News Blog for Seattle's Wallingford Neighborhood


Food truck movement rolls into Seattle

Seattle neighborhoods are booming with food trucks that bring foodies a new venue

Video by Amy Smith

Food trucks aim to enhance communities, but not everyone’s convinced

By Christina Corrales-Toy, With additional reporting by Daron Anderson, Amy Smith and Erica Thompson

If you walk by the Wallingford Uptown Espresso parking lot, you’re going to see more than parked cars.

You might catch the vibrant purple, yellow and blue of Barriga Llena’s torta truck, or notice the intoxicating smells emanating from the Buns Gourmet Natural Burgers truck and you can’t miss the line accumulating outside Curry Now’s signature black truck. You’ve just walked into one of the epicenters of the new food culture taking over Seattle.

Peter Noble, the President of Uptown Espresso International, allows the food trucks to do business in his parking lot for a nominal renting fee. Noble sees the trucks as a way to take an ordinary parking lot and transform it into something useful.

“We’ve got a parking lot, well, what can you use it for? I had a vision that we could transform it into a community gathering place.”

Food trucks are popping up all around Seattle these days. These restaurants-on-wheels provide gourmet dining in an outdoor setting. It’s a formula that’s flourished in cities like Los Angeles, New York and Portland. So far, the Wallingford pod has been well-received by customers and the high hopes for food trucks go beyond expanding the culinary options.

Video by Daron Anderson

Seattle City Councilwoman Sally Clark hopes that legislation passed last summer to allow food trucks to do business on public streets will enhance city communities.

“The benefit that I’m really hoping to see is that you simply have more activity, more positive activity, in a neighborhood place,” Clark said.

But not everyone agrees. Freddy Rivas, who owns the Rancho Bravo Tacos food truck in Wallingford and a brick-and-mortar restaurant on Capitol Hill, took issue with the reality of the legislation’s aim to rejuvenate communities.

“Food vendors want to be where there already is a vibrant scene happening because when there’s foot traffic, there’s people that want to eat, there’s money,” Rivas said. “But a neighborhood that needs revitalization is not likely to draw them because of those other factors.”

Clark recognizes that many food trucks want to setup in neighborhoods with large customer bases but she also hopes that the trucks will work with the city to reach less frequented areas.

Food trucks ascend on the parking lot of Uptown Espresso in Wallingford on most nights. Photo by Christina Corrales-Toy.

“They can be part of a whole package of changes though,” Clark said, “to stimulate foot traffic, to stimulate interest in an area.”

Stewart Chung owns Buns Gourmet Natural Burgers, a truck that regularly parks in Wallingford. He believes that food trucks can cultivate a sense of community that brings people outside and encourages neighbors to mingle.

“A strong urban fabric is made up of people; it’s not made up of a bunch of buildings. The whole idea of street foods really nurtures that urban fabric,” Chung said. “It’s a vibrant, festive, happy environment. That’s what people usually associate their fun with.”

But the food trucks haven’t been a welcome sight for Nishaant Issar, owner of the Subway across from the Wallingford parking lot. Issar looked solemn as he sat in the empty Subway. He doesn’t believe the food trucks are beneficial for the surrounding business community.

“There are enough businesses to support this community,” he said. “Extra food businesses mean divided business and that’s where we lose sales.”

Issar said that he has definitely lost business because of the food trucks.

“Sales are down. The day you see trucks here, my sales are way down.”

But Chung believes food trucks offer new potential customers for surrounding businesses, rather than direct competition.

Buns Gourmet Natural Burgers, Curry Now and Barriga Llena, pictured here, started doing business at the Wallingford Uptown Espresso at the end of September. Photo by Christina Corrales-Toy.

“At some point, it’s going to become a place where people are going to say, ‘Well let’s go there and eat, because not only do they have food trucks but they have all these other restaurants.’ If you don’t want to eat outside, you just go inside. So, I think it helps everybody,” he said.

As Seattle heads into the winter months, it remains to be seen if people will continue to frequent this food truck hot spot.

For now, neighbors that visit the corner of 45th and Corliss have nothing but positive things to say about the trucks and what they’ve brought to the neighborhood.

“I like to eat at food trucks whenever I have the opportunity,” said Kirsten Koba, a fan of the new food truck scene. “I think street food is the best.”

Catch the food trucks by following them on Twitter

Food truck operators use social media to signal their location to customers. What’s the best way for foodies to find these traveling trucks? Well, track their whereabouts through Twitter.

No Comments