Unedited! Food Trucks in Downtown? My time on the 1618 Mobile Kitchen

Over the past year I’ve visited my childhood friends from coast to coast across the country. My visits are our last hurrahs before turning 30 this year and consist of catching up and sharing our spaces – urban stomping grounds, up-and-coming yet budget-breaking neighborhoods, colorful farmers markets, dog parks, historical landmarks and their favorite food trucks. It seems nothing paints a neighborhood better than the taste of their street food. We twitter-tracked a bright red truck selling fresh lobster rolls in front of the Eastern Market in Washington, D.C. and gorged on sticky Chinese buns in a closed alleyway aside an Elsewhere-like artist collaborative in San Francisco. While these eateries have wheels and move from place to place – they are “placemaking” in cities across our country and capitalizing on young professionals looking to find home.

And, it’s not just our country’s largest metropolitan cities that are fertile ground for food trucks. In the last couple years, our sister city down the road, Durham, has incubated more than 20 kitchens-on-wheels, selling to students, families, festivals and urban dwellers.

Over the past several years, food trucks have taken off, with reputations for transforming—shall I say “derelict”?—areas into trendy blocks for innovative entrepreneurs and creative bites. They have a multi-faceted approach toward their success – an affordable start-up cost for entrepreneurs, the flexibility for creative menus and track records for turning mobile kitchens into brick and mortar restaurants. With the ability to build off a community’s assets, they showcase a community’s diversity, provide delicious treats and create much needed jobs.

A couple weeks ago, I spent an evening on the 1618 Wine Lounge’s mobile kitchen, hidden behind a strip of buildings on Battleground Avenue. The kitchen is a new addition to the space, after a decision with which the owners toyed – a financially burdening kitchen renovation or a smaller investment in a kitchen trailer that could both feed their bar patrons and cater events. They took a risk that is beginning to pay off by turning 100 plates a night on Lawndale and the potential of expanding their catering to corporate parking lots for lunch service.

The 1618 Mobile Kitchen is made up of a pair of budding gastronomists preparing snazzed-up versions of our favorite bar food guilty pleasures. From fried calamari to tuna tacos, pomme frites and chicken wings, they are cooking everything from scratch and weaning young folks from asking for hot dogs. But in honor of all those youthful requests, I’ve asked 1618 to add my local chorizo dog to their menu for a couple weeks. They’ll be sprucing up my recipe and I can’t wait to try one!

Food trucks currently are not permitted inside Greensboro’s center city without a Special Event Permit. To get your fix, you can visit the 1618 Wine Bar to check out their mobile kitchen – or travel to Spring Garden and Chapman streets for a taco at the Taqueria El Azteca Taco Truck in the Fordham Cleaners parking lot. As this culture grows, I can’t wait to share its fruits, along with the many great things about Greensboro—perhaps in Center City before I’m 30?

  • 8 Meadows Family Farm Chorizo Sausages
  • 8 hotdog buns
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 2 ears fresh corn
  • 10 to 15 pickled okra, sliced
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • spicy mustard, for serving

Shuck fresh corn and place on a hot grill until tender and beginning to caramelize. Once cooled, cut the corn kernels off the cob into a bowl.

Meanwhile, place poblano peppers directly on an open flame – either on your grill or on a gas stove. Allow the peppers completely blacken. Once the poblano peppers are blackened, toss into a paper bag and shut close for about 15 minutes or until cool to the touch. This process will steam the skin off the peppers. Using your hands, rub off the skin (do not rinse the flavor away!). Dice the pepper. Add to the corn.

Add sliced okra and diced onion to the poblano peppers and corn kernels. Toss together.

Grill chorizo until crisp. Place inside your favorite hot dog bun and top with relish and a slathering of spicy mustard.

4 comments

  1. Great to see this getting some traction around GSO. The Guilford County Department of Health seems to be more open to change these days, but it has historically been very hard to deal with on these types of issues. Anything outside of traditional commercial kitchens has been pretty much out of the question.

    Community kitchens exist in Rockingham and Buncombe counties, that I know of, and probably elsewhere in the state. Last I talked to Guilford’s DoH there was no way they would let that happen.

    The RibFest that goes on in Winston Salem each year was originally a fundraiser for the Guilford County Jaycees and held downtown. However dealing with the health department became too hard for the promoter and vendors, so it was moved.

    There’s a reason we don’t have a thriving specialty food scene in Greensboro, and it has less to do with the potential market than it does with the DoH’s interpretation of state regulations . I’m glad to see they are becoming more aware of market forces and citizen demands. I sure hope this trend will continue.

    • Being someone who works downtown Greensboro, I would love to have more food options near the Wells Fargo building. Keep trying!

  2. I miss going to Eastern Market every Saturday when my wife and I lived on the “Hill” in DC. Thanks for bringing back the memory Cecelia!

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