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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

"A lot of these people are thinking that we're not regulated, but if anything we're probably more heavily regulated than some of these restaurants," says Rob Nelson of Red Eye BBQ, a truck and catering company owned by his family, which got its start as a barbecue team last August. Red Eye can be found at the Dr. Phillips Farmers Market on Saturdays and at local events - it was parked at Orlando Harley Davidson for bike week recently, and on St. Patrick's Day it could be found outside World of Beer in Dr. Phillips.

A glimpse inside the Red Eye truck shows that the proprietors tend to take their mobile foodcraft as seriously as any other restaurateur: Red Eye's kitchen may be the most well-endowed food-truck kitchen in Orlando. It has a full commercial kitchen with a 50-pound fryer, 24-inch griddle, a six-burner stove and oven, a cookstack smoker and a nine-foot hood for ventilation. Crooked Spoon sports similar specs, with all-new appliances.

The reason Saelg decided to go all out is simple: "I don't want to limit myself about what I can do with the menu," he says. "I want to keep evolving my menu as time progresses. I am a chef, I like creating, I want as much stuff on the trailer as possible. Different foods require different cooking techniques, which require different equipment."

Big Wheel's truck will also promote kitchen envy. It came with a six-burner stove, griddle and fryer, but what Adams really fell in love with was the large window that gives the truck the feeling of an open-air kitchen.

The Food Truck Bazaar promises to be a sort of primer for the uninitiated and a bonanza for foodies already into the mobile-food scene. The positive feedback from all involved has Baratelli energized. "Finding a venue, I thought, was going to be very difficult, but everyone I asked said yes," he says. "This is going to be a reoccurring thing."

It's the general consensus of owners that when it comes to food trucks, the more the merrier. Increasing the number of trucks means they can create more of a draw for their customers, especially if they're gathered together. An informal count of food trucks around the city puts the number operating in and around Orlando at 27. As of press time, the city of Orlando had not called back with its official tally of permitted trucks.

With all the newbies in town, Julia Enamorado's Taco Company (also known as the Taco Truck or the Taco Lady) stands out for its longevity. She's been making traditional Mexican tacos, quesadillas, tortas and huaraches for almost four years and selling them from her truck parked in Ocoee. Her advice to newcomers: Ask people how they like it and adjust accordingly. Also, it doesn't hurt to provide a free sample to hook customers.

"For me, it's a cool business. It's not like I'm making a lot of money because I'm going to lie to you if I say that," she says. "In this economy, my business is stable. I keep making the good food and try to get 
more customers."

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