Tri-Cities food trucks

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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.”

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Vlog: White Duck Taco Shop

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.

Review: Southern Craft barbecue

 

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Southern Craft barbecue tacos. Photo by Raina Wiseman.

Only by chance did I find out about Southern Craft. I had been searching Facebook for places to eat in the area, and the barbecue restaurant appeared as a suggested page. I followed it, but didn’t think much more about Southern Craft.

Then, on a Wednesday night when no one wanted to drive far for dinner but also said “NO FAST FOOD,” I suggested we try the downtown barbecue joint I read about.

With the help of GPS, we easily found Southern Craft, which is conveniently located at 601 Spring Street in downtown Johnson City. The restaurant has excellent parking as it is beside a public lot.

Our group of three immediately noted how the restaurant was very trendy. With low lighting and vintage-chic decoration, the building is likely to become a new favorite for Millennials whose interests are piqued by “hipster” atmospheres like that of Southern Craft.

We arrived around 5:30 p.m. and were told there would be a 10-minute wait. We stood inside the entrance of the restaurant, and were lucky to have entered when we did because several parties came in after us. Their wait times rose to 20 and 30 minutes.

We were then seated in a large booth at the center of the restaurant. Southern Craft offers several seating options including table, booth and bar.

Our waitress, Morgan, brought our drinks and took our orders. I got the pulled pork tacos without slaw (no offense to Southern Craft. I have never liked slaw). One friend also got the tacos, but she ordered them with slaw. We both ordered them with queso on the side for $1 extra. The second friend ordered a Fire Water burger with tater tots as her side.

We were very satisfied with the tacos, both of us noting that the barbecue sauce that came on them was the best part. It was a sweet, tangy sauce that went well with the pico de gallo on the tacos. The pork was very tender and had no burnt ends that so many barbecue restaurants leave in.

The friend who got the burger said she was “very particular about barbecue.” Though not as impressed as we were with our tacos, she agreed the food was good, and she would return to try another menu item.

Morgan told us at the end of our meal that it was only her second day working at Southern Craft. The restaurant must do an excellent job training its staff because she did a great job waiting on us. The tortilla chips were left off my plate when first brought out, and she ensured I had them as quickly as possible.

Since dining at Southern Craft, I have been dreaming about the next time I could have barbecue tacos. I can’t wait to go back and try other dishes from this trendy restaurant.

It’s Pi Day, so let’s talk pie!

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Happy Pi Day! Today is 3/14 or 3.14 for the Mathematicians.

Johnson City is about to welcome a new pie shop this spring with the opening of Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop. 

Buttermilk Sky is a bakery that specializes in all things pie. From classics like buttermilk and pecan to mini pies, this pie shop offers it all.

The shop promoted itself for Pie Day by having a contest to win free pie for life. The winner, Doris Hendrix, was announced today at 3:14 p.m. (more Pi Day fun!)

Contestants had to sign up for “Pie News” email from Buttermilk Sky.

This was one of several giveaways the shop has done to promote itself. All winners have been promised to receive their prizes when Buttermilk Sky opens. Other prizes awarded include single pies and mini pies.

The Johnson City location hasn’t announced its official opening yet, but it has begun accepting employee applications and working on the shop location.

Buttermilk Sky was originally opened in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 2012 by Scott and Meredith Layton.

Now, the pie shop is in five locations including three Tennessee shops, one in Georgia and another in Texas. The Johnson City shop will be the sixth location.

Buttermilk Sky Pie Shop will bring a new sweet variety to the Tri-Cities area. Check out its Facebook.

 

Food for thought: Erma Bombeck

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.” -Erma Bombeck


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Bone Fire Smokehouse BBQ sandwich. Abingdon, Virginia. Photo by Raina Wiseman.

Apparently, posting photos of your food on social media annoys some people. I never think this is annoying myself, but I do think people judge you for what you eat.

In a world of social media, it’s easy to think more selectively about our posts and how you can present yourself in the best way. People will probably think you’re more health-conscious if you post your salmon and asparagus instead of your Sweet Frog bowl.

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A Sweet Frog bowl from my Instagram. Photo by Raina Wiseman.

But aren’t we all enjoy those unhealthy foods? Don’t we revel in the carbs? Don’t we get a kick out of them?

I think that’s what Bombeck means here. Why would we refuse the dessert cart if we really want it? Life is short. Why would we put off posting our beautiful pictures of fancy French toast at hole-in-the-wall restaurants we find just because our followers might think our eating habits are bad.

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Some thigh-thickening french toast. Photo by Raina Wiseman.

I recently posted a picture of such a brunch on my Instagram profile, and someone commented that it looked “like the most satisfyingly thigh-thickening” French toast.

While I thought the comment was hilarious (because it’s true), I also found myself feeling like I needed to post about kale or something else super healthy to make up for it.

But let’s all agree to show what makes us happy or what we eat when we want something special.

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Tiramisu cake. Photo by Raina Wiseman.

And as for food posts, I say keep ’em coming. Some people like to know what foods other people are trying.

Around the world with food

Are you a foodie? Have your tastebuds been cultured? Do you want to travel the world at a fraction of the cost?

On Feb. 28, Chef James Allen will host a gourmet food session at Olive Oil Divine. The class will teach attendees how to make dishes from around the world.

Plates include South American steak tacos, Asian short rib, European wild mushrooms and goat cheese strudel, and cherry chess pie from America. All plates feature products from Olive Oil Divine.

All ingredients will be supplied, and attendees are allowed to take home leftovers from the meal.

Chef Allen is the Executive Chef at Blackthorn Club. He graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Minnesota and has been a sous chef in Alabama and a executive chef for a Mississippi country club.

The class will be held at Olive Oil Divine (2517 N Roan Street, Johnson City,) and it begins at 6:30 p.m. and ends around 8:30 p.m.

Tickets for the class are $35 per person and may be purchased online or at Olive Oil Divine. Space in the class is limited.