I’m a girl that likes to chow down. It’s not a secret. It is evidenced by the pound or 50 that I’ve gained and lost and regained several times since I moved to North Carolina. The mere mention of the Food Truck Chow Down in Charlotte set my mouth to watering.
Still rebounding from two weeks of eating my way around Italy in May (has it really been that long?!?) has left me with a little hole in my food intake regime. I miss the leisurely meals overlooking the striking scenery of the Italian landscape. When presented with the possibility of going to Charlotte for a weekend to eat, it was too good to pass up. Who wouldn’t want to go try food truck fare in Charlotte?
Charlotte is big enough to scratch that big city itch, yet it’s small enough that you don’t feel like you’re another person in a sea of people. Although not as big as Atlanta, NYC, or Philly, this town has a lot to offer and does so with Southern flair. There are sports, clubs, restaurants, art, and now add the Carolina Food Truck Chow Down to the list!
The Carolina Food Truck Chow down on 18 June 2016 was held smack in the middle of Historic South End on Camden Road between South Tryon Street and Tremont Avenue. There was something for everyone at this festival: art booths featuring local artists, craft beers at the local eateries with free trollies to shuttle you around, local bands on two stages, and of course, food.
Art: Numerous artists were on display at the Charlotte Art League Gallery, featuring the “Naked: Body Beautiful” exhibit, and in art booths along the street.
Music: There were three stages sponsored by Matador Green Energy Drinks: one small stage tucked in between the Charlotte Art League and Phat Burrito, the other larger stage in an empty lot at the corner of West Parke Avenue and Camden Road, and finally a medium sized stage at the end of the food trucks on Camden Road.
Two bands stuck out. The first was a traditional band, by the name of The Griggs, playing contemporary folk music both original and old style songs. The other “band” was actually a compilation of students aged 16-19 years old from the “School of Rock,” or Rock University in Charlotte. They kicked proverbial arse and played a smattering of songs, each kid taking turns at different instruments and/or singing. Remarkable talent.
Food: The food was set along Camden Road at Price’s Chicken Coop, a Charlotte fixture for fried chicken since 1962. Perhaps not the best place to line up the food trucks, but certainly not the worst. Oddly enough, Price’s was killin’ it all day long in spite of having food trucks parked outside their door.
My intent was to pace myself. I’ve been working on losing weight so walking down the street shoveling food in my mouth, although enjoyable, was not going to help me in my quest to become Little Mindy again. That said, there were so many choices it was hard to get a game plan!
The key to good food trucks, if they’re done right, is not offering too many choices. There are only so many things you can do in the food truck realm, most important is finding your niche, create something enticing and appetizing and then doing it better than anyone else. I would rather see less on a menu done to perfection versus a wide variety menu of mediocre food. The food truck vendors in Charlotte have done just that.
First up, The TIN Kitchen. I chose the Carne Asada “Dilla stuffed shaved steak with grilled peppers & onions, Monterey jack cheese, crumbled queso fresco & sour cream. Yeah, it’s that good.
The hearty cheesy smothered fries with a cool, citrusy cilantro lime crème fraiche from What the Fries Charlotte was a satisfying savory treat.
I wanted to try some fried ice cream, but the food truck was sold out so rather than eat more food I opted for cold drinks. Truth be told, I didn’t eat as much as I thought I would because it was blazing hot and I could not quench my thirst.
The Food Truck Chow Down grand prize winner from the Art and Soul of South End was the Papi Queso Food Truck. I’d like to say I tried them, but alas, it didn’t happen. I spent the day walking around looking at art and listening to several bands and artists perform. This is not to say I wouldn’t track them down on a Friday in South End and give them a try. Their Pig Mac Signature Melt (mac-n-cheese, Carolina pulled pork and bourbon onions), Dessert Melt (Nutella, honey, strawberries, and toasted marshmallow), and the truffle kettle chips are calling me. Not necessarily in that order, but calling me nonetheless.
If you live in or are visiting Charlotte, don’t wait for the next Chow Down to find out what it’s all about. The food truck scene in town is fresh and certainly worth sampling. Some neighborhoods such as NoDa and Historic South End have regular food truck Friday’s. I’ve lovingly called Friday’s fend-for-yourself-Friday for years because by the end of the week I’m spent and you’re on your own. If you’re in Charlotte, what better way to fend for yourself than by letting someone else do the cooking for you? No matter the day of the week, there is a food truck with your name on it in Charlotte. This is street food at its best and it’s right in town.