Farm to Taco: The Food Truck Explosion Continues

Farm to Taco Truck (photo from website)

I hope you had a great weekend. With the absolute gift of cool weather in early August, I hope you got outside and soaked it in. We know we aren’t finished with the wretched heat, but at least an unexpected reprieve reminds us that the hot weather, must ultimately yield to cooler temperatures and it’s coming soon. I had several great experiences, discoveries and small delights in the city this weekend and I’ll start with one that’s pretty exciting.

Farm to Taco Sign, Market Square Farmers’ Market, Knoxville, August 2012

When Knoxville gets on board with a trend we do it right. Maybe we aren’t the first in very many things, but we seem to be quick studies. It wasn’t that long ago that I heard mentions of food trucks and couldn’t really imagine what that could mean – and have it be a good thing. I remember sandwiches (“Obanion’s” maybe?) sold out of a truck when I was young, but freshness or any connection to an actual farm didn’t enter the equation. It wasn’t so many months ago that I first ran into the culinary delights of the Savory and Sweet Truck and just last week I pointed out that the Cruze Farms booth at the Farmers’ Market has morphed into a full-blown food truck with great a great Indian twist on southern comfort food.

Menu Board for Farm to Taco, Knoxville, August 2012

This week I noticed a truck I somehow overlooked last week: Farm to Taco. Their second week at the Market, this marked their fourth event. The name promised freshness, though tacos are pretty well covered on Market Square, but we decided to investigate. It looked good though I didn’t realize at the time that the business is run by two chefs, one with a degree in culinary arts, and both of whom worked at the Orangery, where they met. Serious people, indeed.

After looking at the menu, we asked one of the chefs what he recommended and got a surprise. He suggested something about as far from Latin food as possible: a Vietnamese meatball sandwich, which as best I can read the menu is called a “beef banh mi.” We took the suggestion, bought my weekly vice (Mexican coke) and walked home to sit on our balcony and enjoy the meal. It was excellent and very filling. I struggled to finish my as good as it was. Just the right flavor combinations and textures, crunchy vegetables and tender beef, fresh bread and spices I can only say reminded me of Vietnamese food I’ve enjoyed before.

Farm to Taco Vietnamese Meatball Sandwich, Knoxville, August 2012

The chefs and co-owners are Wesley Walker and Chris Sparks who also own and operate Green Arrow Farms. Guess where they get their fresh vegetables? It sounds like someone has a pretty serious business plan in motion if the farm was established with this goal in mind. They also raise goats, but don’t use them for the truck, so no fresh goat for you goat lovers.

Of course, one wonders if some of the emerging food trucks will evolve into store-front businesses at some point. I’ll place myself  firmly in the camp of those hoping so. Some of the cooking coming from food trucks out-performs some of our food coming from local restaurants. We have a number of restaurants with good food, but I wonder if we lag a bit in greatness. We also clearly lag in ethnic food. While I realize restaurants may fall lower on our current priorities for downtown businesses, we could use more variety. We have Italian, Latin and a nod toward Asian, but I’d love to see a great Indian, Middle-eastern, Vietnamese, Thai or Japanese restaurant or any of a dozen or more other ethnic foods.

At least the food trucks represent a start – and a good one. Later this week I’ll tell you about an even newer one. Hint: Ever find yourself downtown wishing for a good piece of pie? Help is on the way.