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Reaching the end of a very successful five-week run, on Nov. 14., the Hollister Food Truck Tuesdays event will see the vendors gathering at the Sixth and East streets public parking lot for the last time this year, offering a wide variety of cuisines to what, if patterns hold, will be hundreds of eager customers.
Between the easing of food truck regulations by the City Council in June, the greater exposure offered to the trucks by moving the farmers market to San Benito Street and the advent of Food Truck Tuesdays, 2023 is the year that local food truck culture came to stay.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Joe Elmhorst, owner of Steak Stop. “We’ve seen the community really roll in. It feels like around 800 people are showing up each week, and the customer base is really well spread out, so all the trucks are getting action.”
Elmhorst said his Tuesday night customers have favored his Plain Jane and Garlic Bomb cheesesteak sandwiches, along with his fried mushrooms. He first proposed a designated downtown space for food trucks in 2021, and he said things have worked out even better than he imagined.
“This was exactly what we wanted to cultivate and create,” he said. “We were looking for an outdoor venue, a space where vendors could collaborate, and customers could share in the food experience, the more diverse, the better.”
The wide range of cuisines was exemplified by the nine trucks that made appearances on the evening of Nov. 7:
- Buddy’s Ice Cream
- Canty’s Kitchen
- El Guapo
- Hapa Bros.
- Ivan’s Baked Potatoes
- Los Klamaronzitos
- Ohana Shaved Ice
- Ricarmi Pan Dulce
- Tacos La Cascada
“People have asked for this,” said Hollister Downtown Association Executive Director Omar Rosa, who helped create the venue. “It’s all over social media, and I think you talk to any of the food truck people here, they’ll tell you that it’s been something that’s been good for them as well.”
Chef Alejandro Ceja, the owner of Hollister’s El Guapo Kitchen, said that he preferred Food Truck Tuesdays to the Wednesday Farmers Market.
“It is a different vibe with people that are coming here just for the food itself,” he said. “I’ve had my regular families come through and many new customers. I have been exceeding my goals and hitting new records.”
As he serves up his seasonal butternut squash pozole, Ceja described the trucks coming together to create an awesome and tightly knit community.
“We always accept each other with open arms,” he said. “If we ever run out of something, like utensils or napkins, everybody’s willing to help out. I wish we could keep it going. It’s pretty fun out here, and everybody’s just having a good time.”
Steve Ricketts has been coming out on Tuesdays to support his sons, Aaron, Jason and Scott Ricketts, better known as the Hapa Bros., makers of a chicken sandwich that has reached almost legendary status in the county. But he is not averse to partaking in other trucks as well and enjoys exploring Ceja’s rotating menu.
“I think this is a good service to the public,” he said. “The farmers market was good for us, and we really enjoyed it. But this provides such a great location, a kind of hub for food trucks, which gives people the opportunity to try multiple new things.”
Trying out the trucks for the first time, Jennifer Peoples brought her children, Jacob and Emily out for dinner.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “I’m sad that it ends next week and I wish they do it longer into the season. With the taco stands and the steak sandwiches and, of course, the baked potatoes, I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
Rosa said he hopes the food trucks can return early next year as a lead-up to the farmers market, but will be taking into account the impact the trucks have on the brick-and-mortar restaurants.
“We spoke to them before the market,” he said. “Some said it was OK with them as long as it is not in front of their businesses. I want to go back and talk with them to see if it affected them. Did it bring more people walking around downtown? What else can we do to kind of promote them while offering this space to the food trucks?”
Toney Canty, of Canty’s Kitchen, said he did not feel any friction with the restaurants—indeed, quite the opposite.
“I haven’t heard of any complaints,” he said. “Actually, a lot of the people in the business around here have been coming to the trucks and getting food themselves. And people can get something to eat here and then go to The Baler or Johnny’s and get a drink afterward. It benefits us all.”
Elmhorst says he is hoping that next year, even more vendors could be involved.
“There’s a couple of other guys on the waiting list who want to come,” he said, “like a pizza-by-the-slice guy. I think our variety is pretty good, though I would like to see a few more unique trucks. But the trucks here are the mainstays, and I think people are really going to miss us.”
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BenitoLink thanks our underwriters, Hollister Super and Windmill Market, for helping to expand the Eat, Drink, Savor series and give our readers the stories that interest them. Hollister Super (two stores in Hollister) and Windmill Market (in San Juan Bautista) support reporting on the inspired and creative people behind the many delicious food and drink products made in San Benito County. All editorial decisions are made by BenitoLink.