Can We Cook Already?

This is a guest post written by Sharon Shi, an Innovations Associate at SMGx who also enjoys and loves trying new foods. 

NYC gets to do it. LA gets to do it. Heck, even trucks in Evanston get to do it! What am I talking about? Cooking on food trucks of course! Why is it that food trucks in Chicago still can’t cook on board? Trucks can’t event dispense a cup of coffee or let their customers squirt their own condiments on their food. It’s time for a change!

Legal in Evanston, Hummingbird Kitchen is cooking away. Photo courtesy of ChicagoMag.com.

But have we really thought about the reasons why we want this change? Do food truck owners really want to cook on their trucks? Will they want to invest more in their trucks and assure their trucks meet regulations? They would have to add cooking equipment, propane tanks, sinks, and more to transform their truck into a suitable kitchen. Is that what consumers wants?

I believe the answer is yes! Imagine watching your food get cooked right in front of you rather than just watching it get taken out of a warming device. It would be like you’re sitting at the chef’s table in a restaurant but instead, they’re getting front row seats from a food truck. It’s an experience this hungry city of foodies is looking for. Customers will be coming from blocks away when they smell the deliciousness coming out of trucks. Although some restaurants may still feel food trucks are taking away from their business, Chicagoans from all over will enjoy inhaling the freshest ingredients as their hustling and bustling to their next destinations. And maybe it’ll up the game for restaurants and make them think more creatively about the way they market their business.

In addition, if food trucks were allowed to cook on board, customers would be getting their food hot off the grill. Food trucks owners would need to be careful when the weather gets warmer though to assure hot sweat isn’t dripping into the food, but thankfully they have a couple seasons before then. If they do legalize cooking on trucks soon, it’s another way for us to keep warm in the winter.

Matt Maroni, a Chicago food truck owner, started the movement a while ago, asking the city council to legalize cooking on food trucks. Matt and the Chicago food truck family started a petition on Change.org asking the Chicago City Council to legalize cooking onboard the trucks. Please join this revolution and sign the petition here. Hopefully together we can voice a change and finally have our food trucks cooking onboard like many other cities in America.

Until then, continue dining out with the food trucks! Who knows, maybe the trucks will start migrating north to Evanston for the winter and cooking on those trucks.

Connect with Sharon on Twitter @Shartron or to hear more about her adventures and read her blog at www.shartron.blogspot.com.

Where’s the Bustaurants?

This is a guest post written by Sharon Shi, an Innovations Associate at SMGxwho also enjoys and loves trying new foods. 

The World Fare truck, courtesy of flickr user McAllister Jimbo.

You may have just asked yourself, what’s a bustaurant? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a restaurant on a bus. Bustaurants are usually double-decker busses where the lower portion of the bus houses the kitchen and the top portion of the bus is where customers are seated and served. They differ from our usual food truck. At a food truck, customers order at the counter and walk away skipping with their new delicious meals. On bustaurants, customers run to the top of the bus, grab their seats, and enjoy their meal with a view of wherever they may be.

From what I’ve read, the first bustaurant in the US, World Fare, was born in March 2009 in Los Angeles, CA. Looking at their menu the food looks delicious with entrees such as Short Rib Bunny (Worcestershire braised short rib, Horseradish Crème Fraiche) and Shrimp Lettuce Cups (buttermilk dredged rock shrimp, Boston bib lettuce cups, houses made remoulade). Certainly quite the fine dining and food you’d expect in a restaurant and not necessarily on a food truck, or bus for that matter.

The bustaurant trend continued in California with one more popping up in San Francisco the same year called Diamond Lil. The Diamond Lil also served amazing sounding food including the Cuban “pig box,” veggie paella, and herring but seems to have taken customers on trips to places such as Napa. Imagine eating dinner on a bus in the Napa wineries. Sounds romantinc…anyway, so do these 2 busses still exist? The World Fare website and twitter account haven’t been updated in over a year and I couldn’t find any updated news on the Diamond Lil. Were their existances short lived and are there any other bustaurants out there doing well? Will the bustaurants be the next food truck?

Well it may be awhile before they make it to Chicago as we continue to wait to hear if food trucks will be allowed to cook on board. Just wait until they do and you start smelling their scent from miles away. I can smell the grilling now. But if bustaurants were allowed in Chicago, who would you like to see be the first?

Connect with Sharon on Twitter @Shartron or to hear more about her adventures and read her blog at www.shartron.blogspot.com.

Yinz Try Any Food Trucks in Pittsburgh?

This is a guest post written by Sharon Shi, an Innovations Associate at SMGx who also enjoys and loves trying new foods.

With over 35 food trucks, the food truck revolution in Chicago is booming and continues to grow, but what about other cities in the US? In about a month I’ll be heading back to my alma mater in Pittsburgh, PA (GO STEELERS!) for homecoming and thought I’d do some digging of what food trucks I could check out in the process.

The food truck revolution isn’t nearly as big in Pittsburgh as it is in Chicago but the trucks that do exist definitely seem to be a hit. As I’m digging through trade articles, blog, and reviews, the food truck I’ve read most about is the Franktuary Truck which serves gourmet hot dogs, check out their menu here, everything sounds DELICIOUS! Makes me want to run out to Portillo’s to grab a dog.

The Steel City Sandwich Truck. Image courtesy of Flickr user Guzzle & Nosh.

Another truck I’ve read a lot about and heard friends in the Pittsburgh area talk about is Sree’s Indian truck. Although I can’t seem to locate a Twitter account or Facebook page for the truck, it apparently parks at the same consistent location. Sree’s truck is usually parked at Carnegie Mellon during the weekday from 11am-3pm. Exact location? Not sure. I suppose it may have to be a scavenger hunt!

Speaking of scavenger hunt, find the dessert trucks Dozen Bake Shop and the Goodie Truck to get your sweet fixes! Doze Bake Shop is a cupcake truck that serves gourmet treats. Drool. The Goodie Truck is a mobile bake shop that serves home made ice cream sandwiches during the summer. Imagine that, ice cream sandwiches to order, sign me up! Too bad summer is no longer here…

But what I wish was here in Chicago is the Steel City Sandwich Truck, which apparently brings Pittsburgh food to Los Angeles, CA. Although this truck isn’t in Pittsburgh, it’s brought the famous Pittsburgh sandwich to another city (similar to how Bergstein’s NY Deli brings New York deli-style food to us in Chicago). If you’ve never spent time in Pittsburgh, you probably don’t know of the greatest sandwich shop ever, Primanti Brothers. These sandwiches are just your ordinary sandwiches but are served with cole slaw and French fries in the sandwich. Imagine that, heaven isn’t it? The Steel City Sandwich truck lives in Los Angeles and shares the Pittsburgh food culture of the sandwich and pierogies, which are polish dumplings stuffed with mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese sautéed with caramelized onions.

Most if not all of the food trucks seem to swarm around the campuses of University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon. It’s a great stop for students running in between classes and something that fits in their tight college wallets. Although my sister is a student at Pitt, she lives off campus and can’t recall if she’s seen them as of late. That’s too bad. I’ll certainly be forcing her to a food truck when I visit.

Am I missing any food trucks? Or have you tried one of the Pittsburgh food trucks? Please share your stories and experiences!

Connect with Sharon on Twitter @Shartron or to hear more about her adventures, read her blog atwww.shartron.blogspot.com.

Using a Food Truck for a Sales Pitch or Meeting

This is a guest post written by Sharon Shi, an Innovations Associate at SMGx who also enjoys and loves trying new foods.

Working at a media agency, schedules get packed quickly and sometimes it’s hard for a salesperson to get on peoples’ calendars. Guilty as charged, I’ll push vendor meetings to when my schedule and workload aren’t as hectic but, from a salesperson’s perspective, they may see it as you just swatting them away. Sometimes just to get a bit of your time they’ll offer to take you to lunch/dinner, get your nails done, plan a happy hour, etc. versus scheduling time on your calendar for a meeting in a conference room.

Instead of meeting in a board room, consider hiring a food truck to impress and lure your prospective clients

Last Wednesday as I was running out of my building and to another meeting at noon, I noticed the Gaztro-Wagon food truck right outside of my building, the Leo Burnett building located at 35 West Wacker. My automatic reaction was, “OMG, FOOD TRUCK!” As a food truck lover, I’ve only had a fair share of experiences with them and the Gaztro-Wagon was one still on my list of trucks to flag down. I then noticed that it wasn’t just the usual food truck stop but that there was a sales person standing in front with a standing banner for the digital marketing solutions company, Tribal Fusion. Then I saw the small chalk board right in front with a list of Gaztro-Wagon’s specials for the day.

I was torn. Already running late for a meeting, I just didn’t have the time to stop, chat, and grab a lunch. But it was a food truck! They just capture my heart and my immediate response is DROP EVERYTHING! I stood there for a moment taking glances of the food truck and then at the building I needed to get to and just kept turning my head and looking back and forth. Sadly, I made the decision to jet to my meeting and not go to the truck. But as I was shuffling away I thought, what a BRILLIANT idea that salesperson had!

I don’t know the exact details since I was unable to stop to chat but this is what I can assume: Salespeople are always looking for different and creative ways to get on people’s calendars. Instead of the usual bring lunch in for a client, the vendor was creative, hired a food truck and waited outside. As this is a popular lunch period, he used this time to catch people while they were out, lure them to the food truck just to get their time to do his sales pitch. Overall, I thought it was a pretty clever idea. Don’t you think so? If only I had enough time the concept would’ve worked and he would’ve gotten my time.

Connect with Sharon on Twitter @Shartron or to hear more about her adventures, read her blog at www.shartron.blogspot.com.

Culture Truck Acts as a Chill Partner for Downtown Dash

This is a guest post written by Sharon Shi, an Innovations Associate at SMGx who also enjoys and loves trying new foods.

This past Saturday, my team Congenial Piglets participated in the ING Direct sponsored event, Downtown Dash (@DTDash). Downtown Dash isn’t just your usual city scavenger hunt, but it was a scavenger hunt focused all on social media (i.e. Twitter, FourSquare, Facebook). On the day of the event, teams of 2 were given clues that shot them off to different parts of the city to complete different challenges. In order to receive credit for completing the challenges, teams had to check-in on FourSquare at the location, tweet their check-in, and then tweet a picture of the team at the location, all using the #dtdash hashtag.

Before all that craziness even occurred, Downtown Dash had a Social Engagement Challenge (SEC) where teams competed between August 10 – September 8 to be the most socially influential team of the dash. The winner was based on how many SEC were completed and the amount of traffic teams drove to their profiles. The Congenial Piglets completed all 7 challenges but lacked in page views compared to our competitors but there’s always next year! The SEC included,

1. Checking-in at the ING Cafe and leaving a tip
2. Signing up for Equinox 3-day challenge and checking-in
3. Finding a cafe that serves Metropolis Coffee, check-in, and take a picture with a bag of the coffee
4. Going to the Green City Farmer’s Market and find a prepared food item that uses at least 3 ingredients from the farmer’s market, take a picture, and tweet it on Twitter
5. Create a video describing “The Event of Your Dreams,” post it on YouTube, and tweet on Twitter
6. Check-in at Dawali Mediterranean Kitchen and take a picture and tweet it on Twitter
7. And of course, follow froyo (frozen yogurt) food truck @Culture, check-in at its location, tweet a picture on Twitter

That’s right, your very own Chicago froyo food truck was a challenge and a sponsor of the event!  On 2 given days, you had to find the Culture Truck (easily done by following them on Twitter @Culture), check-in at its location on FourSquare, share the check-in on Twitter with the hashtag #DTDash, and tweet a photo in front of the truck. The best part of the challenge was the free froyo! With such a busy schedule, I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to complete the challenge. Luckily, I followed the trucks on Twitter last Wednesday morning and saw they were parked right near my work on State/Lake but we’re only going to be there until 11am or so. I had meetings until 11am, could I still make it? Not letting go of the thought I could still catch the truck, as soon as my meeting was over, a little after 11am, I tweeted the truck and told them I WAS COMING and NOT TO LEAVE! Perhaps a little more dramatic than anticipated. So I scurried down from the 32nd floor of my building and ran to the truck and caught them just as they were ready to scooch along to their next stop. CHALLENGE COMPLETED!

I’m sure not all participants were as frantic as I was. I spoke to the Culture truck recently and they said “it worked out really nicely for us and the participants.” In addition it was great PR for them as everyone tweeted their location and how much they were enjoying their “complimentary cups of the greatest frozen yogurt on the planet.” They also loved seeing everyone’s pictures with the truck and yogurt.

Unfortunately I didn’t see the Culture truck out on the actual day of the event but was still hoping to win their prize which included a private frozen yogurt party for the winner and 10 of their friends. I. was. jealous. Luckily I did win some other fabulous prizes including ticket to the Chicago Fire game on 9/25, gift card to Market, and an hour personal training session with Sko-Fit (@skofit). I’d say I made out pretty well. Until next year!

Connect with Sharon on Twitter @Shartron or to here more about her adventures with Downtown Dash, read her blog at www.shartron.blogspot.com