While the food trucks are able to keep up with the other cars on the road, the food they prepare is not exactly “fast.”
“This is not Burger King or McDonald’s,” said Anne-Marie Aigner. “This is gourmet, basically cooked to order, food.”
An estimated 20 or so food trucks will make their way to Rockingham Park in Salem on Saturday, June 30, as part of the New England Food Truck Festival’s 10-stop tour.
“It’s for anybody that likes to eat, especially anybody that likes to eat good food — creative good food — and try something different,” Aigner said of the festival.
Aigner, executive producer and founder of Food Truck Festivals of New England, said Salem was selected to host the New Hampshire leg of the tour because it is convenient to residents of southern New Hampshire and the north shore of Massachusetts. The festival’s new ticketing system will make its debut at the Salem event: Tickets for food samples may be purchased at the event and online in increments of 10, for $10.
“There was an expectation that with the ticket books [used at previous food truck festivals] that you could, in fact, get to all 30 trucks — it’s not possible,” Aigner said. Guests who had already purchased a general admission ticket prior to the festival can receive their money back or opt instead to use it toward 30 tickets.
“I really think New Hampshire is going to love the trucks,” Aigner said.
“There’s something about not having to go to a restaurant, sit down, and order food to get a delicious meal,” Aigner said. “It’s just being able to say ‘I want that sandwich,” and get that sandwich.”
“It’s a bit akin to a food court in the mall — you get all the choices,” she said.
Aigner said lines are unavoidable at the festival because of the time needed to prepare each food sample.
“It’s the nature of a food truck festival — you wait in line,” she said. “Even if you had lunch in Boston and visited a food truck, you would wait in line.”
The beer garden and stage, complete with live entertainment, set up at Rockingham Park will give the event a festival feel, Aigner said.
“For the adults it just makes for a slightly different experience,” she said. “Some people really like to have a beer on Saturday when they’re eating a lot of delicious food.” Aigner suggests for festival goers to wear comfortable shoes and expandable pants. “You definitely want to be comfortable,” she said, adding that those interested in attending should view the truck menus online and map out which they would like to visit first. “Yes, it gets crowded,” she said, “so come early, and come hungry — but come early.”
Aigner has an estimated 160 food trucks on her list, up from 10 when she started running similar festivals last year. She already has a waiting list of participants for next year’s round of festivals and has been fielding inquiries from communities all over New England vying to be on the next year’s tour route.
“We got an inquiry from one community asking if we could do it every week,” Aigner said.
“I think it’s very appealing to have a lot of delicious food choices in one place,” Aigner said, adding that many consumers put their trust in the food truck industry because it is heavily supervised and scrutinized by health officials. “Which we want,” she added. “You want it to be safe and clean.”
The 30 trucks at the New Hampshire Food Truck Festival will serve a broad variety of foods — not just barbecue and grilled cheese. There will be wood-fired pizzas, tacos, creative desserts and so much more.
“This is different. Different cuisine, interesting cuisine in that many truck owners are chefs and are so entrepreneurial and creative in coming up with really delicious ways to make, say, a grilled cheese,” Aigner said. “It’s not your run-of-the-mill grilled cheese sandwich.”
Most trucks at the festival also offer gluten-free, vegetarian and/or vegan options. “The core demographic approaching the trucks is younger and healthier … There is an increasing demand from customers for them to have gluten-free and vegetarian options,” Aigner said. “The trucks are happy to offer that, not as their only option but as an option.”