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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

Social media has fueled the food truck hype and is the way many truck proprietors, like Adams, are letting customers know of their whereabouts. Kogi BBQ in Los Angeles is credited as the truck that first used Twitter as a means of primary communication with customers in early 2009.

Adams towers over customers as he takes orders from the window of the Big Wheel step van. He swipes cards on his credit card reader-equipped iPad as Lovero mans the kitchen. Lovero's concentration is apparent as he cooks and swiftly assembles orders such as the cured, dry-aged charcuterie platter (with local pork lomo Spanish-style with pimenton, bresaola flanco, duck breast prosciutto, local mangalitsa lardo toast, mustard and bread). There's also a foie gras parfait on artisan toast, tempura-fried local spring onions with romesco, Dick's fried pickles with charmoula, among other savory items served in little black boxes. People gather around ironing boards, set up as impromptu high-tops, so they can set their food down and chat. In keeping with the Big Wheel philosophy, the menu changes according to the availability of local ingredients.

Maritza Flores, owner of Pupuseria Flores, a food truck near West Colonial Drive and Ninth Street in Winter Garden, serves only pupusas from the truck she launched with her husband, Jose, in May 2010. They realized that pupusas - a Salvadorean specialty in which corn-flour tortilla dough is stuffed with seasoned pork, refried beans and cheese, then cooked on a griddle and served with pickled cabbage and spicy tomato sauce - were tough to find in Orlando. Flores' mother had made pupusas for a dinner party one evening, and the guests loved them.

"Next thing you know my friend knows a guy who was selling his catering truck," Flores says. "One thing led to another and here we are a year later selling our stuffed tortillas out of our catering truck."

She's thrilled that others are joining the menagerie. "My husband is a real estate broker, I'm a realtor and we work together during the day doing real estate, and at nights and on the weekends we do this for fun," she says. "People love it. They love our food. It's a nice environment. It's fun."

The fun is not without its challenges. Finding a coveted parking spot in which to peddle your wares can be a chore, for instance. Saelg had a hard time securing his spot on the heavily traveled Colonialtown corridor because he says property managers think it's a liability to host a truck, despite the fact that he has all the required insurance policies and licenses. Perhaps they don't know that local food trucks, depending on the type of operation, are subject to inspections similar to a regular restaurant, with all the same requirements in regard to sanitary food preparation, handling and storage. "It's the same process as going through and getting a restaurant license," Adams says.

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