Food trucks brighten up the dreariest days of cubicle life. These mobile eateries are pretty easy to find in downtown Louisville — just look for the huddled masses. The trucks are often parked along Main, Market and Fifth streets to attract the cubicle crowd from the surrounding offices. My brethren and I welcome the options with open wallets.
Recently, I came upon a food truck called Chick Cow on my way to grab some lunch. I had my sights set on taking a little drive to get an Ollie’s Trolley burger, but this new-ish food truck caught my eye and stomach.
Since I was meeting someone for lunch, I bought the Kentucky Klucker, aka a chicken wrap, and the Uncle Henry’s Heehaw Burger, aka a cheeseburger, so me and my lunch companion could get halfsies of each. It was a wise decision, if I do say so myself. The chicken was grilled, juicy and tender, so it kind of felt like I was eating a healthy meal. I can’t say that about the angus burger that comes on a buttered bun — it tasted too good to be good for me, too. The burger and the wrap were $7.53 apiece, and they each came with an order of steak-cut fries.
Chick Cow owner Amanda King was nice enough to talk to me about her unexpected inspiration for the truck, the business’s farm-to-table food and what’s next for one of the newest additions to the Louisville food truck scene.
Tell me about how the food truck started.
I have been in clothing manufacturing for years and owned two retail stores here in Louisville. Last summer, I told my husband that I was ready for a change. I ended up selling my clothing line in August. (I had) no idea what change was coming until I had a dream that I owned a food truck and was selling everything for a $1 in low-income areas. The next morning, my husband was at work and he had no clue what was going on at home. I broke apart our grill in the backyard, loaded in my car, went to Taylor Boulevard and called up a friend to start grilling. We set up shop on the side of the road. Later that evening, after discussing the day’s shenanigans with my husband, he agreed we could embark on the journey of owning a food truck. Mind you, neither one of us are chefs.
Food trucks have exploded in Louisville, and competition for customers is fierce. Why did you decide to go into the food truck business?
Besides the dream, I love competition, no matter what field it may be in. I studied the industry for about four to five months before hitting the road, and I noticed a major flaw in our local industry. Most food trucks on the street are just another bite to eat for lunch, like going through a McDonald’s drive-thru line. They were lacking an experience for their customers. It takes more than good food to keep customers coming back.
Tell me about a typical day. How long does it take to load, cook, prep, etc.?
This is the most important part of our success, and I strive to tell every one of our guests about this. Everything on our menu is not only local, but farm fresh. My family has been farming for years in Nelson County. We have a butcher that cuts all of our meats and cheese on a daily basis. Our bread is sourced from a Louisville local baker, and the produce comes from a local farm. Come summer months, the produce will come from our own farm, which we are really excited about. We have a team of three culinary chefs who are masterminds in the kitchen. One only works on the truck. It takes about two hours before lunchtime to prep the fresh veggies and get the meats juicy and ready to go. Everything on the menu is served with King Rd Taters, which are fresh-cut fries we cut on the spot from the largest potatoes you have ever seen. Lunch normally starts around 11 and ends at 1:30. Then it takes another two to three hours to clean the truck and stock for the next day.
What makes Chick Cow’s food stand out?
Besides having the freshest food, it’s the experience. I have a goal to know your name by your second visit to Chick Cow. I try to pay attention to all of the details the guest wants. If I don’t have something the first time you ask, I can promise you it will be there the second time you come. We placed outdoor heaters for the really cold days while you wait for your made-to-order meal, and the first guest of the day starting at 11 a.m. gets a free lunch.
What is your favorite dish on the menu?
Our team did such an over-the-top job with everything on the menu. I eat lunch from Chick Cow every day, and I’m not tired of it one bit. My top favorite would be the Big Bird — a 7-ounce juicy chicken breast with parmesan bread crumbs on a toasted buttered bun with provolone cheese. My next favorite would be Uncle Henry’s Heehaw Burger. (It’s) 100% angus beef, and I’m not sure what those guys have done to it, but I could eat one every night for dinner.
What’s in store for Chick Cow in 2015?
We are working hard on that perfect veggie lunch and gluten-free meal!
Ahh, Ohio Valley summers. Sultry, sweaty and sticky (I’d complain, but that would go against the vow I took during the Polar Vortex to not talk bad about the heat).
The nice folks over at Gelato Gilberto have a solution to the summer woes. The gelato shop will give away 100 pints of the dessert starting today, July 1.
Here is how the giveaway will work, courtesy of Gelato Gilberto:
The Gelatomobile will magically appear at random locations during the month of July. We’ll post the location and secret password on our Facebook page on the day of each appearance. The first ten people to find the Gelatomobile and say the password will get a free pint of gorgeous gelato. (One pint per family/group please–we want everyone to get a chance.) There may or may not be consolation prizes at each location.
Blogger’s note: Y’ALL. I have been buried in the delightful terror that is grad school. I’ll have to tell you about it one day. I’m blogging while I’m up for air.
Louisville loves Liz and Jesse Huot. How do I know? I linked to a story about the pair behind Grind food truck opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant, and it’s the most read post EVER on the Ashlee Eats Facebook page. The couple plans to open a restaurant in the building that used to house Oasis Sushi on Preston Highway. Congratulations, you crazy kids. (Courier-Journal)
Gelato Gilberto, a gelato shop in Norton Commons, will head to Portland (Louisville, not Oregon) for wholesale production of its sweet, sweet deliciousness. (Business First of Louisville)
Boombozz Pizza will open a new location in the planned Middletown Commons, a shopping outlet that is being built on Shelbyville Road near the Gene Snyder Freeway. The restaurant plans to open in late 2014. (Business First of Louisville)
We’re in the middle of The Comfy Cow’s fourth annual Chocopalooza. The ice cream shop is offering 10 flavors of chocolate ice cream at its three locations, and 10 percent of the proceeds will benefit the Make a Wish Foundation. I’ve got my eye on the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie. (Comfy Cow website)
Tomorrow is National Drink Wine Day, which begs the question, “What day isn’t National Drink Wine Day?” But anyway, Eddie Merlot’s is celebrating with half priced pours of the restaurant’s vintages from 4 to 11 p.m. Feb. 18 in the lounge and bar area. The restaurant is at 455 South Fourth Street in downtown Louisville. (Eddie Merlot’s news release)
Here’s a fun little tidbit about Kentucky’s most famous native son, Abraham Lincoln (sorry, George Clooney): he knew his way around a kitchen. A new book called Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln’s Life and Times, “looks at our 16th president’s life through the extraordinary stories of what he ate, cooked and served, along with recipes modified for the modern kitchen.” (NPR)
KFC gave media folks a sneak peak of the fried chicken chain’s foray into fast-casual dining called KFC Eleven located at the corner of Bardstown Road and Baxter Avenue. From what I can tell from the Eater Louisville slideshow of the restaurant (slated to open to the public in August), the art is funky, the bathrooms are clean and the Colonel is sparse. (Eater Louisville)
LEO Weekly took a look at the health inspection scores of Louisville food trucks as a follow-up to the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter story that questioned the safety of these mobile eateries (check out my reaction here). Turns out, food trucks are just as clean and safe as brick-and-mortar restaurants. Food truck friends, go ahead and drop the mic in triumph. (LEO Weekly)
Employees at a Creole restaurant called Le Bossier Café at Muhammad Ali Boulevard and 18th Street will be part of a union, a rarity in the restaurant world. (LEO Weekly)
One of the founders of the bar Meat will open an upscale bar called Meta this fall in downtown Louisville. The bar will be located in the former Show-n-Tell Lounge adult nightclub on Chestnut Street between Fourth and Fifth streets. I just hope they keep some of that old signage. (Business First of Louisville)
The folks behind the restaurant Rye in NuLu will open a bistro later this year called Atlantic No. 5 at 605 W. Main Street. One of the owners said to expect “sandwiches, salads, rotisserie chicken, smoked fish, pork, lamb, house-made charcuterie and bagels at breakfast.” I could be down for that. (Insider Louisville)
Bristol Bar and Grille plans to open a café in the Mellwood Art Center by Sept. 1. (Courier-Journal)
I hesitated to dip my toe in the recent conversation that has dominated Louisville social media about the cleanliness of food trucks.
In case you missed it, WAVE 3 aired a story recently by reporter Eric Flack about the sanitation and safety of food trucks, mobile eateries that park on the street or at events and serve dishes out of the sides of the vehicles. Eric reported that Metro Health and Wellness inspections “reveal trucks that were cited for food on the floor, dirty kitchens, cheese sauce at potentially hazardous temperatures, mislabeled toxic items and cooks without hair nets.” He went on to interview the chief health inspector with Metro Health and Wellness, who said she never eats at food trucks because of sanitation concerns. You can read and watch the full story here.
This feature lit up on the Twitter feeds and Facebook pages of food trucks and customers. The overall feeling was that WAVE 3 at best, got the story wrong, or, at worst, sensationalized a non-issue.
I used to be a journalist in a former life. I know what it’s like to catch a lot of criticism for a story that captures a subject in a harsh light. But this story ignited so many feelings because it just wasn’t fair.
In his story, Eric highlighted a food stand with some questionable cleanliness. As I understand it, food stands and food trucks are different and held to different standards. An apples to apples comparison isn’t appropriate.
If there is an issue with the cleanliness of food trucks, the story should have included some basic facts to support that claim. How many trucks have been shut down because of health concerns?
I would’ve liked to see a comparison of percentage of food trucks that have violated health guidelines versus the percentage of brick-and-mortar restaurants that have made the same violations. This story gives the impression that food trucks are not as safe as restaurants in stationary locations, but fails to use statistics to back up that assumption. I watch a lot of Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares— traditional restaurants can be disgusting and unsafe, even if they serve food in buildings rather than from trucks.
Food truck operators said they didn’t feel like Eric made an effort to reach out to them. There are a couple of united groups of food trucks, the Louisville Street Food Alliance and Louisville Food Truck Association, that would have been good sources to include in this story to provide an overall perspective of health and safety in the trucks.
I’ve eaten at a lot of food trucks since they hit the Louisville landscape a couple of years ago. I’ve never had any concerns about my health after eating at these trucks. I’ve never gotten sick. I’ve never seen unsafe practices. I’m only one person, but a lot of people share my views (search Twitter for Louisville food trucks).
Eric did a follow-up story in which a metro councilman said there could be guidelines in the future that mandate the display of health inspection grades in food truck windows. Here are some other blog posts you should read, too:
I interviewed Will Bogel, the co-creator of a new app called Where the Trucks At, on the latest episode of Deliciously Louisville. We talked a little bit about the food truck story (and other food truck stuff).
It’s my birthday. I’m grateful for another year of growing up and staying on the right side of the dirt.
The Moth StorySLAM is tonight at Headliners Music Hall. Doors open at 7 p.m. Show starts at 8 p.m. Tonight’s theme is “the finish line,” so submit your name before the show starts if you want to tell a story. For more information on how a story slam works, visit The Moth website.
I will celebrate my birthday behind the merch table at The Moth. Yep, I’m selling shirts and taking names (for the mailing list). I love working the merch table. What a perfect way to celebrate.
My birthday dinner = a burger from Grind food truck and a bourbon from the bar. Liz and Jesse of Grind will be parked outside Headliners before the show. Beef and veggies patties pair well with liquor, right?
The good news: Through at least October, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is promoting monthly, lunchtime food truck roundups near city hall.
The bad news: This event can go from awesome to awful in about two seconds if you’re not prepared.
Fischer promoted the first of these events in April. Food trucks from across the land lined Jefferson and Sixth streets surrounding Metro Hall and served mobile eats to downtown diners. It went over so well that Fischer promoting the whole she-bang each month, the Courier-Journal reports.
The next gathering takes place today from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. At least nine trucks will be there.
I was at the first food truck lunch, as were what seemed like a third of people who work downtown. There was just too much goodness happening to keep people away. There were about a dozen food trucks in one convenient location. But with the crowds comes the pain of long lines and growling stomachs.
I will go to at least one more of these food truck gatherings while the weather is nice. But here are some lessons I learned from my first visit:
Don’t come hungry. I stood in line for about 30 minutes to place an order at San Diego Sandwich Works. Then I waited another 10 for them to prepare my order (which was DELISH, by the way). If I hadn’t had my usual mid-morning snack, my stomach would have started sounding like a Barry White melody. And speaking of …
Clear your schedule in the half hour before and after lunch. Add up the time from above. I spent about 40 minutes just waiting, which left 20 minutes of travel and eat time. I’m sure things will speed up as the food truck employees learn to work such a large crowd. But if they don’t, and number of customers grows, you better learn how to walk and eat.
Use your time wisely. Avoid the peak noon to 1 p.m. lunch hour. Consider taking your lunch at 11 a.m. or 1 p.m.
Prepare for the elements. Bring sunglasses, an umbrella and something you can MacGyver into a fan.
You probably won’t eat with your work friends. With so many choices, a group of more than three people is not going to agree on one location at which to get food. It’s every white-collar worker for himself.
Have a second, third and fourth option ready. Yes, the lines are long, but some longer than others. If the wait for your favorite place is just ungodly, try to go there the next month and move on.
Carry cash. Don’t be the person who waits until they’re at the ordering window to ask, “Do you take cards?” Because if they don’t, you’re going to be pissed and you’ll have to either wait all over again at a place that does take cards or find an ATM. You don’t have time for all that. Better safe with cash than sorry and hungry.
Study the menus before you go or while you’re in line. This is similar to the “carry cash” tip. Don’t wait until the last minute to make a decision. You had TWENTY MINUTES to decide what you wanted to eat. Dawdling at the front of the line will only draw scowls and passive-aggressive sighs.
If all else fails, head to Fourth Street. My work buddy and I both got San Diego Sandwich Works last month. Immediately after the cashier took his order, the truck had to shut down for the day because they ran out of food. The people behind my buddy were LIVID. In that situation, you might as well walk down to Fourth Street, the closest street with a variety of food options that can get you back in the office on time.
The Food Truckus Ruckus celebrates “slow and local food with local food trucks, music and more,” according to the event’s website. Here are the food trucks and vendors that have signed on for Saturday’s event (find a list of their Facebook pages here):