Story by Liza Simon
Photo by Matt Mallams
Food trucks have taken the country by storm—from Portland to Manhattan to Los Angeles, hungry patrons now tweet, text and email to pinpoint the locales of their favorite movable feasts. The phenom has become a solid part of Honolulu’s food scene, too: On any given day, local fans of BiBimBurritos and Creamy Kimchee Fries track the location of Gogi’s Korean BBQ Taco Truck. Those craving curried quinoa salad follow the ever-nomadic Camille’s on Wheels, and sweet-tooth types hankering for brownies track the Fairy Cakes van. And so it goes.
But once a month food aficionados can cease all the running around and head to Eat the Street. On the final Friday of the month, in a downtown parking lot, this Honolulu festival literally circles the aforementioned wagons plus about two dozen other creative food trucks. Long, lu‘au-style tented tables foster kicked-back conversation between truck-to-truck sampling expeditions, and deejays, musicians and celebrity food judges complement the scene. “So what is this?” asks a person chomping through her first-ever bag of cassava chips; they come from Da Jammin’ Ways, a truck specializing in Cuban food. At Soul Grindz, the next truck over, a retiree is complimenting the chef. “Tastes ‘ono!” she exclaims. “Just like my Hawaiian maddah made hulihuli chicken.”
The idea of bringing traveling food trucks together for one big bonanza of TGIF fun was hatched by Poni Askew. A former district manager for Starbucks, she returned home to O‘ahu to raise a family but kept an eye on food business trends, including the new success of food trucks. Initially Askew put up a web site that brought the players together in cyberspace. Next she relied on the coconut wireless to turn a social media-driven phenomenon into Honolulu’s hottest new social event. Food is a bridge that crosses every barrier with plenty of aloha, she opines. “I wake up every morning laughing at the idea that four thousand people turn out on an evening,” Askew marvels. “And they come just to eat!”