“Everybody makes fun of me at work because I get excited on Wednesday when it’s food truck day,” said Frank, who has been frequenting the food trucks ever since he found out they visit at lunchtime once a week. “It brings more variety and I can try something that I’m not able to get in the office complex where I work every day.”
In fact, Frank, a resident of Old Bridge who works for Hartz in Secaucus, has begun rounding up coworkers and bringing them with him to taste the varied cuisines served up at the trucks.
“I like to eat,” he said, laughing. “And these aren’t my dad’s food trucks where you go and get a cup of coffee and a buttered roll. These are specialty food trucks. This is my fourth week trying different stuff. Everybody asks if it’s going to end when the summer ends. I honestly don’t know how long it’s going to go but I’ll keep coming every Wednesday until there’s no more food trucks here.”
Earlier this summer, the mobile food options first rolled into town at 275 Hartz Way before relocating to Windsor Drive, behind Kane Stadium, beginning Aug. 13.
On their first day in the new location, lines of customers formed at three trucks, despite gray skies threatening imminent rain.
“Last time I got from the French Quarter [food truck],” said Secaucus resident Denise Franklyn, who stopped by for an early lunch. “They’re not here today. It was so good. I love food trucks.”
This week Franklyn brought along her coworker, Jesscenia Cruz. Was it hard to convince Cruz to tag along despite the foreboding weather? “There’s no arm-twisting here. I’m a foodie. I love food,” said Cruz.
Different trucks rotate each week, featuring regional cuisines, pastries, and desserts. A farmer’s market is scheduled to provide fresh organic produce.
Secaucus resident Robbie Smith read about the food truck court in the paper and came down to check it out. “I work all the way on County Avenue, by the Animal Hospital,” he said. Smith welcomed the different food options. “I always get Chinese food, or lunch from home, or Blimpie. There’s only so many choices in an hour.”
“I got an emu burger last week. It was good. Really good.” --Sarah Phemsint
The “other truck” would be Dark Side of the Moo, a vendor selling standard burgers and barbecue as well as exotic variations like bison, kangaroo, elk, wild boar, and alligator sausage.
Manning the Dark Side of the Moo truck was Nathaniel Rodriguez, a resident of West New York who spent the late morning feverishly chopping vegetables.
“This is my first day working here,” he said. “My friend works on a different food truck but he got me the job here because he knows the owner.”
A computer science major at Ramapo College, Rodriguez said, “I’ve always liked food. I like to cook. I wouldn’t mind being a chef.”
“I tried an emu burger last week,” said local resident Sarah Phemsint. “It was good. Really good. I’m adventurous.” How about her 3-year-old son Gavin? “He got a hot dog.”
Today, though, Gavin had a different plan. “Apple!” he said, waiting for his specialty empanada. “I like apple.”
The weekly event was arranged by Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli in conjunction with the New Jersey Food Truck Association (NJFTA), after the food truck court at Winter Blast proved successful.
NJFTA President Jon Hepner, who also owns Aroy-D, The Thai Elephant Truck – a frequent visitor to the Secaucus food truck court – coordinates with the individual truck owners to place them at events throughout the region.
“We have nothing but the support of the mayor and the town, so that helps so much, having a community behind us,” said Bart Yanofsky, franchise owner of The Empanada Guy truck three.
While The Empanada Guy has been around for six years, Yanofsky, a former chef “in a previous life” is new to the food truck business. “I know this is going to be fun but it’s a lot of work,” he said. “People misunderstand if they think it’s all going to be gravy. It’s a lot of hours. It’s a lot of work. It’s the prep, it’s the stocking, it’s the cleaning, it’s everything. But I like it. I’m glad I made the decision I made.”
Jersey City resident Rom Gaddi first hit the road with his rolling restaurant Incrediballs 14 months ago, after two years of preparation. They have a rotating menu of about 80 different meatballs. With his not-so-silent partner, Lou Pedrick, he handed out samples of their wares to passersby, including the delectable spicy pork Banh Mi, a popular favorite.
“This is great for the community,” said Gaddi. “It makes dining fun.”
Laurie Valente showed up very pregnant and buying food for a whole clan. “My husband will be home for lunch, and my grandfather and my mother and my 2-year-old daughter, and us,” she said, patting her stomach. “This baby loves it.”
A teacher in Secaucus for 12 years, she ordered two cheese and seven chicken empanadas after chatting with her babysitter, who was also buying takeaway.
“We know everybody in town,” Valente explained. “It happens when you’re a teacher.”
“Is she seeing anybody?” asked Empanada Guy server Matt Dolan about the babysitter.
“She’s not,” Valente replied. “But she’s leaving on Saturday for an internship in Disney.”
“Well, let her know the empanada guy was asking about her,” Dolan said, adding, “I like Florida.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.