There’s a certain cool factor associated with food trucks. It’s almost like venturing out to find that best-meal-ever hole-in-the-wall spot — the one you would usually be hesitant to try but once you do, you’re SO glad you did. Only with food trucks, there’s an added element of mystique because it’s so good, you can’t help but ask, “was this really made…in a truck?”
If you’ve ever tried food truck cuisine, you’re not alone. According to a recent article in Inc. Magazine, food trucks are the fastest-growing channel in the foodservice industry today. They started to hit the mainstream back in 2012 and at that time it was a $650 million industry. Fast forward to 2017 and food trucks were hailed as a $2.7 billion industry.
Savannah’s food truck scene caught on a few years later, around 2014, and according to Ryan Giannoni, president of the Savannah Food Truck Association, when they stamped their initial request with the city they had only one food truck. “A lot of people look at it like a negative that we didn’t have food trucks for so long,” stated Giannoni, “but I feel very blessed because we were able to step back and see what other cities were doing – what worked, what didn’t – and then bring the best-of-the-best ideas back to Savannah.” And boy did that formula work! The first official organized food truck event by the Association was in April 2015 and included just two trucks — Savannah’s single food truck, along with one more brought in from nearby Bluffton, South Carolina. By contrast, more than 65 trucks applied for this years fifth annual Food Truck Festival, and 25-30 trucks will be selected to attend. “It’s been growing steadily ever since we started,” said Giannnoni, “Savannah’s a foodie town and they make it convenient and easy.”
Prior to the formation of the Savannah Food Truck Association, Giannoni realized that zoning restrictions played a large part in inhibiting the industry’s growth in the city. Once the city granted their request, getting a mobile food unit permit became legal, and more food trucks and food truck developers flocked to Savannah. While owning a food truck can have a lower start-up cost compared to a brick-and-mortar restaurant, in a city like Savannah, where amazing food is paramount, you better believe these trucks put pedal to the metal when it comes to serving up delicious mobile fare.
The Big Cheese food truck is a must-try for those who fawn over fromage. Memories of mom’s grilled cheese and canned tomato soup can still make you warm inside, but The Big Cheese is taking that nostalgia to the next level. “Currently we have 23 sandwiches that we cook (and adding all the time based on customer suggestions) and we select roughly six of those recipes for special events, chosen to fit the customer base,” explained Jan McKinney, owner of The Big Cheese. After spending much of her career in customer service, McKinney suffered a stroke in 2016, which proved to be a time to recover and reevaluate her life. She’d always thought a food truck would be fun and, apparently, her husband agreed because he purchased an old FedEx truck and spent nine months building it out while McKinney perfected her recipes.
In March of 2017, she attended her first event and she’s been serving up her brand of comfort food ever since. One of the more interesting grilled cheese concoctions served by The Big Cheese is their Big Daddy, which features homemade spaghetti with mozzarella cheese, served on locally-baked bread coated in a garlic parmesan mixture. But the most popular “by far” according to McKinney, is the Oldie, which starts as a basic cheese sandwich that customers can enhance with a variety of ingredients. A meatball sandwich will soon be making its debut and their Elvis – peanut butter, honey and banana – will have you saying “oh, mama” in no time. There’s also the Rosie – cheddar, cream cheese, bacon and jalapeno; the Hot Rod – swiss, ham, pickle and spicy mustard; and the Athena – mozzarella, feta, cucumber and tzatziki.
Unlike some food trucks that also operate as a restaurant, The Big Cheese is strictly on wheels and your best chance to find them is at a local event or festival. You can always visit their Facebook page for updates.
Here are a few upcoming dates in 2018 that will help you get your cheese fix:
Oct 14 – Savannah Food Truck Festival, Daffin Park
Oct 20 – Isle of Hope Art and Music Fest
Oct 21 – Family Fun Scavenger Hunt, Emmet Park
Oct 25 thru 28 – Savannah Speed Classic, Hutchinson Island
Nov 8 – Pups and Trucks, Diamond Causeway
Nov 10 – Wilmington Island Farmers Market
Nov 11 – Butterducks Winery
Dec 7 – Starland Street Fair
Dec 8 – Santa Train at the Railroad Museum
While grilled cheese is a universal comfort food, many consider barbecue the official comfort food of the South, especially when you add in home-cooked sides like macaroni and cheese, collard greens and coleslaw. Sound like your kinda truck? Then you need to give Bowtie Barbeque a try.
Back when Corbin Parker, owner/ operator of Bowtie Barbeque, worked as a manager at a chain restaurant, his choice of on-the-job bowties drew a surprising amount of attention. Several years later when Parker decided to try his hand at making barbeque sauce, he decided the name ‘bowtie barbeque’ had a nice ring to it. “I liked the alliteration of the B’s and the Southern throwback of bowtie-wearing gentlemen,” said Parker. The name stuck and so did his sauce, which he still makes today. “We’ve paired with local sources like Southbound Brewing Company, PERC Coffee Roasters and Savannah Bee to make a variety of sauces that people love,” said Parker.
The sauce eventually led to a brick-and-mortar restaurant located on Waters Avenue in Savannah’s midtown but Parker envisioned more. “I thought, we’ve got this kitchen with all this food so let’s get it out there,” he said with a laugh. And that he did when he launched Beauregard’s Chariot, the official food truck of Bowtie Barbeque. “The cool thing is, it’s a full kitchen on wheels,” detailed Parker, “everything from pork ribs, fried chicken, wings, tacos, macaroni and cheese, and even barbeque poutine, we can serve from that truck.” For those who are curious about barbeque poutine, he described the perfectly crisp fries topped with blue cheese crumbles, blue cheese dressing, smoked pork, and Bowtie Barbeque sauce. Of course, most folks opt for Beauregard’s pork sandwich, served on brioche with the sauce on the side. “We love our sauces, but we want the meat to speak for itself,” stated Parker. Find them at their standing food-truck spot at Lone Wolf Lounge in Savannah on Friday and Monday nights with special themes and even wings (just be sure to check their social media for any changes or updates). For the latest updates on Beauregard’s Chariot’s locations, visit their Facebook page.
If you’ve never been to a southern BBQ cantina, then it’s time to track down that truck and order the deliciousness they’re serving up at Blowin’ Smoke Southern Cantina. Their home base is a downtown location in the Starland District where there’s live music on the patio and plenty of margarita varieties to keep things interesting. But Blowin’ Smoke also takes their colorful brand of cuisine on the road in their food truck, serving up southern cantina favorites at festivals, special events, and privately catered parties. “We combined our love for tacos and BBQ to give us a Southwestern BBQ vibe,” said Bailey Coppage, general manager at Blowin’ Smoke. “We smoke all of our meats in house, which gives more uniqueness to our tacos, and our love for craft cocktails and cantina-style mules shows with our drink menu.” If you’re ready for a flavor adventure, then order one of the newest additions to their menu, the Georgia Peach — a taco that’s packed with pecan-smoked pulled pork, peaches, peach BBQ, and fried onion straws. Coppage also recommends their fried pickle spears with smoky ranch or their street-style corn with a chili lime butter and parmesan cheese. Yum! Ready to track down that truck? Then take your taste buds on one exciting ride and visit their Facebook page for the latest posts and event updates.
For a refreshing change of pace, look no further than Savannah Square Pops. Aptly named for the 22 historic squares in downtown Savannah, Savannah Square Pops has a devoted following of folks who adore their handcrafted gourmet popsicles. They use only the freshest ingredients, no preservatives, made in small batches right here in Savannah. “I was actually an attorney in Birmingham, Alabama and a local company there delivered a batch of their popsicles to our office,” explained Judd Wiggins, owner/partner of Savannah Square Pops. “I tried a buttermilk popsicle and honestly didn’t think I would like it and it turned out to be surprisingly great!” He filed that yummy experience away until an opportunity to open Savannah Square Pops came along. Now two years in business out of their whimsical downtown location on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, Judd, along with business partners Royce and Tara, operate both stationary and mobile versions of their business.
These are not your ordinary popsicles. Among their more interesting flavors, Wiggins described the Reynolds Square variety (also known as the Milk ‘n Honey Bees Knees popsicle) that blends Madagascar vanilla beans, fresh cream, and Savannah Bee Wildflower Honey. There’s also the Franklin Square, a combination of fresh strawberries and a hint of balsamic vinegar, the Monterey Square that puts a fresh twist on key limes, the Greene Square, which blends grapefruit, pineapple, strawberries, mango and peach, and the Pulaski Square that’s a heavenly hand-held treat of chocolate and pretzel-covered salted caramel. “We strive to offer as many vegetarian, non-dairy, vegan, and gluten-free options as possible,” explained Wiggins. And if you want to go back to where it all began, there’s even the Ellis Square, a buttermilk popsicle like the surprising treat that started it all back in Birmingham. “We love our shop, but we also love taking our treats out to farmers markets, festivals, and even private events,” Wiggins told me. If you can’t swing by their shop and want to mosey up to their food truck, be sure to visit their Facebook page , and if you have any four-legged friends along with you, ask Savannah Square Pops about their frozen treats for dogs!
Wouldn’t it be great to visit all of these food trucks in one place? You’re in luck! The Savannah Food Truck Association’s fifth annual Food Truck Festival is the area’s biggest gathering of food trucks of every variety. This year’s festival will be held at Daffin Park off Historic Victory Drive, on Sunday, October 14th, from 12 pm to 7 pm with free admission. The entire event is designed to help raise money for charity (so that means you should definitely splurge on that fried goodness or decadent dessert). “We donate everything above the cost to run the festival to charity,” said Giannoni of the Food Truck Association. “This event isn’t to profit the Association, it’s to help grow loyal followers to the area’s food trucks while also raising money for as many charities as we can.” It gives the phrase “comfort food” a whole new meaning!
Whatever you crave, Savannah’s Food Truck Scene is a delicious addition to this thriving foodie town. So check in with social media calendars and keep your eyes peeled when you’re here, because off a square, in a park, or around an unexpected corner, you may spot the very best meal on wheels you’ve ever had!