It’s officially March and snow is still falling in and out of the forecast.
We’re all beyond being sick of the slush by now and itching to get back to some of our favorite warmer-weather activities, like going to food trucks. Remember food trucks? Winter just isn’t their season.
Dee Weinberg knows the feeling and she’s here to bring a food truck oasis to a desolate, wintry Pittsburgh. For the third year running, Weinberg’s event company, GoodTaste! Pittsburgh, is putting on its Food Truck A Palooza indoors at the Monroeville Convention Center. This year’s lineup features 39 different food trucks.
“The first year, I believe we had 28 trucks,” she says. “The second we had 32, so it has grown and we are at full capacity right now.”
The growth of Food Truck A Palooza and it’s success—more than 3,000 people attended the event last year—are a direct reflection of the food truck’s continuing rise in popularity.
It’s thought that the impetus for the initial boom in the United State’s food truck industry was the 2008 recession. In a time of widespread financial struggle, the food truck emerged as a lower-cost, lower-risk way to enter the food industry. And while they were once seen as a step on the path to opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant, today food trucks are seen as legitimate culinary ventures in and of themselves.
“People in this area love food trucks, and as the list of food trucks grows, the list of people who love them grows,” Weinberg says.
It’s true. It seems that for consumers, the novelty of food trucks hasn’t worn off. Why? Perhaps there’s something serendipitous about them. It’s exciting to happen upon something new and unexpected. A new restaurant is exciting. A food truck is essentially a new restaurant in every place that it pulls over and pops open the service window.
Then, once you happen upon a food truck that you love, you get to follow it. When it comes to your neck of the woods it’s a special occasion—you just have to go get some. Following your favorite food truck’s whereabouts is like your favorite band being on tour. When they announce they’re coming to your town, how could you possibly not go?
Food Truck A Palooza, then, presents the perfect opportunity for food-lovers to discover the truck they’ll be stalking this spring and summer.
It’s the only indoor food truck festival in western Pennsylvania. That could be because of the practical challenges that an event like this presents. Having 39 vehicles—each with its own kitchen—operating in the same space is a lot to manage. But just like previous years, Monroeville Volunteer Fire Department #6 will be on site all day, working to make sure that everything is done safely.
“We could not do this show without them,” says Weinberg. “Having an indoor show with vehicles that are running on propane is a tricky situation, and the fire department makes it work.”
Each year, a portion of the event’s proceeds are donated to the Monroeville Volunteer Fire Department #6.
While you may be imagining taco and barbeque trucks taking up half of the room, that isn’t the case at Food Truck A Palooza. Weinberg makes sure to keep a wide variety of trucks at the festival, allowing no more than three trucks that serve the same type of food at the event.
“Everything from mediterranean to desserts to tacos to sandwiches to barbeque to juice to vegan–I think we’ve represented every food group possible on the show floor,” Weinberg says.
Each year, attendees vote on a “People’s Choice” award for the best truck. Past winners include South Side BBQ and The Coop Chicken and Waffles, who will both be returning for the festival this year.
Three years in to the business of running an indoor food truck festival, it seems that GoodTaste! has thought of everything. Last year they noticed people fumbling to juggle all of their food as they visited multiple trucks, so this year they’re providing trays. They know that people will have to wait in some lines for their food, so there will be in-line entertainment by a magician, a balloon sculpture and musicians. And there is beer and booze available for adult attendees to enjoy.
Other than the food and drink people can get from the trucks, there are 40 vendors they can visit, too. There’s a photo booth and face painters. And some of Bob FM and Q 92.9’s on-air personalities will be broadcasting from the convention center and interacting with the food truck fans.
In Weinberg’s words, “This is truly a festival.”