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Keep On Truckin’: Upscale Restaurants Are Getting In On the Food Truck Game

Here's the Narwhal truck, before it was fashioned into an oyster slinging food truck.

Ever since the City of Seattle passed a law two years ago, allowing more food trucks to roll around the city, they’ve been multiplying like Gremlins who’ve eaten after midnight.

Before the law there were only a scattering of taco trucks and hot dog carts. Then Skillet Street Food came along in it’s vintage, airstream trailer with bacon jam topped burgers and gravy soaked poutine. Post law change, Seattle food trucks have expanded to serving everything from fancified grilled cheese to sushi to gluten-free fare.

But now, some fancier brick and mortar restaurants are getting into the truck game. The Seattle Times reports the owner of Monsoon and Ba Bar is looking for a truck to sell his signature Vietnamese-style street food. Woodinville’s Barking Frog, a restaurant that serves foi gras and entrees that reach into the $50 range, plans to roll out a truck in May.

Ballard’s The Walrus and the Carpenter has been voted one of the country’s Most Important Restaurants and one of the Best New Restaurants in America by Bon Appetit magazine. If you show up at 8 o’clock on a Tuesday night, you’ll probably wait an hour for a table. But pretty soon, you won’t have to stay up late to eat seafood from The Walrus.

Chef owner Renee Erickson is preparing to launch a food truck called Narwhal.

“Over time, started thinking about ways that we could take the oyster bar on the road. We thought, well, there’s opportunity for something that’s charming and mobile to serve oysters out of.”

The truck itself, will certainly be charming.

“We bought the truck about a year ago and have been working on restoring it ever since. We’re real close. It’s a 1960 Divco milk truck and we bought it from an auction in L.A. and I think it was actually used for movies and things like that. Kind of like a prop.”

Renee’s plan is to fill a Seattle food truck niche with seafood.

“We’ll serve things that we serve at Walrus already. Fried oysters, oyster po’ boy, smoked fish, probably, like, a herring butter toast like we have here. Some form of a bisque. In the summer months, a cold gazpacho with crab.”

Unfortunately, city code prevents the truck from serving up raw oysters, unless it’s for a private event.

“I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with the health department trying to figure out what the reason was. Essentially it was a ‘Just because,’ sort of thing. Hopefully something that can continue to be a discussion.”

I asked Renee why she thinks finer dining establishments are getting into the mobile game.

“I think there’s some kind of nice quality of simplicity maybe. Or maybe not being as formal in what you do. Having a little more fun or being playful in cooking. I think the mobility part of it’s really great.”

Even though it’s a truck, she says it’s not much easier than launching a full blown restaurant.

“You go through all the same hoops. You just don’t have a roof and seats and a stereo, all that.”

If oysters aren’t your thing, maybe fried chicken is. Every fried food loving foodhound seems to be excited about Ezell’s upcoming food truck, Ezell’s Express.

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