It’s the end of the week and you don’t feel like cooking. Getting microwaved food at your local Applebee’s sounds unappetizing, and the rarefied restaurants of Federal HIll are too far away. What’s a person gotta do to eat? Well, if you’re anything like the hundreds of Rhode Islanders who turn out in the early evenings, you go to the food trucks.
Food truck events have exploded over the past few summers. Whether it’s at Narragansett Beach, Hot Club or the PVD Flea, Rhode Islanders are turning out in droves for any clustering of meals that come on wheels. “People are excited to engage in old-style town square environments,” said Eric Weiner, founder and owner of FoodTrucksIn. “You find all kinds of people from all walks of life and all kinds of different economic backgrounds coming out to connect over food trucks.”
Eric’s been a driving force of local food truck events in RI over the past couple of years. FoodTrucksIn started as part of his own love for and frustration with food trucks. He loved the food, but hated trying to track a specific one down. FoodTrucksIn was born from this feeling. It’s a website that allows food trucks to list their menu and, more important for the roving truck foodie, tell people where they are. The website started locally, but now has spread to over 1,300 cities and towns across America.
Chances are if you’ve gone to a food truck event, it’s likely been one of Eric’s. The most well-known is Food Truck Friday, recurring every week during the summer at the Carousel Village in Roger Williams Park. What started in 2015 with a handful of trucks has exploded into a foodie powerhouse; this season features 18 or 19 food trucks per week. FoodTrucksIn also has started events in Woonsocket and Warwick this season. Eric notes that even though Lil Rhody is far from lacking restaurant options, the state has fully embraced the food truck scene, letting it revitalize that New England, small-town community feel. What surprises Eric is just how many people come out regularly. “I spoke at one of the events and thanked a couple of the people I knew to have come out every week,” he said. “And then the rest of the night I have others coming up to me and asking why I didn’t mention them. I hadn’t realized just how large our regular following is.”
FoodTrucksIn is about to debut its house band. Made up of solo artists who have performed at the Carousel Village events, they call themselves the Food Truck Fives. They perform funky covers of popular hits from the past 40 years, and they debut at a Rocky Point food truck event on July 6. FoodTrucksIn is organizing a couple of events at Mulligan’s Island in Cranston, combining food trucks with Mulligan’s own features such as glow-in-dark-dodgeball. And on September 16, the PawSox Stadium in Pawtucket will hold its first Food Truck and Craft Beer Festival.
These days, aside from organizing bigger and better events, Eric spends time working with local governments to streamline and update their laws concerning food trucks, some of which haven’t been updated since the time of horse and buggies.
Not all food truck events you’ll encounter are hosted by FoodTrucksIn. The Providence Flea hosts excellent food truck events almost every week, and Narragansett Town Beach hosts twice weekly events along its famous coastline. Wherever you find them rolling in, Rhode Islanders’ taste for food that comes to them is not going away anytime soon. New trucks and new foods are coming on line all the time. And Eric’s favorite food truck? “The one that’s right in front of me,” he says laughing.