Food trucks making inroads in Tuscaloosa and Northport

Food trucks making inroads in Tuscaloosa and Northport
Tea Town Alabama serves up special brews from its food truck. (Kennedy Studdard / Alabama NewsCenter)

With three food truck festivals hosted in Northport and Tuscaloosa in recent months, the food truck craze is catching on in west Alabama.

Food trucks and festivals are a growing trend for people and communities to enjoy flavors and foods beyond traditional brick and mortar restaurants.

For some University of Alabama students, events like Northport’s Trucks by the Tracks allow them to sample cuisine beyond the campus.

“I liked getting to see my college town from a local view, which is really fun with good company, food, music and shaved ice,” said Jada Culver, a rising senior in public relations.

Culver knew about the food truck frenzy in her hometown of Atlanta, but was excited to see it taking place in near her college town.

Before Atlanta, there was Kogi in Los Angeles, which began in 2008 as “the little Korean-taco-truck-that-could” and within months became one of the most iconic food hot spots. With the success of popular L.A. trucks, street food has become a nationwide sensation. And now that trend has made its way to Northport in a monthly festival.

“I definitely want to go to the next one! More options for food, plus I think events like this encourage buying local, establish strong customer relationships with vendors, which then improves business for the vendor and the local economy,” said Culver. “Because of its convenience, I would say (Trucks by the Tracks) carries this cool food truck experience that’s trendy for young adults and millennials.”

For some enthusiasts, the trend goes beyond using the food trucks for normal meals. Culver said some millennials are having weddings catered from trucks as an alternative to traditional catering. Some see street food as more than a stop on the side of the road; it’s a unique culture, often with gourmet grub, that brings people together.

“People look for businesses that are unique. And they will let you know by coming back if they like your product,” said Jonathan Gardner, owner of Tea Town Alabama, a food truck specializing in homegrown organic tea in Northport.

After moving back to Alabama from California, Gardner and his wife decided to take their West Coast experience and create Tea Town.

The Gardners used their talents along with a love of gardening and a mission for a healthier diet to create the business.

Northport officials plan to continue hosting food truck festivals and the Gardner intend to be there serving customers.

“You want people to be proud of the city they live in, and as long as we continue to improve the event, Tea Town will do all we can to deliver a community atmosphere where people feel welcomed, entertained and longing for the next one,” said Gardner.

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