Thursday, July 28, 2011

Welcome to Food Truck Food Court

Yesterday afternoon, Cromer's hosted Columbia's very first Food Truck Food Court (FTFC).  What is this magical sounding event, you ask?  It was a glorious gathering of Columbia's four food trucks - Bone-In Artisan BBQ, Alfresco Mobilista Bistro, Pawley's Front Porch Mobile Eats, and 2 Fat 2 Fly Wings - in the Cromer's parking lot.  It was certainly a popular event - the crowds were huge, the lines were long, and a couple of trucks even started running out of some of their menu items.  I'd say it was pretty successful.  I believe that there is talk of making this a monthly event, an idea that I fully support.  According to Facebook, the next FTFC is planned for August 31, so make sure you come and see what you missed!

With my ridiculous love of all things food truck related, I planned to head to Cromer's on my lunch break and finally try 2 Fat 2 Fly.  I've been wanting to try them for months, but I just haven't had the chance, so this was perfect.  As it turns out, I wasn't the only food blogger in town with this thought.  The lovely Elizabeth over at Gastronomy (By a Wanna-Be Chef), emailed me and asked if I was going, and if so, did I want to meet up.  I said absolutely, and suggested that we write a joint blog entry about our experience.  She agreed, we met in the Cromer's parking lot, and here I am writing about my experience.  Make sure you go check out Elizabeth's blog - her post is up here.  Also make sure you check the Columbia Convention Center's blog as well...Elizabeth was interviewed by their food blogger.

Two happy food bloggers: Elizabeth and me.
In the meantime, she sent me a recap of the food that she and her group of people decided to eat.
E had the fried green tomato BLT from Pawley's.  Nice thick slice of green tomato which had nice tang, good portion of quality smoky bacon and homemade pimento cheese.  She was worried that they'd slab on too much pimento cheese and overwhelm the tomato, but they didn't; it was a great balance.  The bread was "grilled" on a flat-top, which of course means it was cooked with oil or butter.  Given the heat, she didn't think that was necessary because it ended up a little greasy/soggy.  For this weather, she thinks they'd be fine with just toasted bread.  Came with homemade seasoned chips which were also very well prepared. 
E's husband Neil ordered the grilled mahi tacos.  About all she could get out of him was that they had "no flavor."  He really enjoys tasting meats and fish in their natural state and felt like he couldn't appreciate the fish at all.  They were served with corn salsa that he said was also flavorless.  She thought, "Hey, didn't you order these before at the restaurant and have the same opinion?" To this he replied, "oh yeah, I forgot I'd ruled these out before."  E's friend Ellen had the shrimp tacos which she said were excellent. The description on the menu sounds a lot like the shrimp tacos at Taco Boy at Folly Beach.  If that's true, then Ellen's right...they're excellent. 
Pawley's was quite the popular spot.
 E's friend Kelley tried the BBQ truck:
Kelley got the short end of the stick today.  She knows food.  Her sister and her husband own Motor Supply.  Kelley stood in that sweltering parking lot for over 45 minutes for the BBQ guys.  She made a really good point.  Most of their menu items today were certainly able and should have been pre-made (pulled pork, brisket, chicken salad and ribs).  It doesn't take much to measure out pork onto a bun.  I felt horrible seeing her standing there sweating her butt off as we were all eating other stuff.  Seems like the Bone-In folks didn't plan well.  Truck food is supposed to be fast and for on-the-go people.  Disappointing today. 
I've run into the same problem as Kelley with Bone-In.  The food is just so good, but it takes forever to get your meal.  I certainly appreciate the fact that the BBQ folks take the time to prepare everything to order, but that doesn't work too well when there's a huge crowd.  Something that they could definitely work on.  But until then, I'll just make sure I only hit up the truck when I have the time to wait.  I think it's worth it.

And now to talk about my lunch.  I went to 2 Fat 2 Fly (2F2F), a place that has been recommended to me several times.  It's one of those "I really want to try it, but haven't had the time to get there" spots.  I finally made it yesterday.

The menu changes daily, but here's a general overview.  I decided to go with one of the lunch combos - 4 wings and 2 sides.  The only sides are fried okra and french fries.  I can't stand okra, so I asked for just fries. They turned out to be waffle fries, and they were tasty, though they could have used a little more seasoning.  Unfortunately, by the time I got to eat my lunch, my fries were a little cold.  But I think that's partially my fault.  Moral of the story?  Eat your meal right away.

This was my complete meal.  Great amount of food for a great price.
I ended up with two different wing flavors - the jambalaya and the jam rock.  The jambalaya wings are just what you'd expect - a chicken wing stuffed with sausage and rice.  It was awesome.  The seasoning on the wing was so flavorful that it almost overpowered the flavor of the jambalaya.  I loved it.  Jam Rock is a new flavor, but it was very well matched with my jambalaya wings.  These were stuffed with Caribbean rice with a hint of pineapple and coconut.  The outside had some great kind of jerk seasoning going on.  I think I actually liked these better than the jambalaya, but I'd eat either of them again.  Because these were both so flavorful, I didn't need extra hot sauce or ranch or bleu cheese to dip in.  They were perfect on their own.

This was the inside of the jam rock wing.  My jambalaya wing picture didn't turn out.
So here's the thing.  As good as the food was, I waited nearly 45 minutes for my order.  My order was placed super fast - I probably waited in line for 2 or 3 minutes.  But then I waited.  And waited.  And waited. It was brutally hot and humid, and the Cromer's parking lot has very little shade.  I drank almost an entire Nalgene bottle of water (seriously, I had about 1/8 of it left when I finally got back to work) while I waited.  By the time I finally got my food, all I wanted to do was go home and shower before returning to work.  Or at least change out of my rather sweaty clothes.  It looked like I had been out running, and yet all I did was stand around waiting for food.  It's a good thing that I had arranged to take a long lunch, as it took me about 90 minutes (including walking to my car and driving to and from Cromer's) before I got back to my desk.  I had planned to grab my food and sit and chat with Elizabeth and her crowd before heading back to work, which didn't really happen.  That was a little disappointing.

I go to food trucks because I want a quick bite to eat.  If I wanted to take my entire hour lunch break to wait on food and eat it, I'd go to one of the myriad restaurants downtown.  I ordered wings and fries.  Even if you're making them to order, it shouldn't take more than 15 minutes.  And yes, I realize it was crowded and that it was probably overwhelming.  But all of the other trucks had the same lines and the same crowds.  While Bone-In took quite a long time to get orders out as well, both Pawleys and AlfMob were pretty speedy.  It is imperative that food trucks have fast service, especially with large crowds.  I certainly don't want to see anyone losing business because of how long it takes (and I did see a few people cancel their orders and ask for a refund). The food is good, and definitely worth the wait, but the wait seems unnecessary.  Just make sure you find a way to deal with the large crowds.  As for me, I'll be back when I know I have some time to spare, just in case.

Final Rating (for 2 Fat 2 Fly)

Anyway, I hope everyone is a little more prepared for the next FTFC that should be happening on August 31.  You should follow FTFC Columbia on Facebook for updates. You can also follow Cromer's on Twitter for updates.  As for the various trucks, you can find them all here:

Alfresco Mobilista: Twitter or Facebook
Columbia's newest truck...can't wait to try them!
2 Fat 2 Fly: Twitter or Facebook

Bone-In Artisan BBQ: Twitter or Facebook
See how crowded it was?
Pawley's Mobile Eats: Twitter or Facebook.


  1. I don't think you can judge any of these trucks based on yesterday's FTFC. With that many people in one place, you had to have known it would take time.

    On any given day it has never taken me more than 10 minutes to order and get my food at Bone-In, or 2F2F. (And believe me, I frequent Bone-In once a week. So. Flipping. Amazing.! Try the pork ceasar if you get the chance, it is literally heaven.)

    Cromer's definitely could have dealt with having some pop up tents.

    Honestly, I think the trucks will know what to expect for next time.

  2. I'm sure everyone was a little overwhelmed yesterday - I certainly didn't expect to find that many people. Next time everyone can be a little more prepared. And the food is definitely worth the wait.

    I love Bone-In. I love their brisket so much that I haven't quite been able to bring myself to order anything else, though the pork caesar looks incredible. I've had long waits and short happens. I happened to have the time to wait, but not everyone did. And like I said above, I don't want the wait times to turn people away from these fabulous trucks.

    I'll definitely be there next time, though I may plan to go right at the start to avoid having to wait.

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  5. The food truck food court was crazy packed w/long lines & the heat amplified the long waiting process. I also go to bone in once a week sometimes twice and like ashleigh mention even with a cooked to order caesar salad never waited longer than 10 mins maybe 15 at the max.

    Please go try to visit Bone In at one of their regular parking lots (Wed, Thurs, Fri or Sat) @ 11:30am -2pm to try another item such as the new dill pickled fried green tomato on scallion waffles with basil aioli and organic mixed greens without crazy crowds and if you go on friday to can eat in the air conditioned Big Apple. The Bone In truck is definitely worth a second try because the food sells itself.

    Now, if you want to fight the crazy crowds again then you can do like me and go to Cromers on August 31st for the Food Truck Food Court again.