Food Truck Wars
Images by Jeff Sampson Photography
In the years before video lottery, back in the days where the streets of Sioux Falls had not yet been aligned with the casinos and fast food establishments excessively visible today, a lunchtime drive on the town promised a far easier search. Nowadays some may find themselves repeatedly driving around town with little time to spare, attempting to avoid the temptation of the supersize, the monotony of another restaurant chain, and yet, not quite in the mood for a sit-down dining experience.
However, in each one of the little casinos on the side of the road there holds a kitchen in the back that in long past was home to an Irish or Cuban or Mexican “mom and pop” establishment. With the arrival video lottery, all of these places disappeared, and the monopoly of the golden arches and the neighborhood grilles took control of the top. Yet, in the past year, Sioux Falls has begun to change in the way with street food. And while this movement in Sioux Falls has brought the food industry back to the human level, allowing an open playing field once again, the food trucks around town have driven in each with something different to say.
“We’ve got the product. So the question is, how do we get the product out there without putting ourselves in debt to the point where there’s no coming back, because getting into a restaurant is a big financial commitment,” said Faren Earring, owner and head chef of Curb Side Diamond. “It’s not that we’re not committed, because there’s just as much work. We still put in sixty, seventy, eighty hour work weeks, but we don’t have to worry about lighting bills, gas and electricity, or the cost of employees, because our truck and our overhead costs are bare minimal.”
Thinking a Chicago hot-dog stand? Think again. Outside of the pretzels and pizza that are commonly associated with the idea of street food, chefs have begun to embark on the up-and-coming idea of high quality food out of a truck with a low upfront cost. Mark Manguera, owner and head chef of Kogi Korean BBQ that includes five renowned food trucks in Los Angeles famous for their combination of Korean and Mexican food, has been a major influence on many of the emerging food truck vendors in Sioux Falls. While Sioux Falls isn’t considered a “walking city” like many along the coastal regions, Koji’s recognition of both the Bon Appétit Award in 2009 and “Best New Chef” for Kogi Chef, Roy Choi, by “Food & Wine” magazine in 2010, as well as the recent overwhelming success of other food trucks around the nation, has spurred the latest trend among the Midwest that proves that high quality food can be successfully served in taking a step outside of the brick and mortar, ocean view or not.
Brother’s Tony and Josh Kellar were one of the first to bring a high-quality food truck to the streets two years ago. Despite the doubts of those around them, the Kellars ignored outside hesitation and instead came into town as the first and flamboyant of the era with flashing lights, a bubble machine, and a greater passion for food that has deemed them reputable veterans among street vendors, and a permanent residence in the Falls Overlook Café. And while assumptions of conflict among the vendors have surfaced with the vast movement of high end food trucks in to the Sioux Falls area this summer, each appearing to have fed off of the idea of the one before, the brother’s are more than happy to pass on their torch, or in this case, their corner.
“I swore up and down street food would pop, because it had everywhere else,” said Tony, chef and managing partner at Utopia. “I think the market is pretty saturated, so the crème of the crop will flow to top. Sioux Falls has an opportunity for street food now, and I hope the people getting into it will go out there to have a good time and represent it professionally.”
To read more of this article, pick up the August issue of 605 Magazine today!