Do you remember a time when this city was seemingly strung out as tightly as a rubber band ready to snap whenever the subject of food trucks came along?
It was about this time last year that the dialogue with the city of Savannah was pretty hot and heavy over what exactly the food truck industry would look like in this area. Some were a little squeamish, but others were all for it. Whatever our food truck culture was going to look like was going to be a work in progress. Everyone involved pretty much agreed with that.
Since then, there have been all kinds of trucks spotted on our area streets. Some came from existing brick-and-mortar spots like Blowin' Smoke Southern Cantina or Molly MacPherson's; still others took advantage of the opportunity to roll out a truck and do something completely different. The Big Cheese gourmet grilled cheese truck we featured on our television show last weekend is just one example of that.
I am here to tell you the quality of food coming off of our trucks is not all created equally. Frankly, quite a few of them offer some items that are just flat-out underwhelming. It's been disappointing to see that because - as one accomplished chef in town told me - food trucks should be offering some of the best things you've ever eaten. "Not just OK."
We've got a lot of "just OK" out there right now.
Still, as is the case around here, I am going to leave them out of the discussion. The good news is, the infrastructure surrounding the food trucks is getting better. The Savannah Food Truck Festival (the group overseeing it all) has absolutely taken a step forward in its organization of the events. The Golden Isles Food Truck Festival last week was fantastic and had a great setting. I absolutely believe everything is going to get better, from the quality of the food to the variety to the availability.
For now, though, if I had to pick one truck to recommend to anyone to try? Right now? Today? Pizza on wheels.
Big Bon Pizza, like so many other concepts out there when it came to trucks, seemed like a good idea as the food truck movement gathered momentum a couple of years ago.
"We thought about doing Korean food on a truck," says Kay Heritage, owner of Big Bon Pizza. "But everyone loves pizza, so it made it easy. Maybe later on we'll do a Korean food truck. Who knows?"
Kay admits she didn't know much about great Neapolitan-style pizza. It took a trip to the company she bought her oven from in Maryland to convince her that she could make fantastic pies off of the back of a trailer. That she has done.
For months, Kay, along with her sister and niece, practiced making dough and pizza.
"They were awful," Anna Heritage recalls. "Dumpy, doughy and just nothing."
Kay agrees. "I look at what we are making now and we laugh and beg each to remove older photos we were once so proud of from social media."
After some training from a reputable pizza maker in Chicago, she says it took them making more than 3,000 practice pizzas to begin to get the hang of it.
"That was when everything started to come together," Kay says. That was roughly a year ago.
Today you'll find them here and there, there and here. Not always part of the most popular food truck events. They are doing quite a few private events already. Word of mouth will do that for you.
"We've had people call," Kay says. "Wanting to hire us for a graduation party. And they admit that they have never had our pizza. Just been told it was really good."
That right there is gold when it comes to your marketing dollar, don't you think?
The pies are fantastic. As good as your favorite spot in New Jersey? Meh, I'm not going to go there. Not only are we not in New Jersey, but this is also different and should be accepted as such.
Creativity and most importantly, quality ingredients, make a big difference in that regard. Kay is buying some of the best she can find to put on those pizzas. Even the flour is imported, and there is nothing cheap about it.
"Those bags were costing us $50 per 25-kilo bag. It almost killed us," she recalls.
Of course, those prices will get passed along to you. Her pizzas will cost you about $15 a pop. Are they worth it? Absolutely. Are you going to bring your five kids over to the truck for gourmet pizzas and drop $60? Probably not, but they are aware of that. They are certainly not for everyone.
But if you are in the mood to chase down some food trucks, Big Bon Pizza should be either at the top or very near the top of your list.
See you on TV,