While Portland, Seattle and San Francisco all have local meals on wheels (food trucks), traditionally Clovis/Fresno has been served mostly by taco truck vendors. However, in the last three years, street food mania is roaming across the Central Valley, boasting mobile dinners that have diners returning to curbside cash and carry.
After the success of Taco Truck Throwdown 2 at Chukchansi Park at the end of August 2012, four trucks continue to make a name for themselves beyond downtown Fresno. While tacos make up the daily menu, each are creating a niche that has patrons standing in line. The Bella Frutta property hosts four food trucks each Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and often on Sundays on the corner of Willow and Shepherd.
Vincent Ricchiuti, Director of Operations at P-R Farms, Inc. , says Bella Frutta’s family fresh produce store is teaming up with four Valley food trucks to create the best weekend urban dining option in the two cities.
“After seeing the success of urban dining during trips this past year to San Francisco, Seattle and Portland,” Ricchiuti said, “I thought why can’t the Central Valley create a hub and food port? The area grows almost all the ingredients that make up great food, so why not make it happen here?”
And as it happened, it seems creative minds were working independently of Ricchiuti three years ago. All four food trucks who line the parking lot of Bella Frutta began independently creating delicious meals ala San Francisco’s Ferry Building.
TRUCK NO. 1: DUSTY BUNS
Dustin and Kristen Stewart, graduates of San Francisco’s Le Cordon Bleu, wanted to open a food truck in the Big City that specialized in local and organic ingredients. But combined with the need to purchase a truck and the $10,000 start-up fees, opening a food service on wheels proved impossible. So they decided to move to the Central Valley where most of San Francisco’s food trucks’ “local ingredients” came from.
Kristen, born and raised in Dinuba, California, convinced Dustin the San Joaquin Valley would be a natural place to begin. So the couple began to search for, buy and refurbish a taco truck they found in Selma. They dubbed it . . . “Dusty Buns.”
“We found our food truck working the farm fields selling tacos,” Kristen said. “It was bright pink and we repainted it bright green and gold. While the colors weren’t exactly what we wanted, it works; the citrus and California color scheme are a perfect match for who were are. While we never sold to field workers, we did meet some of the farmers. Later we began our business selling on the streets of downtown Fresno … after we got our zoning clearance. Wishon downtown was our first beat.”
Dusty Buns is a kitchen on wheels. And, according to husband Dustin, the married couple of three years makes everything they sell from scratch. Their EggMan sandwich has a freshly baked bun, a slice of Niman Ranch ham, aged white Cabot cheddar cheese and a local fried egg from Page River Bottom Farm. Downright delicious and unique.
“We have someone come into our Dusty Buns Bistro near Fresno High and make all our buns in-house,” Dustin said. “We make all our own sauces for the sandwiches and coleslaw, grind maize for our tacos; we even make our own ketchup for the side of potatoes. And whatever we don’t make, we buy from local farmers or businesses who also only use the finest local ingredients. We promote local farmers who pursue organic and/or bio-dynamic practices.”
Kristen said the truck and bistro only use vegetables and ingredients that are in season or can get them locally through Balakian Farms. Their Dusty Bun sandwich uses Mary’s Organic Chicken slow-roasted in their homemade Chipolte sauce. Currently their dicon sesame cabbage slaw uses purple cabbage, purple onion and a specially prepared herbed aioli mayonnaise. Most sandwiches are $5. Side orders of bistro fries, soup du jour and market salads add $4 each. In the days to come, they will also offer a boxed lunch for offices. Any sandwich + any side + any sweet OR fruit juice for $10 (miniumum order in $20).
The Dusty Buns Bistro is just north of The Tower District at 608 E Weldon Ave., Fresno, CA 93704. You might catch their Bistro bus driving to Cru Wine Company in Madera selling lunch boxes or look for them in Fresno’s Tower District during the Mardi Gras Parade! Their menus and photos are posted daily on the Dusty Buns Facebook page and change with the seasons. Call (559) 486.2867 now to book a weekly office delivery or special event!
TRUCK NO. 2: BENADDICTION
James Caples owns what he calls a “brunch truck” since November 2012. The former corporate restaurant manager chose to alter his career path last year after his daughter died. Caples said his Benaddiction food truck focuses on eggs and breakfast-style sandwiches. Everything on the truck is named after a song in some form or another. Some after classic rock, some from more modern songs. That is why their logo is the egg and bacon guitar.
“Benaddiction has two primary segments,” Caples said. “We focus on breakfast and our specialty is an eggs benedict breakfast sandwich served on an English muffin. It has a fried egg with hollandaise sauce. We can do this six different ways with different proteins and vegetables. My favorite is called ‘The Weight.’ It has pulled pork, bacon and BBQ sauce along with a fried egg and hollandaise sauce.”
Caples gave much of the credit for his truck being at Bella Frutta to Vincent calling him out to be a part of the truck event.
“I appreciate Vincent because he called me and invited me out,” Caples said. “This is unheard of in Fresno because we usually have to fight for our locations. Vincent and Bella Frutta have been so great to invite these trucks out, making sure we have a place to sell.”
Benaddiction sandwiches or entrées cost $5 to $9 and they will occasionally create a special sandwich that costs up to $10. Caples and his wife Natalie own the truck and have hired a classically trained French chef, Jason Valencia, to create unique sandwiches.
“Our most popular specialty is a grilled cheese sandwich with pulled pork bacon and ham,” Caples said, “and includes a fried egg with BBQ and hollandaise sauce. While we do not offer any sides with the sandwiches yet, that is in the plans. Wanted to create a strong sandwich foundation first and then grow from there. We make the best egg sandwich in Fresno.”
The full Benaddiction breakfast and lunch menus are online on their web site. Additional photos and menu ideas are on the Benaddiction Truck Facebook page. For more information or to reserve a special event, call (559) 269.1968.
TRUCK NO. 3: TAKO BBQ
Not to be outdone by the two trucks on either side of them, Tako BBQ Fusion creates Korean fusion meals which barbecues meats and fuse them with other international food items. Originally from New Jersey, owner Tony Mullings and his Korean culinary-trained wife, Eun Joo Mullings, saw what was happening in L.A. with Kogi BBQ and believed they could replicate that success. So in April 2012, they started Tako BBQ.
“While I was in marketing as a retail employee,” Tony said, “I wasn’t satisfied working for someone else. My wife, Eun, had been to culinary school in Korea and had worked for restaurants but also wanted to try something different. We read what others were doing in the food truck business in L.A. and the Bay Area and decided to strike out on our own.”
Their Kalbi (short rib) taco ($2) is ricco size with two small corn tortillas, seasoned ribeye meat topped with a sesame seed oil sauce and Korean spices, has become a staple for many of their customers. The spices give the taco depth and the meat is seasoned all the way through. This is a wonderful way to introduce a new twist on a local favorite. The Bulgogi and spicy pork tacos are also a great option. The Gogi burger is marinaded ground beef with jack cheese and a Korean spices seasoned salad in between the buns.
Tony said the favorite items off the truck are the chicken burritos ($6), the Gogi burger ($6) and the Korean cheesesteak: a Korean Philly ($7). Each has Korean spices, salad with a tangy vinaigrette dressing.
“We have been having a lot of positive comments about being out at Bella Frutta,” Tony said. “I like being on this corner because there is a lot of traffic and folks stopping to purchase items at Bella Frutta. So while the customers are here, they also come up to the trucks and add some food to go.”
The Tako BBQ web site is still under construction at the time of publication, but return to it in the weeks to come for more information and menu options. There are lots of photos of their food and menu on the Tako BBQ Truck Facebook page . However, please call (559) 473.3961 to book a party or reserve the truck for a special occasion.
TRUCK NO. 4: CRUMB SNATCHER GOODIES
While folks are eating their lunch or early dinner at the other three food trucks, the line builds for dessert or picnic favorites at the Crumb Snatcher Goodies food trailer. Owners Bob and Terri Brookshire create award-winning chocolate chip cookies, carrot cake and her Grandma Dot’s spice cake all in the mobile trailer.
Like the other food trucks parked with them, the Brookshires are still new to the mobile food gig–two years. Both Bob and Terri called each other their best friends and it was easy to see. However, their story of sweet breads, cookies and goodies is only a small part of their four-year married tale.
Fresno Bee writer Bethany Clough wrote in a June 7, 2012, article, “Eating out: Baking helps widow heal, thrive,” Terri is alive because of divine providence and an angel of a man who did not know her 4 1/2 years ago.
After a horrific car accident killed her first husband, Brad Issac, in May 2007, Terri was left with ankles that were mangled and wheelchair bound for months. And as Clough describes in the article, Terri believes God gifted her a second life with a man of faith and a second career: baking.
While Terri was recovering from her injuries, she baked to while away the hours.
“Baking was my therapy,” Terri said. “It helped me get through the hours of being alone. But I prayed God would send someone to help me.”
Months later, Terri needed a ride home from the hospital and her best friend asked her dad to pick up Terri and bring her home. In the days, weeks and months that followed, they fell in love and started Crumb Snatchers. Their chocolate cookies, carrot cake banana and pumpkin breads have all done first place honors at the Big Fresno Fair.
However, don’t be fooled by a trailer that has been only operated for two years. Terri has been baking since childhood, baking apple pies to earn extra money during the lean times of the last decade. Her months in rehab. gave her time to hone her skills.
“I love working the weekends out of the trailer with Bob,” Terri said. “We bake everything right here and sell it hot and fresh. We’re serving brownies, cookies and cakes and give out fresh coffee with any baked goods. In fact, while the chocolate chip cookies are our specialty, the snickerdoodles seem to go off the shelves really fast.”
Today, Terri still works 32 hours a week as a labor and delivery nurse at Kaiser Permanente. However, Terri and Bob make time to be involved with CartHop Fresno food trucks that meet up two or three times a week. Terri said they meet with other trucks near Applebees at Friant and Fresno streets on Tuesdays and Fridays on the Fulton Mall.
“While CartHop is a good gig for us to be involved with, our time spent at Bella Frutta is much different,” Terri said. “When Vincent met us at the River Park Farmer’s Market, he asked to taste our cookies. He was so encouraging and doesn’t expect anything out of us except that we have insurance. Vincent and the Bella Frutta staff are great people to work with. So expect us here on the corner of Willow and Shepherd every Saturday and some Sundays at 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.”
Terri and Bob Brookshire can be contacted through their personal Facebook page beside the Crumb Snatcher Goodies Facebook page. For more information on The Crumb Snatcher Goodies trailer, contact Terri or Bob at (559) 297.0178 or (559) 360.7630.
BELLA FRUTTA ANCHORS FOOD PORT
Bella Frutta continues to sell its own freshly harvested vegetables, nuts, and fruit that are locally grown on the family farm since 1946. Today Patrick V. Ricchiuti and his son Vincent represent the third and fourth generation of agriculturalists who continue that tradition in Clovis.
“While we grow most of our own produce at Bella Frutta,” Vincent said, “we partner with area farmers to sell produce and merchandise. We grow heirloom tomatoes, squash, peppers in our own garden behind the store. Right now we are selling citrus and apples grown by our farms and soon we will be offering artichokes and strawberries from the coast.”
The Ricchiuti family also partners with Fresno State’s Rue and Gwen Gibson Farm Market , selling their ice-cream, milk and sweet corn when in season. The newest addition to the store is their Enzo Olive Oil Co.. The olives are all estate grown and Vincent is the miller. He presses the olive oil and is certified. You can also visit them on their Enzo Organic Facebook page or watch ABC30’s AgWatch Video, “New, locally produced olive oil earns award” (August 15, 2012).
However, it is the partnership with the four food trucks that has Vincent excited.
“I love having the food trucks here each weekend,” Vincent said. “When I travel out of state and see the other truck food ports are doing, I know we have something similar here. I reached out to our local food trucks via Twitter. I believe we now have the best collection of food trucks in the Central Valley.
“I don’t charge them because it’s a win-win for all of us. There is an urban dining option in north Fresno/Clovis. I was looking for cross-pollination of customers to bring in more business and now we have created a food destination. We all not feel the competition is good. I think the customers appreciate the variety and, with more options available, more people are coming to our ‘experiment.'”
For more information on Bella Frutta Bella Frutta , contact Vincent Ricchiuti at (559) 298.8290 or drive out to Bella Frutta : 1959 N. Willow Ave., Clovis, CA 93619. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
READERS: Have you tried the meals on wheels trucks or been to Bella Frutta? Leave a comment at the bottom of the article.
For more TalesoftheCork stories, scroll to the top of the menu bar or read The Grape Tray reopens in Fresno’s Opus I Center .