Food Trucks Becoming Fort Collins Cultural Staple

By: Doug Usher

It seems the food truck scene is growing even faster than the brewery scene in NoCo these days. With new trucks starting up constantly, it can be overwhelming when you’re confronted with a row of options and limited room in your belly. And with the festival season in full swing, we now have to save room for funnel cakes and turkey legs on top of it all!

Food trucks are relatively new to Fort Collins. Sure, we’ve had the legendary Gyro cart late nights at Mountain and College for as long as I can remember. But the mobile, theme-oriented food trucks present today have really only been driving around town for about four years. Some of the earliest trucks, including Common-Link and Waffle Lab have even made the jump from truck to brick and mortar in the last year. Jesse Doerffel, who started Common-Link, opened the Farmhouse at Jessup Farms and most recently the Loafing Shed next door.

Doerffel, who got her start in fine dining working for brands like Ritz-Carlton, was thrilled to ditch her skirt suits and heels for jeans when she started the truck. But she also describes the early days as hard. “We were still learning from each other, being the first to try out new spots which occasionally were a bust, educating the community about food trucks and being every role possible – janitor, plumber, mechanic, customer service, etc.” Doerffel recently sold the truck to concentrate more on her restaurants, but says she will “never stop transitioning.”

The Waffle Lab recently opened their restaurant in Old Town, with an expanded menu and bar. The beautiful space, completed by Lark Design/Build, is modern and welcoming, with a nice patio out front and plenty of seating inside. Even with taking on the new demands of the restaurant, the truck isn’t going away. Owner Justin Brown is adamant about its role in their brand and continued presence in Fort Collins. But now we’ll be able to enjoy a liege waffle seven days a week (with a beer no less).

Menyus Borocz runs one of the more unique trucks in town, La Piadina. Serving Italian Flatbread sandwiches inspired by his youth in Arezzo, Italy, he’s taking a different track. Menyus has little interest in starting a restaurant; instead running the truck allows him the freedom to pursue his other career as a musician. He’s also building his own commissary kitchen, where he plans to produce and distribute some of his homemade products, like pesto and flatbreads. He also is adamant that running a truck is a lot of work, and you need to do something different to be viable at this point. His flatbreads feature homemade bread and greens from his own garden.

The festival scene provides another opportunity for local trucks, mixed in with a variety of other food vendors that travel with the festival scene around the state. At the time of writing, a list of food trucks for New West Fest isn’t available, but they expect to host over 40 diverse food vendors and trucks at the festival. You can also expect to find the usual turkey legs, funnel cakes, and various foods on sticks. This year NWF is going away from the ticket system and visitors will be able to buy food direct from vendors, instead of having to purchase tickets from a central location.

When asked about the future of the scene, Menyus believes there is still room to grow, particularly in Midtown and on the south side of town. Doerffel agrees, but goes further to say we need more centralized locations for trucks to gather easily to be more marketable. During the summer months this happens once a week in City Park on Tuesday nights at 5:30 pm when a dozen or more trucks come together for a rally. Regardless of the challenges inherent in running a truck, most owners feel it’s more than worth it, and our appetites thank them for their hard work, innovation, and dedication to feeding Fort Collins.

Information: fortcollinsfoodtrucks.com 

Rally: Tuesday nights 5:30-8:30 pm, City Park, Fort Collins, through September 27.

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