The Columbus Dispatch
By Rebecca McKinsey
The scent of smoky beef filled the air as Kevin Harrison waited in line yesterday at the Columbus Commons for a beef brisket sandwich from Ray Ray’s Hog Pit.
He had a lot to choose from at the second annual Columbus Food Truck and Cart Fest, which went from noon to 10 p.m.“There’s stuff you don’t find at your everyday restaurant,” Harrison said. “I’m a big fan of not-chain restaurants.”
More than 40 food trucks and carts crowded both ends of the park. The lawn was dotted with craft tents and cornhole games.
Some food trucks, such as the Cleveland-based Nosh Box Gourmet Food Truck, drove in for the event to reach new fans. Others were local favorites.
“(The Commons) really is that meeting and gathering place for everyone, and the food trucks festival is the quintessential event to ... get the best local food you can find,” said Amy Taylor, chief operating officer for Capitol South, which owns, operates and manages the Columbus Commons.
Last year’s festival drew 12,000 people — a lot more than expected. To accommodate the crowd this year, organizers made sure the event ran longer, included more trucks and provided 10 portable restrooms.
Still, hungry crowds cleaned out popular items quickly, forcing some vendors to offer alternatives.
Flexibility is as important as preparation, said Jeremy Fox, owner of Short North Bagel Deli. He said if he runs out of turkey, his customers can eat ham.
Many came prepared for the long lines, including Alex Bishop.
“I knew what I was getting myself into,” he said with a laugh. “I’m taking a long lunch break today.”
Others opted for speed. Mitch Litwalk chose the Burrito Bus for its short line. He said he wasn’t disappointed.Litwalk also has advice for food truck operators.
“Vendors need to be better prepared (and) get here sooner to do the prep work,” he said.
The food trucks were not allowed to sell beverages. Instead, organizers set up four beverage stands where customers could buy tickets for water, soda or beer.About 20 percent of the proceeds will go to Ronald McDonald House, said Mike Gallicchio, an organizer. Last year, beverage sales raised about $3,500 for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
Some customers said having to wait in another line for water is a bother.
“If I’m not buying alcohol, I think I should be able to buy water without having to wait in line for a ticket,” said Lindsay Lenert.
Dispatch reporters Summer Ballentine, Lydia Coutré, Pamela Engel and Alissa Widman contributed to this story.