As Milwaukee food trucks and mobile vendors proliferate, they are starting to market themselves like auto dealers. They cluster together.
Food Truck Fridays at Cathedral Square, a weekly gathering of various sized and shaped vehicles that began last August, was suspended for the winter and resumed two weeks ago. The concept is spreading. A mix of mobile vendors will descend on the Milwaukee County Research Park at lunch time Thursday to give area workers an opportunity to sample their fare.
Five trucks and a cart were open for business on a cold and blustery Friday in Cathedral Square last week. The weather discouraged outdoor dining, and customer flow could be described as a trickle.
That did not dishearten Jackie Valent Lucca, the owner and operator of The Fast Foodie, who views the clustering of vendors as an effective way to introduce people to food truck culture. "This creates a bit of buzz for all of us," she explained.
"And we are about economic development. This leads to a more vibrant city."
The Friday gathering at Cathedral Square organically grew from a discussion between Peter Adams, the development director of the East Town Association, and Dirk Werderich, who with his wife Janeen operates Satellite Crepes from a cart. Adams knows of a square in Portland, Ore., that is a hub for mobile food vendors, and he thought it would be nice to have Downtown workers and residents eating lunch in Cathedral Square.
Werderich talked with some of his fellow cart and truck operators about getting together, and the idea flowered into Food Truck Friday. He thinks the clustering is good for his business.
"If five people go out together for lunch, they won't all want crepes. But out of those five, I will get one," he said.
Last Friday, Werderich's Satellite Crepes was joined by the Pita Brothers (Lebanese flatbread wrapped around various meats, veggies, cheese and sauce), Tigerbite (Korean tacos, egg rolls and quesadillas), Haute Taco (non-traditional tacos, burritos, quesadillas, empanadas, tortas and salad), Streetza (pizza by the slice) and The Fast Foodie (tortilla with Jamaican, Korean, Puerto Rican, Greek, Italian or Indian fillings). The Cathedral Square dining hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Some of the vendors also show up for the Saturday farmers market in the square, and they plan to participate in the new Tuesday late afternoon/evening Cathedral Square market that begins June 7. Music will be a part of that weekly event, which will run from 3 to 7 p.m.
Thursday's food truck gathering at the Milwaukee County Research Park is from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Crowne Plaza Hotel parking lot at 10499 Innovation Drive, Wauwatosa. It will be repeated Aug. 18.
With the Wauwatosa Chamber of Commerce as its organizer, the event is designed to develop a feeling of community within the park, according to Kari Miller, the chamber's office manager.
Damien has been around so long, he was at Summerfest the night George Carlin was arrested for speaking the seven dirty words you can't say on TV. He was also at the Uptown Theatre the night Bruce Springsteen's first Milwaukee concert was interrupted for three hours by a bomb scare. Damien was reviewing the concert for the Milwaukee Journal. He wrote for the Journal and Journal Sentinel for 37 years, the last 29 as theater critic.
During those years, Damien served two terms on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, a term on the board of the association's foundation, and he studied the Latinization of American culture in a University of Southern California fellowship program. Damien also hosted his own arts radio program, "Milwaukee Presents with Damien Jaques," on WHAD for eight years.
Travel, books and, not surprisingly, theater top the list of Damien's interests. A news junkie, he is particularly plugged into politics and international affairs, but he also closely follows the Brewers, Packers and Marquette baskeball. Damien lives downtown, within easy walking distance of most of the theaters he attends.