow mobility and lower operating costs. Because the trucks can be moved, businesses can choose new locations to provide easier customer access.
“The beauty of a food truck is the ability to roll down the street if that spot ain’t working out,” Archdeacon said.
His truck, for instance, is now operating on select days at the corner of University Parkway and W. Walnut Street. He pointed out the location attracts more East Tennessee State University students who walk to the stand, even though there is not a lot of parking in the area.
“We’re hoping to accept ETSU ID BUC$ payments soon and really be hopping at that location,” he said.
Food trucks also allow lower overhead payments. A truck or trailer is less expensive than owning or renting a building for a restaurant. The trucks run on generators and have to purchase water for use in the kitchens, but they do not have to own property for the trucks to sit on, according to Archdeacon.
“A food truck equals low front-end investment and overhead plus freedom to roam and create,” said Archdeacon. “[It’s a] great equation.”
The lower overhead helps customers as well. It allows the trucks to serve higher quality food for less because businesses don’t have to spend as much to operate.
Archdeacon said certain items on his menu would cost at least four dollars more if they were sold in a “brick and mortar” restaurant rather than a truck.
Food truck customers also like the units because they have more options.
“The variety of food and drink that food trucks offer can present new options to the people in this area that might have only been available in larger, metropolitan areas,” said Rich Rogers, owner of Mason Joe Coffee Company.
Deana and R.J. Clawson visit multiple food trucks in the Tri-Cities area and Asheville, North Carolina.
“You can always find something different that you wouldn’t find in a restaurant,” said Deana.
Food trucks also allow customers to eat from locally-owned businesses. Most food trucks are owned by local entrepreneurs with a passion for food.
Archdeacon believes the greatest draw for customers is the novelty of a food truck.
“Eating from a truck, trailer, cart or a double-decker bus is freakin’ cool!” he said. “But that novelty will wear off if you can’t bring the goods. People here know what … good food looks, smells, feels and tastes like.”
Johnson City has events for mobile food units to come together and share their products with the community.
On the second Saturday of each month, Food Truck Junction allows food trucks from Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia to meet and let the community try different foods in one location. They are held in the Kmart parking lot on Peoples Street in Johnson City.
“I think this is a good location,” Jennifer Greenwell said. “There’s plenty of parking. It’s a good side of town; it’s not too crowded [or] overwhelming.”
Greenwell is a Johnson City resident who attended her first Food Truck Junction on April 8.
“We wanted to try some new food in the area,” she said.
Greenwell tried The Chicken Coop’s honey barbeque wings and sliders, as well as dessert from Kona Ice. She had plans to try food from Foodie Fiction later in the day.
The trucks set up in a circle around picnic tables and any non-food truck vendors. Music is played over speakers, which invites in people who drive by the lot.
“Last time we were here, it was really cold, and it was busy,” Kristin Tipton, co-owner of Smokin Pete’s Barbeque, said during the April Food Truck Junction.
The Clawsons consider themselves food truck enthusiasts. They like Food Truck Junctions because they can sample from different trucks at once, and they attend every event.
“We try little bits off each [truck] and share them,” said R.J.
Smaller scale Food Truck Round Ups are held on certain Saturdays at JRH Brewing. About six food trucks attend these events, which are hosted by Foodie Fiction and the brewery. Live music is provided by local musicians.
Archdeacon warns that food trucks are not easy businesses.
“It’s…long hours, hot conditions, high-stress and low profit margins,” said Archdeacon.
Besides food, a lot of time goes into maintenance of the trucks themselves. Foodie Fiction had to delay serving dinner on March 30 because of mechanical problems.
MiMi’s Cookies N’ Creamery also had to cancel serving their ice cream sandwiches in Johnson City on March 28 because of issues with the truck’s brakes.
Archdeacon says he would recommend starting a food truck business to anyone who has a passion for the restaurant business.
“You better love what you do if you enter this field,” said Archdeacon. “With that being said, I can’t picture myself doing anything else.”
National Pick Strawberries Day is May 20. How will you celebrate?
The Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival will be celebrating the fruit that day, so mark your calendars.
“The [festival] is a celebration and presentation of the unique heritage, foods, crafts and culture of the southern Appalachian region,” according to the Town of Unicoi Facebook page.
It will host a variety of activities including a baking contest, activities for children, and musical entertainment. Food will also be sold by vendors throughout the day. Locally-made crafts and art will be available for purchase.
Children may also participate in the 2nd Annual Miss or Mr. Strawberry Festival pageant at 10 a.m. All participants will receive an award. Each age division will award a “queen” and princess” award. However, spectators may vote during the pageant for their favorite participant by donating one dollar for each “vote.” The child with the most votes will get the “People’s Choice Award” and a trophy.
Any child wishing to participate must register by May 11 at noon. There is a fee that varies according to the category the child is in. Contact Little Miss Southern Sparkle Director Valerie at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions regarding the pageant.
The festival will be held on the Unicoi Elementary School campus at 404 Massachusetts Avenue, Unicoi County, Tennessee, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. It is organized by the Town of Unicoi.
The April Food Truck Junction was held on April 8 from noon until 8 p.m. in the Kmart parking lot on Peoples Street in Johnson City.
Thirteen food trucks were on site, allowing guests to sample different foods including tacos, hot dogs, barbecue, pizza and shaved ice.
Kristin Bolt, co-owner of Smokin’ Pete’s Barbeque, was serving food from her company’s truck during the event. She said this is the first year to participate in Food Truck Junctions.
“When they do rallies like this, you have a bunch of different things,” said Tipton. “You don’t have one type of food. You can have a little of everything.”
Many people attended the event in groups, so they could purchase food from multiple trucks and try different cuisines.
“We try little bits off each [truck] and share them,” said R.J. Clawson.
Clawson and his wife, Deana, attend every Food Truck Junction. They said they had tried a similar event in Asheville, North Carolina, but the trucks did not serve food as quickly. This resulted in long lines, which the Clawsons did not like. Their favorite food truck in Johnson City is the Caribbean Grill.
The video above was taken between noon and 1 p.m. It was a chilly, windy morning, so business did not pick up right away. By 1 p.m., more people were entering the Kmart parking lot to sample food.
“I think the warmer it gets, the more people will come,” said Deana.
My sophomore year of high school I packed yogurt for lunch often. It’s an easy thing to throw into a lunchbox and requires very little assembly.
Then one week my mom bought Greek yogurt. I hate Greek yogurt. It is not even in the same category of what I consider yogurt.
It was that moment I stopped eating the stuff all together.
This is what I have had for breakfast the past three weeks.
I promise there is yogurt under all the fruit and granola.
My personal goal is to train myself to like it again. I know yogurt has a ton of health benefits, so I wanted to find a way to reintroduce it.
This photo was from the first week. It was mostly fruit and a small portion of yogurt. Each week since, I have decreased the amount of fruit and increased the yogurt, and it has worked for me.
I will not say I love it now, but I can tolerate it. Putting it with something I enjoy like fruit and a little granola has helped.
Many people have told me about foods that one bad experience ruined for them.
My challenge to any one reading this is to think of a food you have never liked, and give it another chance. You think chocolate ice cream tastes like chalk? (I’m guilty of this.) Give it one more shot.
Leave a comment with your similar experiences or stories about foods you can no longer stomach.
The next Food Truck Junction will be held on April 8 from noon to 9 p.m.
The event occurs several times throughout the year, and it allows mobile food units from northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia to share different kinds of food like hot dogs, tacos, deserts and drinks.
“Listen up…you guys do not want to miss this one!!! Great food, drinks and a good time,” wrote Facebook user Ken Packer in a Facebook comment.
12 trucks will be present including Mama’s Food Factory, Caribbean Grill and Foodie Fiction.
Food Truck Junction is held in the Kmart parking lot on Peoples Street in Johnson City.
“Please come join us & invite your friends and family,” was written on the Food Truck Junction Facebook page.
The last Food Truck Junction was held on March 11. Several trucks will be returning this month, as well as new additions to the line-up. The March event also closed early due to inclement weather.
However, the weather for Saturday should be calmer, so consider checking out the Food Truck Junction.
Donna Chlimon has taken her love for food and poetry and created a blog dedicated to uniting the two in savory works of written art.
Dine and Rhyme is essentially a place for literature-loving foodies to tell about their favorite places to eat. The blogger is based out of Chicago, Illinois, so most of her posts are from that area.
Contributions from readers are also accepted. In the first few pages of recent blog posts, Dine and Rhyme has poems written in California, Florida, Hawaii, the United Kingdom and Japan. Each post is uniquely different, and many provide information about the location of the restaurant and what makes the area significant.
This post, contributed from Hawaii, makes readers crave the shaved ice and provides information about local vernacular used in the poem.
If poems aren’t your cup of tea, Dine and Rhyme also creates vlogs about dining locations Chlimon visits. Recently, she posted a St. Patrick’s-themed poem and vlog of D4 Irish Pub and Cafe in Chicago. Check out the Dine and Vlog Youtube page for a complete collection of savory videos.
New posts are added every Wednesday, so check it out!
Be warned, you will be hungry after consuming Dine and Rhyme’s poems and vlogs.
Main Street Pizza Company of Johnson City announced March 7 it would begin serving breakfast in April.
Originally set to begin offering breakfast April 5, Main Street Pizza Company later announced it would not begin serving breakfast until April 12 at 8 a.m.
“We got our processes and new equipment approved by the Fire Marshall this week, and are just bout ready to roll it out. We will not quite make the original date. . . Sorry for the slight delay, but we want to do you right!” according to Main Street Pizza Company of Johnson City’s Facebook page.
Chicken and waffles, avocado toast and lox bagels as well as new beverages will be available as part of the new breakfast menu.
The company announced it would be hiring new staff for the breakfast shift on March 18. Anyone interested in working at the company may apply online. Positions are available as cooks, servers and hosts.
The company recently won the Pie Wars contest held by the Young Professionals of the Tri-Cities.
Main Street Pizza Company is located at 300 East Main Street in downtown Johnson City and is every day of the week.
I recently visited White Duck Taco in Downtown Johnson City. Here is a short vlog I made about the trip.
Among three friends and I, we sampled several of White Duck’s tacos including the shrimp, fish and jerk chicken.
We were all very pleased with our experience and plan to go back soon.
Check out the video, and tell me your favorite local restaurant in the comments.