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Forest reserves – great food in one convenient place.

That’s why Plainfield’s Vida Larucci loves food trucks. Larucci said she could buy tacos; her husband can buy hamburgers and french fries with cheese and bacon; and her 9 year old son can buy pizza.

She discovered new restaurants by patronizing their food trucks and even ordered the perfect taco truck for her wedding: Supermercado Joliet, she says.

“At every event I want to go to, there is always a food truck,” Larucci said.

This is more than a whim. smallbizgenius.net website says there are more 35,000 active food trucks in the United States employing over 40,000 people. The food truck market surpassed $1.2 billion in 2022. .

“No one is sad when they eat”

The first of three Fun and Food Truck events kick off at the Will County Forest Preserve Friday. Food trucks are drawing people of all ages to the reserves, which they find great for picnicking, biking, hiking or fishing, says Jen Guest, Will County Forest Preserve Area Recreation Coordinator.

“People love food,” Guest said. “So certain food trucks will draw their audience, people who follow certain food trucks, into our canned goods. Or it will force people to buy canned goods that are not normally produced but just want to go out and have a good time.”

The food trucks also don’t limit menu choices to the fried foods found at carnivals, Guest said. Many serve high-quality specialties such as small plates and delicacies, she said.

Jen Guest, recreation coordinator for the Will County Forest Preserve, said many food trucks today don't serve the carnival-style fried food that people often associate with food trucks.

Roberta Young of Joliet, who had weight loss surgery, said she could always find food to fit her stomach sleeve, even with ice cream trucks.

“I love the feeling of being next door to food trucks,” Young said. “No one is sad when they eat.”

Yang said she can always find meat, “healthy carbs”, vegetables and beans in food trucks, and doesn’t deprive herself of either by giving up all unhealthy choices.

“If you can put it off after a few bites, eat that too,” Yang said.

We collect food together

Joliet native Liz Bathgate moved 13 years ago to Wichita, Kansas, where her favorite Chicago-style food could not be found. So she and her husband Brian opened a restaurant and served it themselves until Brian started having health problems.

But in July 2020, the couple converted an old Wichita Police SWAT truck into a Big B’s Beef Truck & Chicago Style Pizza Pop-Up food truck and added “a call option when we deliver their vehicles,” Bathgate said.

According to Bathgate, many customers have never heard of Italian beef and assume it’s barbecue, French sauce or a cheesesteak sandwich. They’re not used to pizza with Wisconsin cream cheese, sausage chunks, and a hearty pizza sauce, she says.

In fact, Bathgate orders cheese and poppy seed scones because he can’t buy them locally, she said.

The food truck taught Bathgate’s three homeschooled sons aged 12, 13 and 16 social and business skills, introduced the community to new foods, and brought favorite foods to other transplants like Bathgate.

“Some people have been here for 30 years and have never had a beef sandwich or a Chicago dog,” Bathgate said. “They say, ‘Oh, this reminds me that I’m back in my neighborhood.’ I think we all had some sort of beef or hot dog stand where we live.”

It’s not just food

Keene Magoski of Lockport said he couldn’t understand why people were flocking to the food trucks he always associated with construction sites, carnivals and auctions.

The food trucks have no amenities, no waiters, no bathrooms, just “cheap takeaway food to take away,” he said. According to him, they also do not build bases in municipalities.

Magoski said he’s not referring to restaurants that also bring food trucks with limited menus to social events “as a marketing ploy here and there” or with a setup like Woosah clothing stores in Grand Rapids, Michigan., did with outdoor coffeewhich is an “ongoing commitment,” he said.

This lack of commitment to any one city is Magoska’s point of view.

However, food trucks are still regulated by the municipalities in which they have temporarily opened a store.

People line up outside a food truck in the Will County Forest Preserve on Friday, 2018 at Hummel Woods in Shorewood.  Food truck events are a great way to educate the public about the amenities a forest reserve has to offer.

Mike Paone, executive vice president of the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said if a food truck plans to enter 12 different festivals in the summer, it may need 12 permits or licenses from 12 different locations.

Paone said it’s just a part of running a business that people often don’t understand.

“You can’t just drive up, open a package of hot dogs and go sell,” Paone said.

Shorewood’s Jeff Otte, owner of Cream-Crunch-N-More and member of the Southwest Suburban Food Truck Alliance, said food truck owners may be frustrated by the rule deviation, while acknowledging that food trucks may be a new concept for some cities. . .

He said Otte hopes the alliance will help food truck owners have a “single voice” and make the regulatory process easier. Other benefits of the alliance include business support and information, event opportunities and mentorship, Otte said.

“They can just contact us and the food truck owner can answer any questions,” Otte said.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Food and entertainment trucks

WHEN: Friday from 17:00 to 20:00

WHERE: Hickory Creek – Access to LaPorte Road, Moquena.

ETC: Food from Lil Deb’s, Tacos Mario and MiaBella’s Wood Fired Pizza. Cold beer from Hickory Creek Brewing Co. Entertainment from the famous juggler Brian Pankey.

INFO: Visit reconnectwithnature.org.

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