food trucks

Chi’Lantro owner Jae Kim recently added a sit-down restaurant to the chain’s five food trucks. The new location on South Lamar Boulevard serves Kim’s signature Korean and Mexican food, including kimchi fries.

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

For Chi’Lantro owner Jae Kim, five food trucks just weren’t enough.

Kim, whose Korean and Mexican food enterprise already consisted of five food trucks, opened a new restaurant on South Lamar in January. Chi’Lantro’s first brick-and-mortar location boasts the brand’s well-known kimchi fries and bulgogi hamburger. Kim opened the restaurant’s doors Jan. 19, after five years of success in the food truck industry.

Kim said he knew he wanted to open a restaurant in a fixed location from the very beginning, but waited to invest until a prime location became available. Kim said the new location’s proximity to downtown and the convenience of a close parking lot made the location appealing.

“One of the keys to a successful restaurant is to be in a great location where it’s convenient for people,” Kim said, “So when the previous owners of the space reached out to me about taking over this location, I thought it was a great opportunity, and I had the finances.”  

According to Kim, while location and parking accessibility are important, the most important factor in a restaurant’s success are the team members — many of whom he worked with prior to opening the Chi’Lantro restaurant. He said it’s humbling to work with people who are willing to invest their time and energy in an uncertain endeavor. 

“Good people stuck around,” Kim said. “They saw the value in growing the business together, and you can’t be in this business without good people around you.”  

Kim, who always wanted to expand the Chi’Lantro brand, said he knew he needed a better business development plan — so he hired Libby Dearing, who has experience managing food trucks and restaurants in Los Angeles. Dearing said working in a restaurant is much easier than working in a food truck. Kim agreed and said that most food truck cooks have tough personalities.

“When you take a restaurant cook to a food truck, I worry,” Kim said. “But I don’t worry when you take the food truck guy to the restaurant. [Food truck cooks are] the SEAL Team of the restaurant industry.” 

Although Kim has been endorsed by Food Network and honored with a multitude of culinary awards, he said he feels best when his mom is proud of him. 

“When my mom’s proud of me, that’s when I’m proud of myself,” Kim said. “All moms are the same. They like to talk a lot to their friends about their kids, and when she’s proud to talk about me amongst her friends, I feel good.“

Hungry students can find a Chi’Lantro food truck parked at the corner of 24th and Rio Grande streets Monday through Friday. Chi’Lantro often hosts charity events benefiting University organizations, and a truck parks outside of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on every game day. 

“We try our best to stay involved with the University of Texas because we know every year it’s like a new customer base of new students coming in, building a whole new life for the next four years,” said Kim. 

Dearing said opening a restaurant is wonderful because there are more opportunities for involvement.

“With the food truck, once you hand the food through the window, you don’t really control the experience for the customer.” Dearing said. “The restaurant gives us the opportunity to create a whole hospitable experience, with music, seating and making sure the customer is comfortable.”

Students Henry Yoo and Philip Cho order food at the Korean Komfort food truck. On Thursday the Austin City Council voted to create an ordinance for on-site recycling. 

Photo Credit: Helen Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Customers at food trucks may soon be able to recycle on-site, after the Austin City Council voted Thursday to ask the city manager to create an ordinance enabling food trucks to provide recycling and composting receptacles.

The council’s vote, which was in keeping with the Austin Resource Recovery Department’s Zero Waste Master Plan, asked city manager Marc Ott to present a draft of the ordinance to the council on May 22.

The current health code hinders food trucks from providing adequate recycling options for customers, according to Jessica King, division manager for the Austin Resources Recovery department.

“Right now, the health code and the new building code do not allow [food trucks] to place additional containers separate from their trailers,” King said. “Everything has to be attached to their trailers … it’s not as convenient as they would like it to be.”

King said the city of Austin manages 25 percent of the waste generated by the community and the other 75 percent is managed by the private sector. Because of this, King said, the Zero Waste Advisory Commission — which doesn’t have the power to require food trucks to provide these bins — focuses on making recommendations based on infrastructure, outreach prospects and implementation plans.

In the Rancho Rio Eatery, a food trailer park in West Campus, vendors such as Korean Komfort can recycle because the park management provides recycling bins for the food trucks in that area. Korean Komfort owner Paul Cho said his employees do their best to recycle plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, glass and any other recyclable materials.

Cho said although he supports recycling efforts, he is more concerned about finding a way to dispose of the wastewater each truck creates.

“If there was a city ordinance in place or a service that provides for the collection of this wastewater it would benefit all truck and trailer operators,” Cho said.

Mechanical engineering senior Robin Zou said he visits the West Campus trucks every month. He said more recycling options would be good, especially in a city like Austin.

“Food trucks are very popular in this city since people come here for events like ACL and South By [Southwest], so it’s important for us to be environmentally conscious and show everyone how to recycle and that Austin recycles,” Zou said.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Vanicek | Daily Texan Staff

Austin’s food trucks have found a new, permanent home and they’re taking West Campus’ Mighty Cone with them.

A permanent food court is set to open mid-March on Barton Springs Road and will host a variety of Austin’s most beloved food trucks. Inspired by the removal of the major food trucks from South Congress last year, owners of the Barton Springs property — Alistair Jenkins, Kurt Simons, Christian Brooks and Ronnie Brooks — developed their idea for The Picnic.

The owners of The Picnic were originally approached by national credit restaurant operators about opening up chain restaurants on the land but they decided to go a different route that they felt was truer to Austin life.

“This property was planned for a permanent brick-and-mortar restaurant,” Jenkins said. “But, when the South Congress food trailers lost their home because of the new hotel development, we decided to explore whether or not we could build a permanent home.”

The Picnic will lease out to eight different vendors that the owners have decided are the best of the best: Hey Cupcake!, Turf N’ Surf Po Boy, Skinny Limits, Ms. P’s Electric Cock, Tapas Bravas, The Seedling Truck, Hey!… You Gonna Eat or What? and The Mighty Cone. 

“We reached out based on popularity while keeping different cuisines in mind,” Jenkins said. “We’re making such a large financial investment. We have to make the place a place where people want to eat.”

The food court is constructed on a 1.2-acre lot next to Chuy’s. Designed by Studio 8, The Picnic will include two fixed pavilions with seating fit to accommodate 150 people underneath. Additional commodities will be a paved parking lot for 80 cars and air-conditioned restroom facilities.

After losing its residency on South Congress last year, The Mighty Cone took its current position in the Rancho Rio Eatery in West Campus but has been searching for something more ever since. The Mighty Cone’s business has suffered because its main consumer base now consists of college students, and because the West Campus location lacks parking and exposure.

“Business on South Congress was really, really good, and it had turned into a world-famous tourist location,” said Sara Courington, general manager of The Mighty Cone. “But West Campus just has not been profitable for us.”

Hey! You Gonna Eat or What?, this year’s winner of Austin’s food truck taste-off, Truck by Truckwest, will be taking its $10,000 prize and leaving its location on South Congress to move into The Picnic. The food truck’s owner, Eric Regan, strongly believes in the future success of The Picnic as an Austin trademark. 

“They’re doing something that hasn’t been done before,” Regan said. “This is not just a nomadic lot where you have food trucks squatting on prime property earmarked for development.” 

Plans were set on The Picnic opening in time for South By Southwest, but the recent freezing weather set back construction slightly. The grand opening is to take place before the end of March as vendors are moving in and beginning operations the weekend of March 14.

The Picnic hopes to conserve these trademarks of Austin as the city continues to rapidly progress. 

“It’s a food-truck lot for the purpose of being a food-truck lot,” Regan said. “It’s going to live on in perpetuity and keep going and going.”

Korean and Mexican fusion food truck Chi’Lantro is one of several vendors at the Co-op food court located behind the University Co-op. The food court opened two weeks ago and is anticipated to expand by the middle of September. 

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

While everyone was away from Austin this summer, new restaurants and eateries opened left and right, offering students new culinary options to try. Some restaurants closed, such as the grungy but delicious Texadelphia on the Drag or the traditional South Congress burger joint Fran’s, but at least students can feast on these new eats between cramming for their first tests. 

1. The Co-op Food Court

The closing of the SoCo food trucks was a bummer, but don’t despair, a new romp of trucks can be found right behind the UT Co-op. The Co-op Food Court opened just two weeks before classes started and offers four new trucks of assorted food. George H. Mitchell, president and CEO of the UT Co-op, said the Co-op Food Court will continue to grow. He is hoping to have ten food trucks by the middle of September. In addition to good food, Mitchell said the food court will offer entertainment as well. “Eventually we’re going to show football games by the food court, and we’re going to show movies, once it gets a little darker.” The best way to start fall? Football and food trucks. 

Location: The parking lot behind the Co-op 

2. Uncle Julio’s

This Mexican food restaurant is now all over the country. Uncle Julio’s describes their food as “authentic border style.” Serving traditional favorites such as quesadillas and enchiladas while offering more refined dishes such as their honey chipotle salmon, Uncle Julio’s boasts a large menu with options to satisfy any appetite.

Location: 301 Brazos St., Suite 150, corner of Third Street and San Jacinto

3. Umami Mia Pizzeria 

Conservative and romantic Romeo’s has closed on Barton Springs, and in its place a bold eatery has taken over. As playful and vibrant as the name suggests, Umami Mia Pizzeria has brightened the building with its colorful walls and bold flavors, offering pizza as well as sandwiches, pastas, a large drink menu and an entirely separate gluten-free menu. In addition, pizza can also be ordered by the slice for less than $5. Cheap and delicious. 

Location: 1500 Barton Springs Road

4. P.O.D. Express 

If you enjoy the P.O.D. Express, be sure to thank the Student Government for making it happen. The P.O.D. Express, or “provisions on demand,” was pitched by former UT student government members Kenton Wilson and Ugeo Williams to give the student body an on-campus eatery that stayed opened late in the night. Nick Parras, assistant director with the University Unions, said the P.O.D. Express is a standing kiosk that allows a quick option for students to buy healthy foods. Located in the Student Activity Center, the P.O.D Express will be open on weekdays until midnight, serving fresh fruit, salads, sandwiches and everyday items. And thanks to this new addition, there will be new seating in the SAC, which, let’s face it, there could always be more of. Don’t miss the grand opening of P.O.D Express on the first day of classes, Wednesday at 2 p.m. 

Location: SAC, first floor, west wall, near the auditorium 

5. Mettle 

Mettle’s cold yet posh interior looks like a metal box upon entering. The polished atmosphere of the East Austin bistro and upscale restaurant plays off the surprisingly casual menu, which offers southern charms as well as “kid at heart” favorites. Feeling daring? Order the beef tongue tacos or the duck liver mousse. For the more traditional, a grilled cheese, fried chicken or a French dip sandwich awaits.

Location: 507 Calles St.

6. Eden East 

Sometimes the hustle and bustle of living in a city can get overwhelming, so instead of eating fast food in the dorm again, Eden East is a reservation only, outdoor eating concept you can treat yourself to. Boasting the slogan, “Austin farm to table,” Eden East’s menu changes weekly in order to keep courses fresh and local. Despite being higher on the price range, the fresh food, beautiful outdoor eating and “cooked at home” feeling, make the eating experience well worth the splurge. 

Location: 755 Springdale Road

7. Benji’s Cantina 

If you’re planning a night on Sixth Street, Benji’s Cantina is a new eatery on the bustling street that you can hit before or after the night’s activities. Available only for dinner, the two-story restaurant opens at 4 p.m. and closes at 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on the weekend. The price range is a little higher, but if you want to go in for a quick bite to satisfy your hunger, the menu offers delicious appetizers such as the queso flamedo or the shrimp diablo — gulf shrimp stuffed with goat cheese and chilies wrapped in pecan-smoked bacon — for under $20. 

Location: 716 W. Sixth St.

8. Quickie Pickie

Quickie Pickie may sound familiar — it used to be a gas station — but it has been updated to a restaurant and grocery store over the summer. Savannah Mcanally, barista and bartender, said they have a full kitchen, serving breakfast tacos in the morning, sandwiches at lunch and salads at dinner. “Most of our food is made in house, from scratch, and we also have a wide craft and artisan beer selection,” Mcanally said. “On tap, we have 27 taps, 24 of which are beer, and we also have the grocery selections with frozen goods, every chip you can possibly imagine, chocolate, everything.” With a simple menu, and cheap breakfast tacos, Quickie Pickie can be a good destination for comfort food, whether eating in or taking out. 

Location: 1208 E. 11th St.

9. Say laV

Not everyone can afford to travel abroad, but if the wanderlust for exotic food strikes, Say laV offers a short menu of French and Mediterranean dishes, all in the small space of a food truck. The Say laV food truck is a temporary workspace for its restaurant, laV, which is being built in East Austin. Say LaV’s menu offers locally sourced ingredients and changes with the seasons. Order sweet potato donut holes, fried okra, old bay fries or, for a more
substantial meal, the goat kebab pita with pickled zucchini & arugula. 

Location: 1501 E. Sixth St., inside Hotel Vegas and Volstead Lounge

Yummy Bowl, Stony's Pizza to move in

Photo Credit: Guillermo Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Rancho Rio Eatery, the food truck park in West Campus, will surprise students with three new food trucks when they return to Austin from summer break.

Despite a slow summer, Andy Osborn, the co-owner of the Rancho Rio Eatery food truck park, said he has been receiving three to four phone calls every day, inquiring about vacancies for trailers in the food park. This demand and competition to locate in Rancho Rio Eatery has also increased because the shutdown of the iconic South Congress food truck park for construction of new developments.

“Since South Congress is about to close, many food trucks are looking at Rancho Rio Eatery because it is an upscale food park,” Osborn said. 

Osborn said the Rancho Rio Eatery is characterized by a prime location in the heart of UT’s West Campus, cleanliness, low to the ground power outlets, free Wi-Fi and other aspects that appeal to students.

One of the three upcoming food trucks is Julie’s Homemade Noodles, also called Yummy Bowl. Yummy Bowl will serve authentic Chinese street food, including noodle bowls and dumplings. Yummy Bowl is expected to move in sometime during the last week of June.

“Yummy Bowl will bring a whole new group of people, because the trailer has 300–500 followers, most of whom are Asians customers that eat there almost every day.” Osborn said. “In Asian culture, the noodle bowl is considered a staple item that is consumed on daily basis.”

The Chinese owner of Yummy Bowl does not speak English and Osborn was approached by various students for translator jobs. Osborn was surprised to know there are Asian students in 26 West, who never visited the food park even though the apartment building is across the street from Rancho Rio Eatery. Instead, they went to Yummy Bowl’s previous location on 26th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.   

Osborn said the diversity of cuisine will also encourage new students to come to the park and try new food. 

Stony’s Pizza is the second food truck that will be introduced to Rancho Rio Eatery on July 1. It is traditional pizza that will be sold by the slice. Osborn said Stony’s Pizza will be open late nights on weekends.

Trailers that are open late are an attraction for students, said Alexa Saltzman, an undeclared freshman and a regular customer at the Rancho Rio Eatery.

“A lot of people want these food trucks to be open late nights, especially on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays,” Saltzman said. “There’s always a huge demand for late night munchies in this area.”

Osborn said the Rancho Rio Eatery has not decided what the third food truck will be. He said he and his wife, a co-owner, are considering several options in a very selective process. Osborn said they will make up their mind by next month and the new trailer can start business in August, by the time students get back in town. 

“The main characteristics we look for is the quality of food, the business plan and personality,” Osborn said. “It is about having a gut feeling as to who is going to make it, how well they will do, how good the food is and how passionate [trailer owners] are about their food and what they do.”

Food trucks have gained popularity in Austin mainly through word of mouth and festivals, including ACL, as well as their increased presence on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

“Food trucks are such a hot thing now and Austin’s pretty well known for it,” Osborn said.

The Rancho Rio Eatery has 11 different food trucks, all of which have a different selling point. Fat Tony’s, Bender’s and Bowls and Wunder Waffle are the three food trailers leaving.

Rancho Rio Eatery has maintained a diversity of options by being selective in their choices of food trailers, in order to avoid fierce competition between neighboring food trucks that are mere feet away from each other. 

“The really nice thing is that there isn’t really a crossover between foods existing or incoming food trucks here so there shouldn’t be direct competition for anybody,” Tim Sorensen, the owner of the Cow Tipping Creamery trailer, said.

According to Sorensen, the introduction of the new food trucks will bring a boost to the park in general. He said the more trucks introduced, the more options customers will have, and the more people will come. 

“I am excited,” Sorensen said. “I think it’s going to be great. The more exposure we have to a wider audience, better it is for everybody. I cannot wait ‘til  they get in,” 

Sorensen also said food trucks have existing customer bases that will follow them to this park once they establish themselves here. A growth in customer base is likely to benefit the food park as a whole

Osborn said the Rancho Rio Eatery will be hosting events and play music throughout the semester to draw a larger crowd and increase popularity of the place.

“With the football season coming up, Rancho Rio Eatery will be a great place to hang out and bring along parents and families,” Osborn said. “We hope the kids keep coming and that they like the new trailers.”

Follow Rabeea Tahir on Twitter @rabeeatahir2.

Fifty Fest is more than a few students on a lawn. The 12-hour festival of art, food trucks and interactive activities for students celebrates Blanton Museum of Art’s 50 years of fostering a creative community. 

The Blanton is hosting Fifty Fest this Saturday, which brings together musicians, artists and art enthusiasts from the UT campus and the Austin community. Activities range from poetry readings to discussions with photographers. 

“The Blanton is a university art museum that also identifies itself as a site for creativity,” Samantha Youngblood, the Blanton’s manager of public relations and marketing, said. “Many of our past and current programs are centered around the idea that a song, dance, or poem can be inspired by or respond to a work of art.”

Student groups were asked to draw inspiration from the art and create a performance for the event. These artists range in style, background, and influence, but each will help explain how their creative process works. For example, the Texas Reed Trio is having an “open rehearsal” to involve audiences in their piece creation.  

“It’s like what a string quartet would do in rehearsal when they work on a new piece — interrupt each other when something’s not working, argue about the right way to get through a tough section, start and stop, and be more informal with each other than you’d ever see them be onstage,” said Adam Bennett, Blanton’s manager of public program. 

Student entertainers like the Ransom Notes, an a cappella group, hope to bring their own artistic appreciation to Fifty Fest. As part of their mission to enrich the lives of members and audiences, Ransom Notes agreed to help celebrate. 

“I think the Blanton contributes an artistic escape that is close to campus. Somewhere people can go to separate themselves from the chaos of day-to-day activities and appreciate something beautiful,” saod Lexi Bixler, an economics senior and Ransom Notes singer.

Other performers bring a cultural response to Fifty Fest. Ezekiel Castro, director of UT Mariachi Ensemble, admires the collection of Latin American works represented at the Blanton. 

“Performing at The Blanton Museum of Art, the University of Texas at Austin Fifty Fest is an honor — a grand celebration. The University of Texas Mariachi Ensemble, Mariachi Paredes de Tejastitlan, has prepared music that is festive and embraces the artistic ambiance of this occasion,” Castro wrote in an email. 

The festival coincides with the 50th anniversary exhibition “Through the Eyes of Texas.” Alumni from around the world donated the works displayed in the show. Much like the exhibit, the performances at Fifty Fest show the breadth of the Blanton’s collections. 

“As a Hispanic, I am impressed with the Latin American collection of modern and contemporary art which contains more than 1,800 paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures,” Castro said. “These works of art reflect the diversity of Latin American art and culture.”

Blanton hosts programs that push students to become involved in art. 

“They’re not just warehouses that store artworks created centuries ago — museums are places were creativity happens every day. Artists create new art in museums that respond to the art inside,” Bennett said.

Fifty Fest strives to inspire visitors by showing an interactive side of the Blanton, and artists provide a rare glimpse into their creative processes. 

“Making something new with the visual experience that you get at the Blanton is what our public programs try to facilitate,” Bennett said. “If someone walks away from Fifty Fest and writes, paints, dances or makes a film about something she saw or heard at the Blanton, then our public programs are doing what they’re supposed to do.”