Ann Boyle had never heard of Food Truck Tuesdays at Larkin Square. Or even food trucks, for that matter.
The 65-year-old former teacher from Grand Island heard about the mobile restaurant craze from the staff at South Park High School. She was amazed by the massive crowd gathered July 2, as she waited in a line that snaked around the square’s patio.
“It’s just that you don’t know where they are or what’s going on unless you read about it somewhere,” said Boyle, who doesn’t use social media and brought a friend to sample nachos, sliders and dessert. “We figure if we come for a few more Tuesdays, we can try all the trucks.”
Buffalo is home to 15 food trucks, whose offerings range from tacos and gourmet deli sandwiches to carnival fare and decadent desserts. The trucks can be found daily throughout the city and suburbs, serving lunch and late-night snacks to hungry customers and those looking to switch up their daily routines.
Boyle, like many in Buffalo, has caught on to the food truck trend through word of mouth rather than through the Internet, where trucks predominately advertise their locations and specials.
Most trucks post their daily locations on Twitter and Facebook, and many have website calendars that list stops for days in advance.
For the less Internet-savvy, almost all of the trucks have a phone number that customers can call to find out where they’re parked.
“A lot of people I know, especially people in the 40-and-above demographic, don’t really use Twitter as much as 20- and 30-year-olds,” said Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs owner Frank Tripi. He, like many of the owners, is still trying to figure out ways to include everyone in the food truck trend.
Carolyn Human works in Larkin Square and fell in love with food trucks when Lloyd Taco Truck started parking outside her building. In an area without many options, the food trucks provided more variety from the monotony, she said. She’s since eaten at almost every food truck in Buffalo and has even tried food trucks in other cities.
“I’ve been to stuff like this in San Francisco and Nashville, and this compares,” said Human, who lives in Snyder. “We have just as many trucks as they had. The food is just as good.”
In the summer months, it’s easy to find at least one of the 15 at an event or on a street corner near you.
Larkin Square started Food Truck Tuesdays on May 28, with the idea of making the square a “dinner destination,” according to Leslie Zemsky, Larkin’s events coordinator. Her son, Harry, who runs Larkin’s Square 1 Sandwiches, wanted a way for Buffalonians to take advantage of the warm weather while they can.
The crowds have grown exponentially since the event’s debut, according to Zemsky, and she estimates 800 people come out every Tuesday. Fourteen of the 15 trucks participate each week, and Zemsky says Larkin will run the series until the end of October, if not longer. Information on the series can be found at larkinsquare.com or on Larkin Square’s Facebook page. All of the food truck “happy hours” run from 5 to 8 p.m.
Many of the trucks also take part in the monthly Food Truck Rodeo, held at the Buffalo History Museum. Lloyd’s started he event to unite the many trucks and donate to a cause; all proceeds from the rodeos benefit the History Museum. The events are currently scheduled for every third Wednesday of the summer months, though Pete Cimino, one of Lloyd’s owners, said the nights could change.
The next rodeo is next Wednesday, and 11 trucks are scheduled to attend. More information can be found at buffalohistory.org.
Trying to decide which truck to chase? Here’s the Buffalo News Food Truck Guide.
Lloyd Taco Truck
Lloyd Taco Truck, self-proclaimed “street food on the edge,” was started three years ago – the first food truck in Buffalo – by childhood friends Pete Cimino and Chris Dorsaneo, and they’ve tried to pave the way for the growing food truck craze by pushing for more reasonable laws and restrictions.
They serve what they call “Southern California-style Mexican,” specializing in made-to-order, fresh tacos and burritos made with cabbage slaw instead of lettuce. “You can do anything with a taco. It’s basically just a vessel,” Cimino said. They’re on the road Monday through Saturday, with one truck – the white “OG” – hitting the city, and the green “Dos” truck roaming the Northtowns. A third truck is opening up soon, and the duo hopes to frequent more Southtowns locations.
Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs
Website: Still in the works.
Frank Gourmet Hot Dogs, dubbed a “hot dog cart on steroids” by co-owner Frank Tripi, has been on the road for about six months. Tripi and his brother, Paul, wanted to take an American classic and put a “gourmet twist” on it.
They serve about 12 different hot dogs – which range from traditional dogs to homemade veggie dogs and sausage – with unusual toppings, such as blueberry barbecue sauce, guacamole, coleslaw and cream cheese. The Proud Mary, which Tripi says is the truck’s most popular offering, features Tijuana cream cheese and caramelized onions atop a bacon-wrapped frank – it’s even in the running to be served at Fenway Park.
R&R BBQ, which debuted on the Buffalo streets 2½ years ago, holds the title of being the Queen City’s second official food truck. Started by Renee Allen, who then opened a brick-and-mortar location in November 2012, R&R boasts a menu full of homemade comfort food – the city’s only barbecue-themed truck.
The truck serves mostly barbecue sandwiches – pulled pork, brisket and chicken – and a few wraps. It also boasts an array of homemade sides and desserts, including mac and cheese, coleslaw, chili and corn bread. An expanded menu can be found at the permanent location in Elma.
Website: none, email is email@example.com
ThaiMeUp, launched in the beginning of June, is one of the newest food trucks in the game. The truck is owned by the same family that runs King and I in Amherst – a restaurant that serves traditional Thai cuisine. Kim Suphankmout and his wife wanted to start an Asian-Thai cuisine-themed truck because nothing else like it existed in Buffalo.
The truck has only been out a handful of times since opening, but Kim says he’s obtained his Amherst permit and has joined the WNY Food Truck Association, and he’s looking forward to following the other trucks and finding new places to park. The most popular offering? Pud Thai, which is a famous Thai dish of rice noodles sautéed with egg, bean sprout and green onion and served with chicken.
Website: none, email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Knight Slider – the name sounds familiar, right? That’s because it’s derived from the ’80s TV show “Knight Rider,” and many of the menu items feature names with references to the program. Ayoub “Mike” Abboud opened the truck in September 2012, after toying with the idea of a restaurant, but he thought food trucks were “trendier.”
And while many consider a slider to be a typical burger, Abboud has a more liberal definition and considers anything between two buns to be a slider. His truck has served elk, ostrich, eggplant, oysters, pork belly and tuna, to name a few, on freshly made bread. The beef patties aren’t ordinary hamburger patties – the Knight Slider has its own Grade-A cuts made with steer and chuck sirloin.
House of Munch
Phone/email: 866-0106, email@example.com
House of Munch started in the concession business in 1976, and three years ago, owner Mike Albarella – along with his wife, Karen, and two kids – decided to close HOM’s two storefronts in the Galleria and Eastern Hills malls and make the wares more mobile. They specialize in festival “snack” foods, like fried dough, birch beer, French fries, cotton candy and lemonade.
The truck mostly caters special events, but you can find them at the Food Truck Rodeo and many concerts at Artpark and Darien Lake. If asked, House of Munch can also do sandwiches – the most popular being a Philly cheese steak sandwich – and wraps, along with other carnival-type fare, like deep-fried hot dogs.
Hot Off The Press
Hot Off The Press, one of Buffalo’s newest food trucks, opened on June 7. The bright orange-and-green truck was started by Nicole Burke, after her search for a marketing job in Buffalo proved futile.
Burke’s truck offers panini, a hot-pressed Italian sandwich, and she swears by her Tater Tots – something she says is unique to her truck. The customer-favorite spicy Buffalo chicken panini, which is Burke’s take on the city’s specialty, features cream cheese with the typical hot sauce and blue cheese condiments.
Hot Off The Press is one of few trucks that tread into the Southtowns – Burke grew up in Hamburg – and she regularly stops at Town Hyundai in Orchard Park on Fridays. She’s hoping to expand into Hamburg soon and is working with the Town Board to create a food truck permit process.
The Sweet Hearth
What’s dinner without dessert? The Sweet Hearth, Buffalo’s first dessert truck, which opened just over a year ago, is the perfect companion to the growing list of mobile food vendors in the city.
The Sweet Hearth specializes in anything and everything sweet – cupcakes, cookies, pies, Danishes, puddings, muffins, cheesecakes and more. The menu rotates regularly, but the Sweet Hearth has so many options, customers are likely to find something for their sugary cravings. Try the peanut butter iced box pie, which owner Kelly Brewer says is her No. 1 seller, or the hummingbird cake, which is a layer cake made with bananas, pineapple and pecans.
Pizza Amore, which opened in 2012, is one of the few wood-fired pizza trailers in the country. And it all started from a backyard hobby. Owner Dave Perri had built a brick oven in his backyard and served his pies to friends and family, and a friend joked that he should put his oven on wheels and come cook at a party – the food truck was born. Shortly after the mobile restaurant opened, Perri opened a permanent shop on Grand Island.
Pizza Amore sells many specialty pizzas, all of which are cooked in 3-5 minutes in a 750-degree fire. The most popular items include chicken wing pizza, prosciutto arugula pizza and a margherita pie – all of which are made with organic tomatoes and homemade sauces and fired by locally sourced wood.
Rolling Joe Café
Rolling Joe Café is Buffalo’s “coffee house on wheels,” according to owner Rich Spears. His truck – more of a beverage truck than a food truck – has been on the Buffalo streets for two years.
Spears specializes in a range of coffee- and espresso-based drinks, both hot and cold, and he boasts more than 100 different drink options. He has his own line of gourmet drinks, called “creamy iced coolers,” which are essentially milkshakes without the ice cream, he said. Try the drinkable banana split (it tastes exactly how it sounds), one of Spears’ more creative mixtures.
Spears has a contract with the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, so Rolling Joe Café can mostly be found at Shakespeare in Delaware Park or other events within the park system, rather than out in the city like the other trucks.
The Roaming Buffalo
Chicken wings. Beef on weck. Sahlen’s hot dogs. Weber’s mustard. Loganberry. The Roaming Buffalo, started two years ago by Chris Taylor and his wife, Valerie, focuses on the Queen City’s prized delicacies.
The Roaming Buffalo serves all local products, made fresh each day, and Taylor says his truck is the fastest one on the streets. The classic burger was voted the best in Buffalo by Buffalo Spree for 2013, though Taylor says the “WTF!?!?” burger – topped with bacon jam and crunchy or creamy peanut butter – is the truck’s most popular item. They also serve a bison burger, a breakfast burger and fried bologna and onions, along with Buffalo’s staples.
Phone: (716) 812-9953
Amy’s Truck is the mobile sibling of Amy’s Place, the Lebanese-Middle Eastern-American diner on Main Street near the University at Buffalo’s South Campus. Amanda Amico, former manager at Amy’s Place, is attempting to bring the comfort-food favorites to other parts of the city.
Amy’s menu, which is set and doesn’t rotate like other food trucks’, is derived from the diner’s offerings. The most popular seller is a lentil berry sandwich, which Amico describes as more of a “lentil burrito,” and it features the restaurant’s signature lentil spread, a wheatberry spread and hot sauce rolled into a flatbread wrap. The Margie meal – which consists of charbroiled chicken, fajita fries, tomatoes, garlic spread and hot sauce in a pita wrap – is another customer favorite. Any of the other sandwiches or wraps can be made vegan or vegetarian upon request.
The Black Market Food Truck
Phone: (716) 481-0127
The Black Market was started just six months ago by a couple of high school friends after their catering business had turned too sluggish for their tastes. Only those who contracted the pair knew about the food, and Mike Dimmer and Christian Willmott wanted to expand their audience.
Dimmer said Black Market’s food style can’t be pigeonholed, but if he had to describe his dishes, he would call it a mobile “gourmet deli.” The menu is always changing, and customers may not find the same thing from week to week. The one constant, though, is the Vietnamese bahn mi sandwich, which consists of fresh cilantro, pickled carrots and onion, white bean pâté, cucumber and spicy chili aioli with whatever protein catches the chefs’ fancy that day. And everything BMFT produces is made from scratch – from the fresh bread to all of the soups and sauces.
The Cheesy Chick
Website: Still in the works
The Cheesy Chick debuted in early 2012, and many in Buffalo were disappointed when the truck closed this past February. Stefanie Rowan and her family took over the truck soon after it closed and reopened on June 21.
The menu has changed under Rowan, and the new truck’s menu is a build-your-own deal, and she treats the truck as customers’ personal kitchen. They have most any cheeses, vegetables, meats and breads that you could want, and customers are charged one price for any sandwich they want to design. They offer a few creations of their own, and Rowan recommends the grilled Buffalo chicken pita, which has chicken strips, blue cheese crumbs, hot sauce and barbecue sauce.
The Whole Hog
Website: Under construction
The Whole Hog was founded by Kathleen Haggerty in spring 2011, and her nephew, Brenden Haggerty, took over the truck, which went through a brief hiatus, early this May. Brenden built his roots in the Seattle food scene before moving back to Buffalo, and he spent five years as a chef at Tabree. He wanted to “move out of the kitchen and into the heart of the city.”
Brenden says the Whole Hog strives for an “experience of picnic table meets white tablecloth, ” and he describes the cuisine as “modern American, with classic and global influences.” While the truck features a changing selection of sandwiches, soups and sides, he said the most popular item is the pulled pork sandwich topped with chipotle barbecue sauce and served with a side of mac and cheese.
Most of the produce that the truck uses is sourced from locally owned farms.