It was about 4 p.m. on a sweltering afternoon Saturday at the Independence Center. At the Food Truck Festival, local foodies Michelle Everley and Colleen Bayne had been in line in front of the Plantain District for close to half an hour.
“And we’re only a little closer to the truck,” Everley said.
But closer is closer.
The pair were in the longest line at the food truck festival. Of the four vendors there, Plantain District consistently had the most people cued up.
“We had just done Boulevardia the weekend before,” owner Rachel Kennedy said. “I think we were hit harder with the Independence festival.”
Kennedy was inside the truck Saturday afternoon with the two trained culinary chefs making Cuban sandwiches, a savory ham-and-pork panini, and barbecue slider sandwiches. Add one more go-between staffer filling in for the chefs and Kennedy taking orders and you have the bare bones, four-man crew that carried the Plantain District for the entire afternoon.
Even with several resupply runs, about 225 Cuban sandwiches and approximately 300 people later the Plantain District truck was sold entirely out of food just before 5 p.m.
Deco Street Eats was replete by 7:30 p.m. after four resupply runs during nearly eight hours of action.
In a setting like that, “everybody knows what their task is,” Jen Stoppel, owner of the comfort food caterer, said. “It’s much like an assembly line.”
Stoppel said a setting like that is not only intimate because of the close quarters of the kitchen, but because the customers are right there feeling the heat, watching their food come together piece by piece and shooting whatever welcome breeze there is with the patrons right there.
“We’re feeding off one another’s energy,” Stoppel said.
More than 1,000 people attended Saturday’s food truck jamboree.
“We've heard so many good things about food trucks in general, and after Saturday, we've found that these chefs' culinary skills are nothing short of innovative — taking regular dishes and turning them into something you've never quite tasted before,” Jessica Kinsey, a mall spokesperson, wrote in an email. “Definitely worth waiting in line for.”
The Plantain District and Deco Street Eats were two of a handful of food trucks that the Independence Center hosted on Saturday. Other trucks included the mobile culinary workshops of Salty Iguana, Tex-Mex outfit American Fusion, Sweet Tooth’s Cupcake Cruiser and the Yummylicious Cookie Company.
Sebella’s Fire also cooked wood fired pizza at the event.
Why the sudden local interest in food trucks?
“For the simple fact that it’s something different,” Kennedy said. “We have two trained culinary chefs on our truck. For our truck, there’s a lot of time and quality put in to it.”
“Even the black beans, they don’t come out of the can.”
Stoppel said there’s a broader movement that’s making its way in to the local culinary scene, “a nationwide (cultural) event that Kansas City is embracing.”
Kennedy added that there’s a certain appeal to having a stripped down, seat-less experience that’s welcome for hungry people on the move.
“It’s one thing to go eat at a restaurant,” she said. “But for people that are coming in from work, they have to get it fast. With a food truck, you get in line, get your food and get back to your desk in no time.”
Well, unless you’re at Independence’s first food truck festival.
In spite of being a half hour in to their wait, Everley and Bayne spoke lovingly of food trucks, cited their favorites in downtown Kansas City and called for more food trucks closer to Independence.