The summer of the food truck

Trend goes nova with explosion of new vendors this summer

Every time we walk downtown, a new vendor is on the sidewalk offering mouth-watering fare that makes us reach in our pockets and dig for change. At least, it seems that way.

 

Food trucks and push-carts aren’t new to Juneau; some have been catering to tourists off the cruise ship docks for nearly a decade.

What’s new is their growing number. State health officials estimate the number of food trucks in the capital city has doubled in recent years. Fewer than 10 mobile food service units were registered with the state’s Food Safety and Sanitation Program a decade ago. Now, there are 22.

“It’s been increasingly popular,” Jason Wiard, a state health inspector in Juneau, said of the growing food truck trend.

“Every year there’s more and more of the mobile-style units, whether it’s a push-cart or food truck or kiosk-type set-up.”

The City and Borough of Juneau also has 11 spaces designated specifically for downtown sidewalk vendors. Of those, five are filled, and more may be coming, according to a city permitter.

There are others in Lemon Creek and the Mendenhall Valley, but downtown Juneau is unquestionably the epicenter of the booming trend.

Juneau now has about six trucks/push-carts that serve barbecued food, three that sell Mexican food, one that serves Polynesian food, an All-American burger joint, a vegetarian truck and one that specializes in seafood. There’s also plenty of dessert and snack options.

Here’s a quick guide to the new (or relatively new) vendors downtown, and where you can go to grab a meal to go. The list tells you a little bit about each business, including hours and location.

 

New food carts downtown

 

Peterson’s Pretzels

Owner: Chris Peterson

Location: Front Street, in front of Hearthside Books

Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday

On the Menu: Soft pretzels in four flavors: traditional, cinnamon raisin walnut, jalapeno and Italian, and everything. There’s a variety of dipping sauces, and daily specials.

Need to Know: Chris Peterson is a full-time special education teacher at Thunder Mountain High School. He opened the soft pretzel stand this summer to create a summer job for his daughter, Chelsea, so she could work and raise money for college. Chelsea is 20 and a junior at Linfield College in Oregon. The idea for the stand came from her mother and Chris’ wife, Carol. “We made soft pretzels one night at home, and said ‘Holy Moly! These are really good!” he said. They are making the soft pretzels at home right now, allowable under state regulations for pretzels, but are soon upgrading to the DEC-approved kitchen at Holy Trinity Church.

 

Gla-Scholl Grinds

Owner: Erik Scholl

Location: Main Street, in front of the parking garage across from Second Street

Hours: 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week

On the Menu: “Authentic Hawaiian Shaved Ice with an Alaskan Twist”

Need to Know: Scholl, who has lived in Juneau since he was 8 years old, and his girlfriend were eating at JoJo’s Shaved Ice on vacation in Hawaii, and he half-jokingly said they should open up a similar stand in rainy Juneau. When the opportunity arose, that’s exactly what the 29-year-old did. He debuted a push-cart a few days ago. He wants to use real glacier ice (maybe from the Taku Glacier) in his treats and is in the process of working with the proper authorities to make that happen. One day, he wants to open up a shop downtown.

 

Coppa

Owner: Marc Wheeler

Location: Corner of Ferry Way and South Franklin Street, across from Alaskan Brewing Company store

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week

On the Menu: Artisan ice cream sold in cups or cones, root beer floats (made with Baranof Island Brewing Root Beer) and coke floats

Need to Know: Marc Wheeler opened up his artisan ice cream shop Coppa across from the Federal Building in September 2013. The push-cart made its debut in May. “We were just really kind of excited about our rhubarb sherbet and sorbet, in particular, and wanted to share that with all the visitors coming to Juneau,” he said. “We focus on Alaska ingredients, and really, you want to give a taste of Alaska to all the visitors coming here.”

 

Others

The two other permitted food carts downtown are Gourmet on Wheels and Bernadette’s Barbeque, both at the corner of Ferry and Marine Ways. Gourmet on Wheels sells “oriental comfort food” such as BBQ chicken wings and pork served on a stick, Shanghai-style eggrolls and spring rolls. Bernadette’s Barbeque is one of the orignal push-carts in Juneau. Sixty-five-year-old Bernadette Bundy, who grew up in the Philippines and immigrated to Juneau in 1996, has been serving from her push-cart since 1999. “It’s fun for me to meet a lot of people and serving people,” she said. If the cart is closed due to weather, you can get your fix of Phillipino-style BBQ at her store, Bernadette’s Cafe, inside Miners’ Mercantile Mall.

 

New food trucks downtown

 

Happy Camper

Owner: Amanda Krafft

Location: On the front lawn of the Juneau Arts and Culture Center

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, plus 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday’s

On the Menu: Vegetarian burrito bowl, sesame bowl, homemade chili bowl

Need to Know: Amanda Krafft is not a vegetarian, but her offerings are. The 31-year-old local entrepreneur said she’s had to go without meat for extended periods of time during her life for health reasons and realized, “There’s not a lot of options out there” for vegetarians. So, she sought to change that. She opened her bright green food truck a couple of days ago. Her goal? “I wanted to make something that you didn’t even notice there wasn’t any meat.” She noted that she loves that her truck is located next to another food truck that specializes in pulled pork sandwiches and burgers, Pucker Wilson’s — it means more options for the people. “We’re really the perfect pair,” she said of her neighbor.

 

Papa Rod’s

Owner: Rod Morrison

Location: Behind the Juneau Public Library

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., seven days a week

On the Menu: Homemade clam chowder, halibut and chips, halibut and jumbo shrimps, Dungeness crab legs and full crabs

Need to Know: You might know Rod Morrison from his seafood restaurant at the Mendenhall Mall in the Valley: Rodfather’s Broiler. He said a bright orange food truck (which he described as more of a trailer) fell into his lap and he wanted to make use of it to expand his business. He opened Papa Rod’s last year but didn’t have much luck in a location that was too far from the sidewalk. He moved locations this year, and business is booming, he said. “It’s been a real good year,” he said. His wife, Charlie Retherford, runs the truck. They’re going to start selling milkshakes soon, too, he added.

 

Little Mexico

Owner: Juan Jose Cabrera, and son Jonathan

Location: Admiral Way

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every day, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends

On the Menu: Tacos, tostadas, tortas, quesadilla, burritos, plus specials every Sunday

Need to Know: Juan Jose Cabrero and his son Jonathan are from an island in southern Mexico called Cozumel, and they came to Juneau every summer for about six years for seasonal work. They decided to move here permanently two years ago. They opened up Little Mexico about a month and a half ago. “Maybe in a couple of years, we’ll move to the Valley and start a little restaurant,” Jonathan said.

 

Jalapeno Mexican Grill

Owner: Raul G. Salazar Climent

Location: Behind the Juneau Public Library

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., every day except Fridays

On the Menu: Street tacos, burritos and burrito bowls, quesadillas, tortas

Need to Know: Raul Climent grew up in Mexico City, Mexico, where the “street tacos” (i.e. tacos made in carts and sold in the streets, as opposed to restaurants) phenomenon thrived. He went on to have a 20-year career in the food industry. He moved to Juneau last year and opened his own food truck — which serves street tacos. He said he uses all organic ingredients, and all everything is homemade. “Good value for good quality,” he said.

 

Other food trucks downtown include the Crepe Escape, Slick Ric’s BBQ, Randy’s Rib Shack and Pucker Wilson’s.

 

Elsewhere

 

Flaming Hibiscus

Owner: Julie Fenumiai

Location: Vintage Business Park, in the parking lot of the Vintage Building, across from Safeway and True North

Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday

On the Menu: Polynesian, Samoan, Tongan and Hawaiian dishes (such as Kalua pork, teriyaki turkey tails, shoyu chicken and kalbi beef ribs)

Need to Know: Julie Fenumiai, whose husband is Samoan, said her family has catered events, fundaisers and luaus in Juneau since the 1990s. She decided to open the food truck last summer to showcase her Polynesian dishes. “It’s homemade, it’s traditional, it’s a different offering for Juneau,” she said. Those with a sweet tooth might like to stop by. The menu features a different dessert every day of the week, including guava cake, mochi, fa’ausi (coconut bread with coconut caramel sauce) and pani popo (homemade rolls based in a sweet coconut sauce).

 

Fatmo’s, owned by retired firefighter-turned-chef Marc Ormsby and his wife Jesie, is also in the Valley on Old Dairy Road next to GCI. It opened last year, and serves pulled pork sandwiches, pulled brisket sandwiches, pork ribs, chicken thighs. The “fat” in the name is for the quantity of food; the “mo” is Marc Ormsby’s initials. The truck is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.

In Lemon Creek, foodies can drive to the Western Auto parking lot and check out Kookamunga’s Confectionary, which sells homemade donuts, and Spinning Pig Memphis-style BBQ. The Spinning Pig is open every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The owners, Mike and Shannon Wiley, have been slinging slaw and slow cooking pork out of their food truck for nearly a decade now.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

On trend: Food trucks

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