SactoMoFo: gourmet food on the cheap
Local foodies are hoping to overturn a city ordinance not by petitioning, but by eating – gathering mobile food vendors in Fremont Park for a food festival called SactoMoFo.
The April 30 event in Fremont Park will have 21 food vendors – including 15 gourmet food trucks – and run from noon – 6 p.m., said Catherine Enfield, one of the event’s organizers and writer of the Munchie Musings food blog.
Other organizers include Joshua Lurie-Terrell of YumTacos.com, Paul Somerhausen of the Sacramento Epicureans and Costa Apostolos of the Friends of Fremont Park.
“I’m looking forward to good food,” Enfield said. “I personally was in charge of getting the Bay Area trucks, and I selected the best – the crème de la crème of Bay Area trucks – so I’m really looking forward to those.”
Food vendors specializing in a variety of areas will be at the festival – including mini burgers, Korean food, single-brewed coffees and gourmet salads.
The vendor slots filled up in about a month, Enfield said, and organizers had more interest than availability, prompting a waiting list. That allowed the event to stay full despite a couple of cancellations.
But it’s not all about having a bite to eat.
“We have an agenda,” Enfield said. “Sacramento has city ordinances that deter gourmet trucks from being in our city.”
An ordinance limiting the amount of time a truck can be stopped to 30 minutes effectively kills business, Enfield said.
She added that SactoMoFo got an event permit from the city, so the 30-minute rule isn’t in effect for the festival.
Davin Vculek, operating partner of Mini Burger Truck, agreed.
His food truck began operating in Sacramento earlier this year, and he said the ordinance makes him spend more time outside Sacramento.
“This is the only spot in the area where you have to move every 30 minutes,” he said. “Elk Grove, Roseville, Rancho Cordova and Folsom are all a lot more lenient and easier to do business in. We find ourselves out there a lot because it’s easier.”
Despite that, he said Mini Burger Truck works downtown, although some customers get upset after waiting in line only to have the 30 minute time limit expire before they can place their orders.
Vculek said he will be at the festival cooking gourmet burgers to spread awareness of the mobile food scene as well as the law to Sacramentans.
“We want to show people in this city what it’s all about,” he said. “We’ve built a pretty good fan base thus far, but it’s a small fraction of a percentage.”
Julia Yoon will bring her Seoul on Wheels truck from San Francisco and serve Korean barbecue specialties.
“There are so many amazing food trucks right now, with all different types of cuisine,” Yoon said. “It’s a really good way to try all different types of foods out there. We have spots (in San Francisco) where five trucks will gather. It’s a great way for people to sample lots of food and not break the bank.”
She added that her menu ranges in price from $3 – $8, and that’s typical of food trucks in general.
In San Francisco, she said the permitting process is easier than in Sacramento, with trucks being allocated a spot where they stay and serve.
She said being required to move every 30 minutes would ruin her business.
“I would not be able to do it,” she said. “Thirty minutes is just not enough time to serve the number of people I get. On a regular day I might be serving 80 – 150 people on a lunch stop.”
Sacramento coffeehouse Chocolate Fish Coffee will be at the festival as well, serving single-brewed cups of coffee to attendees.
“We’ve always thought the food truck idea was really groovy,” said co-owner Edie Baker. “We travel up to Portland, and we have our food trucks we like to visit up there, just like we have our favorite restaurants.”
Baker said she has not invested in a food truck in Sacramento due to the ordinance, but she would like one to augment her storefront at 3rd and Q streets.
And the name Chocolate Fish Coffee?
Baker said it is a tradition from New Zealand in which people give fish-shaped chocolates as thank-yous.
“We sell them here,” she said, adding that her husband is from New Zealand. “It’s a nice thing to take back to the office and give as a thank-you.”
Also at the festival will be Mama Kim on the Go, the food truck from Mama Kim at the O Club, located at the Lion’s Gate Hotel in McClellan Park.
Owner Kim Scott has been in the catering and restaurant business for the past 12 years and started using a food truck about a month ago.
“We do fresh, gourmet food,” she said. “One of our signature things is a barbecue tri-tip with sweet potato chips.”
She added that she uses local produce and would describe the fare as “California fresh.”
Food truck operators and mobile food enthusiasts said they long to bring the vibrant mobile food vending culture prevalent in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland to Sacramento.
“I hope a lot of people come out for it,” Baker said. “I hope the town really supports it, and I think it could make us stand out and be a reason people come to Sacramento.”
The festival will be held from noon – 6 p.m. April 30 at Fremont Park, 15th and Q streets. Entrance is free, but donations will be accepted to benefit the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.
Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.