Friday, April 15, 2011

Cleveland's First C-Town Chow Down

It can be argued who started the food truck craze in Cleveland. Of course, the Seti's Polish Boys truck has graced the exterior of Dean Supply on East 30th Street for quite some time. But it wasn't until about a year ago when then co-owners, Chris Hodgson and Jeremy Esterly, started the buzz and eventually opened the very popular Dim and Den Sum that the food truck craze officially became "on." A lot has happened in a year's time.

Today's gathering of food trucks on Lincoln Park in Tremont represented the first time that so many different styles of food had converged at a single location. The good folks from the Jibaro World Food truck suggested the gathering and fortunately, this event appears like it will be monthly, especially given how popular the food truck idea has become. Starting at 11:00 am on Sunday, March 27th, eight of the area's prominent trucks lined West 11th Street and began serving up food to the crowd. By the time I got there, around 12:30 pm, what I encountered truly qualified as masses of people. Even with the temperature hovering around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it didn't stop at least a thousand cold and hungry people from showing up.

Here was a shot of the crowd from the northern end of the park:

Massive Crowds, Angle 1
And here was a shot from the southern end:

Massive Crowds, Angle 2
Before getting in any one particular line (because trust me, with the crowds today, you had to pick just one), I decided to walk down the line and take a picture of each truck participating in the first C-Town Chow Down:

Oh! Babycakes TrailerBabycakes

After walking the gauntlet, I decided on trying out StrEat Mobile Bistro, in part because good friend and former owner of Market Gourmet @ Montrose Jeff Winer was now on board, and partly because fellow foodie Stuart Spivack was waiting in line and had texted me to get my attention. Between the time I joined him in line and the time we made it to the front was probably a good thirty to forty minutes. I was concerned as we approached today's menu that we would get to the front and find that they were all out of food.

Fortunately, they still had some items left:

StrEat Mobile Bistro's Menu
After placing and paying for our orders, we simply had to wait just a few minutes before we could finally collect our food. Miraculously, we found a small table in the park where we could sit for a few minutes and eat.

Here was a shot of Stuart's Asian Ginger Turkey Sandwich:

Asian Ginger Turkey Sandwich
And we each ordered some of the waffle fries:

Spiced Waffle Fries
While these pretty much felt like a fried-from-frozen product, the fry job on them was actually pretty good. Since StrEat had been moving through so much product, pretty much anything out of the fryer was hot and fresh. These particular waffle fries had a bit of a spicy kick to them, probably from a bit of cayenne in their seasoning. On a frigid day, these were a nice way to warm up inside.

While Stuart went for the sandwich, I went for the Buffalo Macaroni and Cheese:

Buffalo Macaroni and Cheese with Chicken
Studded with tender white meat chicken, buffalo sauce, and various vegetables, the macaroni and cheese was a modest success. The flavor was good, but as one could imaging, holding cooked pasta for a long time before serving it led to it being slightly mushy. Nothing terrible, mind you, and given the number of people each of these food trucks fed today, actually quite remarkable. That being said, were I served this at a "normal" food truck visit (where there weren't 990 other people competing to be served), I might have been a bit less forgiving.

Our main meal now finished, Stuart and I thought about packing it in, but decided to give the Traveling Treats by Cakes Plus food truck a try in order to finish our meal with something a little sweet. Stuart decided on a simple brownie pop (if I remember correctly), but I decided to get two of their brownies to go for later-in-the-day consumption.

First up was the Raspberry Chambord Brownie:

Raspberry Chambord Brownie from Cakes Plus
And second was the Triple Chocolate Brownie:

Triple Chocolate Brownie from Cakes Plus
Both were immensely dense and almost fudge-like. Both had great flavor. However, both were a bit too sweet and the texture had an almost crystallized sugar-like grain to them. I liked that they contained chocolate chips, as this contrasted nicely with the smoothness of the brownie batter. On the whole these were okay, but I didn't find myself clamoring for more.

All in all, a very successful trip up to Cleveland to experience some of the latest food truck offerings. While the event officially ended at 3:00 PM, by the time Stuart and I were standing in line waiting for our dessert, most of the trucks had already run out of food. The second C-Town Chow Down is this coming Sunday, April 17th in Lincoln Park from 11 am until 3 pm. Since the weather is supposedly going to be much nicer this time around, I am expecting that the number of people could easily double from last time. My advice to you, gentle reader, is to get there early, early, EARLY! Better yet, go with friends, and then you can each stand in a different line so that you can experience a variety of foods.

I have to admit that I find the allure of the food trucks to be compelling and they definitely add a coolness to Cleveland's already cool dining scene. I encourage you to head out to Lincoln Park on Sunday and discover a bit of this cool all on your own. Perhaps I'll even see you there.


Bite Buff said...

It was a great idea and fun event, but with some logistical issues. It will be interesting to see what "improvements" they've made this time around.

Looking forward to another Chow Down!

Tino said...

@Bite Buff: Couldn't agree with you more. I honestly don't think they were expecting the turnout that they got given that it was a cold day and it was the first time.

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