Over the last decade, the food truck industry has taken the country by storm. According to Food Beast, roughly three million gourmet food trucks operate in the United States today. The 2012 launch of Jax Truckies brought that storm to Jacksonville as a part of an effort to promote small business growth and to encourage the City of Jacksonville to embrace the popular, rapidly growing industry.
The gourmet trend is popular with customers partly because many people have cut down on fine food dining when they go out as a result of the economic downturn in the United States. Gourmet food trucks allow them to spend the same as an average lunch costs and enjoy the gourmet style foods they love.
Food trucks have also become popular in cities across the country for their ability to help revitalize downtowns, neighborhoods and commercial districts plagued with high vacancy rates. Three reasons for this are economic vitality, creation of pedestrian friendly streets, and an easy entry into entrepreneurship.
1. Economic vitality. The experience in other cities shows that food vendors attract foot traffic to commercial districts, which means increased sales and a more vibrant retail business overall. By offering low-cost, culturally diverse foods for people on-the-go, they typically complement- rather than compete -with sit-down restaurants and give people more reasons to frequent local shopping districts.
2. Festive, pedestrian-friendly streets. Food vendors bring positive activity to the street and add a festive, people-oriented feel that improves public safety. In many cities, food vendors provide a window into many diverse cultures, introducing people to new foods and to the pleasures of spending time in the public space of the city.
3. An entry point to owning your own business. Food vending can be an ideal first business. For a modest investment, it helps an entrepreneur develop a track record and build loyal clientele. For many immigrant and refugee communities, food vending offers a point of entry to the economy and a way to learn the food service industry.</i>
Now this industry, which many public officials and established political lobbying groups have worked behind closed doors to limit, is physically changing our urban landscape, creating non-subsidized jobs, enhancing our tax base, establishing Jacksonville’s identity as a “foodie mecca,” and revitalizing neighborhoods as trucks morph into new brick & mortar restaurants.
Here is a list of new brick and mortar restaurants in Jacksonville that have grown out of successful food trucks.
Pele’s Wood Fire
Pele’s is a modern Italian-American restaurant that anchors a high profile corner in Riverside’s Park & King District. The cuisine travels from the shores of Kauai, Hawaii to New Jersey from an Italian’s perspective. According to their website, they embrace their Italian-American heritage from the ’40s and ’50s and infuse it with the fresh look of today’s food. Additionally, local artisans contribute to their menu whenever possible while the culinary team strives to be organic and sustainable throughout the food preparation process. Many may not realize, but Pele’s was one of the first restaurants to open in recent years after it initially gained popularity as a mobile vendor.
Address: 2665 Park Street, Jacksonville, FL 32204
Phone (904) 232-8545
Monroe’s Smokehouse Beach Blvd
Monroe’s Smokehouse isn’t just a restaurant. Monroe’s represents family, tradition, and good old Southern hospitality! Owner Keith Waller opened his first Monroe’s on the Westside at 4838 Highway Avenue seven years ago. In 2011, he launched Monroe’s-On-The-Go to expand his brand to downtown and the Southside. The success of this mobile venue led to the November 2012 opening of Monroe’s Smokehouse Beach Blvd.
Address: 10771 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville, Florida 32246
Phone: (904) 996-7900
Brothers Jeff and John Stanford utilized the popularity of their The Salty Fig food truck to launch two restaurants since December 2012. The Blind Fig, the first, is a Southern gastropub offering an eclectic ambiance in a polished, casual setting with great food and a big city bar promoting the best local ingredients in Riverside’s Park & King District.
Address: 901 King Street
The Blind Rabbit - A Burger & Whiskey Bar
In October 2013, the Sanford brothers opened their second restaurant, The Blind Rabbit, in Jacksonville Beach. The Blind Rabbit is a burger and whiskey bar with a full service restaurant that specializes in handcrafted burgers and whiskey cocktails.
Address: 311 North 3rd Street Suite 107, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250
In 2011, Chris Dickerson opened Corner Taco in a retrofitted 1965 Airstream Globetrotter. In February 2014, Dickerson’s business evolved from a food truck into a brick and mortar restaurant in Five Points, featuring semi-swanky street food.
Address: 818 Post Street, Jacksonville, Florida 32204
Phone: (904) 240-0412
El Palermo Restaurant/Cubarico Cafe
El Palermo Restaurant is a small Puerto Rican family owned restaurant in Orange Park, serving authentic Puerto Rican cuisine. El Palermo originally opened in 1987 but has since closed. In recent years, the original owner’s son launched the Cubarico Café food truck, utilizing its popularity to reopen El Palermo in the original location.
Address: 2177 Kingsley Avenue, Orange Park, FL 32073
If things go according to plan, downtown’s latest restaurant could morph from the popularity of a local food truck. Dale Stoudt, a co-owner of Super Food Truck has signed a letter of intent to occupy a 2,595-square-foot retail space on the ground floor of the 11 East Forsyth apartment tower. According to Stoudt, “the truck gave us the ability to develop the brand.” In a Jacksonville Business Journal interview with Ashley Gurbai Kritzer, Stoudt, who co-owns the business with Richie Haugk, stated that daily lunch service from the truck will cease when the brick and mortar restaurant opens.
Phone: (610) 207-5993
The Happy Grilled Cheese
Established in 2012, The Happy Grilled Cheese is Jacksonville’s original gourmet grilled cheese food truck. The Happy Grilled Cheese was the recent recipient of the People’s Choice Award at the 3rd Annual Jax Truckies Food Truck Championship. Owner Anthony Hashem is now negotiating to open a brick and mortar restaurant on Park Street in the heart of Riverside’s Five Points district.
Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at email@example.com