Moms and dads dropped by for snacks before they went grocery shopping at the Publix. Groups of friends made a communal bench out of their cars’ open hatchbacks.
The gathering, which began around 5:30 p.m. and ended 4½ hours later, lacked permits, but the crowds loved it.
“If they shut us down, they shut us down,” said Garabedian, who used to organize food truck roundups at Biscayne Boulevard and 109th Street before complaints forced him and others to move.
Keysi Colina had driven down to the North Federal Highway location for dinner from North Miami after seeing an update on one of the many Facebook pages that track the trucks, which also have gathered at several events sponsored in part by The Miami Herald.
“It’s really good, especially for the price,” Colina, a culinary student at Johnson & Wales University in North Miami, said as she nibbled on an $8 Chinese chicken meal from Miso Hungry that came with vegetable fried rice and a cucumber. “I’m impressed with the attention to detail. I went to a Mexican truck once and was surprised to see glass bottles of Coke from Mexico.”
Food trucks have also come to Coconut Grove, where Ms. Cheezious serves lunch at the invitation of an ad agency that made its property available.
David Collins, who owns the Out of Africa arts store, said that if done right, the trucks could revitalize the Grove. But “if it gets out of hand I expect it to be shouted down by the restaurants,” says Collins, executive director of the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District.
Another increasingly popular roundup happens every second Saturday evening of the month during gallery art walks in Wynwood, where developer David Lombardi has started renting out spots in an empty lot he owns at 2234 NW Second Ave. Lombardi pays Miami for a permit and also foots the bill for a DJ, porta-potties and picnic tables. In turn, he charges food trucks a fee to park.
Gallery owners have complained about trucks generating noise and rowdiness, says Lombardi, but he blames that on trucks that park not in his lot but in other spots closer to the restaurants and galleries in the bourgeoning arts and nightlife district.
In the same vein, some downtown residents and developers are angry that trucks, some of which are affiliated with restaurants, show up at free downtown concerts and festivals, such as those near Bayfront Park. That undermines downtown restaurants, they say.
“The reason that there is such a proliferation of food trucks is that it is an extremely inexpensive way to get into the restaurant business. No impact or water sewer connection charges, no-build out costs, and no real estate taxes,” says Brad Knoefler, a community activist and developer in the Park West area of downtown Miami. That said, “there are areas like Wynwood and Park West/OMNI that have a shortage of restaurants.”
Some initially wary residents are coming around.
Louis Bordeau, the president of the Bayside Homeowners association, was at first against food trucks at the American Legion. But that was before he gave the food there a try.
“I think it’s a great thing,” he said. “I’ve met some really wonderful people there. The neighborhood comes alive.”
Jared Goyette is the editor of OpenMediaMiami, a community news partner of the Miami Herald that covers neighborhoods along the Biscayne Corridor at MiamiHerald.com/biscayne-corridor. He can be reached at email@example.com.