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Food truck fever

Orlando's mobile food scene sheds its training wheels

Photo: Photo by Jason Greene, License: N/A

Photo by Jason Greene

TheDailyCity.com Orlando Food Truck Bazaar

March 29, 7 p.m.-10 p.m.
Discovery Church
4400 S. Orange Ave.
Cash only for food.
Admission is free
Bring your own chairs, tables

They're a godsend for late-night eaters and midday lunchers, and they're a novelty for gourmands who like to slum it once 
in a while.

Most everyone has stopped off at a food truck for a taco here or a pork sandwich there, but food trucks aren't just about simple, greasy food anymore. The food-truck scene is catering to more cultivated tastes, and Orlandoans are finding that they now have options - serious options - when it comes to grabbing food on the run.

Korean barbecue? There's a truck for that. Locally sourced menu items? We have that too. Cupcakes? Not quite yet, but there's a truck in the works that'll be making its debut in less than a week. Trucks around the city are now serving ceviche, Brazilian burgers, Dominican chimichurri burgers, Jamaican jerk, vegan hot dogs and the list goes on.

Truck food is getting more creative. Gourmet even. It's the next horizon for chefs who want to break out of the brick-and-mortar box, and it's a cheaper avenue to small business ownership that looks attractive in a slow economy.

Since the beginning of the year, at least four new trucks have hit the road, and within the next two weeks, two more will set sail. Twitter and Facebook, where many of the mobile-food vendors promote their businesses 
to their clientele, make it easy for fans to find their favorites and keep up with location 
and menu.

Orlando, which has long been home to taco trucks parked around town, already had an established food-truck culture. Mark Baratelli, event producer and owner of culture blog thedailycity.com, was an early food-truck cheerleader, hosting intermittent Taco Truck Taste Tests beginning in 2009, in which he'd encourage his blog readers to patronize select local taco trucks at the 
same time.

"I got the feeling from talking to friends and other people that most people didn't even really know they [the taco trucks] were here in town," Baratelli says.

Now he's organizing the city's first Food Truck Bazaar, an event that will take place on March 29, gathering eight food trucks in one location in the city's SoDo neighborhood.

Food trucks are getting their due not just in Orlando but nationally as well. The Food Network has a show dedicated to them - The Great Food Truck Race - and big-time restaurateurs, such as Philadelphia's Stephen Starr, are throwing down for high-end food-vending mobiles. Miami holds regular food-truck events, like Street Food Fridays, where the city's trucks gather in one place in a bazaar-style setting - the concept is what gave Baratelli the idea to hold this event in Orlando.

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