Where Y'Eat: When Food Trucks Serve More Than Quick Meals

Oct 16, 2014

A new food truck park offering an offbeat supper option and a glimpse of what’s in store for St. Claude Avenue.

It’s easy to portray food trucks as the renegades of the culinary world. Modern, highly mobile and very much in vogue, they play by different rules than brick-and-mortar restaurants. But around New Orleans lately, these food trucks are increasingly enlisted to serve a number of community causes alongside their street food.

The latest example is the St. Claude Food Truck Park, a new attraction that now materializes in an otherwise vacant lot on the 3000 block of St. Claude Avenue each Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening, until Nov. 8.

The idea takes different food trucks, which normally operate independently from their own niches around town, and bands them together in one location. The immediate goal is to make a festival setting for casual eats, but the underlying goals are to gauge the public appetite for a different sort of food truck experience and exercise a little economic development and urban renewal along the way.

For the truck park itself, picture a vacant lot turned into an outdoor eating arcade, with three different trucks each night joined by three more grassroots food ventures cooked up by neighborhood residents. Strings of lights decorate and illuminate the lot, vendors pour drinks and local bands and youth music programs provide the tunes (see the nightly line-up for trucks here.)

The prime mover behind the St. Claude Food Truck Park is the nonprofit development group St. Claude Main Street, which wants to encourage more businesses and reinvestment along the commercial stretch connecting the Marigny, St. Roch, Bywater and Upper Ninth Ward neighborhoods. The group hopes the allure of the food truck park will mean better exposure for the new businesses that have already opened nearby recently, and showcase the potential for further redevelopment.

To create the food truck park, the group is working with My House NOLA, a local events production company that organizes food truck gatherings around the city, often in partnership with other nonprofits. Another example of its work in this realm is a food truck series called Eatmoor in Broadmoor, which convenes outside the Rosa F. Keller Library one night each month (the next edition is scheduled for Oct. 28).

The St. Claude Food Truck Park is a much more ambitious undertaking, recurring three nights a week over a schedule spanning into early November. Its planners are watching how people respond to it as a test case for a potential permanent food truck lot somewhere in the city in the future. That would be a first in New Orleans, where up until now food trucks gather only for special events. 

The appeal of these trucks for event organizers is pretty clear. After all, the trucks can roll on in with their own kitchens, start slinging food and roll right out at the end. It’s a self-contained outdoor catering solution. But there’s another dynamic at work here. With their color, their flavors and their novelty, food trucks tend to draw crowds. That’s the bonus for organizations with a mission to promote or a message to spread, and certainly that’s the potential that St. Claude Avenue boosters hope to tap. And that’s why, for the next few weeks, this new food truck park will be a spot to grab a quick bite and, perhaps, catch a glimpse of what’s down the road.

WHAT: St. Claude Food Truck Park

WHEN: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 6-8 p.m., through Nov. 8

WHERE: 3000 block of St. Claude Avenue (at Feliciana Street)