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Food-o-File

Food truck musings, Citywide 86'd finalists, and finito for two Italian eateries

By Virginia B. Wood, Fri., May 9, 2014

The Barton Springs Picnic Court
The Barton Springs Picnic Court
Photo by John Anderson

Spending a couple of hours appreciating the amenities of the new Barton Springs Picnic (1720 Barton Springs Rd.) at the media opening last week, it occurred to me that we are witnessing the second generation of the local food truck scene, where property is actually developed for food trailer parks rather than have them be convenient interim-use projects on property slated for development. It seems as though the built-in bathrooms, substantial covered dining area, and available parking will be important attractions and contribute to the success of the endeavor. I'm curious to see how this first project works for the Brooks Company and the various vendors who have leased spaces there. With eight trailers on hand and substantial tasting portions at each, we got full long before it was possible to sample everything. However, we did try the Spanish-inspired artichoke hearts, brussels sprouts, and potatoes that Tapas Bravas is renowned for, Ralph Gilmore's Turf N' Surf po'boys (shrimp and oysters, both great), crisp and hot fried chicken from Ms. P's Electric Cock, and the distinctive Monte Cristo and fried green tomato BLT from Hey! You Gonna Eat or What? Plenty more to go back for at a later date.

Another food truck issue came up over the weekend that has me looking at that whole mobile vending business model from another perspective. I'm wondering how often food trucks agree to participate in big outdoor events, only to find there is already competing food service on-site or that the crowd is thousands less than projected by organizers. Do truck operators ask for and get guarantees, or do they assume all the risk? Does anybody make money doing big outdoor events? If you have experience with this issue, email me at food@austinchronicle.com.

A flurry of Italian restaurants have closed over the last several months, including Verona in Lincoln Village and Trento on Highway 360. We got word last week the fourth outlet of Jack Allen's Kitchen (3600-D Capital of Texas Hwy. N.) will be taking over the Trento space some time this summer. No word yet on what Trento chef Alex Kahn will be doing next.

The final preliminary round of the Citywide 86'd competition took place on Saturday, and now four contestants have been chosen for the finals at the AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center in June: Lauren Ortiz (Uchi), Bradley Nicholson (Barley Swine), Ben Schwartz (Uchiko), and Murphy Parks (Searsucker). We'll keep you posted about the date and time.

Austin Restaurant Week takes place May 11-14 and 18-21. For the next two weekends, Austinites will have the opportunity to dine out on prix fixe menus for lunch, brunch, and dinner at participating restaurants, knowing that $2 from every meal purchased will be donated to Meals on Wheels & More. For complete details, go to www.restaurantweekaustin.com.

Read more about the Austin Food & Wine Alliance foodie treasure hunt, Citywide 86'd competition, and my experience with the Passport to Italy at Central Market at austinchronicle.com/daily/food.

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