After months of intense public debate and City Commission deliberation, Traverse City commissioners last night passed a new city ordinance reducing fees and easing restrictions for food trucks downtown.
The new policy, which goes into effect May 16, establishes approved vending hours (7 a.m.-11 p.m. in commercial areas, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. in residential areas) as well as expanded zones where trucks may operate, including some city parking lots. Permit fees – previously $100 a day downtown – were reduced to $725 annually for private property vending and $1,225 annually for city property vending.
The ordinance's passage paves the way for Gary and Allison Jonas, who are preparing for an anticipated May 18 opening of their new full-service bar The Little Fleet, housed in the former Jack's Market building on East Front Street. The business, which will operate seven days a week from 11 a.m.-midnight, will host five permanent food trucks in its lot, with possible room for one or two more.
Below, The Ticker delivers a sneak preview of the food truck lineup heading to downtown TC when The Little Fleet opens its doors – and parking lot – later this month.
Siren Hall and Lulu's Bistro owner Michael Peterson is ready to “have a little fun” with his food as he parlays a handful of festival food truck appearances into a full-time presence at The Little Fleet. Anchor Station will pair some festival favorites – such as Killer Nachos – with dishes including blackened fish, burgers, falafel and Dirty Fries (French fries tossed with smoked pork belly, Asiago cheese, scallions and herbs.)
“It's a great way for us to expand,” Peterson says of his new venture. “We'll get to try out some things we might not normally do in the restaurants.”
The Dragon Wagon
Dan Marsh, owner of Red Ginger, purchased a 30' catering truck previously used on the set of the reality show Extreme Makeover solely with the goal of expanding his catering business. “We were looking for a good mobile kitchen,” he explains. “This truck has almost all the equipment we use in the restaurant.”
But the opportunity to use the truck year-round – and to expand Red Ginger's brand into a new market – sold Marsh on the idea of setting up shop at The Little Fleet. While The Dragon Wagon will be a separate entity from the restaurant, with a separate menu, customers can expect to see Marsh's signature Asian influences at work in dishes like duck confit quesadillas, sushi, bao buns and gourmet “sliders” featuring crab cakes and seared tuna.
Kim Ryan, who cut her teeth locally in the kitchens of The Cooks' House and Om Cafe, will oversee operations at EZ Cheesy, a new food truck owned by the Jonases. The business will specialize in upscale grilled cheese sandwiches, featuring locally sourced cheese and bread, as well as unique sides and rotating specials. The Jonases will also introduce a bicycle unit during the summer months to sell a variety of popsicles and ice cream.
Pigs Eatin' Ribs
Charlevoix-based chef Adam Kline is coming full circle with his new truck at The Little Fleet. The entrepreneur began serving his smokehouse-style BBQ in 2012 out of a traveling bus outfitted with a custom-built mobile cooker. The success of the operation paved the way for Kline to open a restaurant, Pigs Eatin' Ribs Smokehouse, in Charlevoix.
Now Kline's attention is back on mobile vending as he sets up a second (permanent) Pigs Eatin' Ribs truck at the TC bar. “We'll have a revolving menu, but we'll always have our award-winning St. Louis spare ribs, pulled pork, brisket and probably a chicken item of some kind,” Kline says, who notes he may offer vegetarian options as well.
Roaming Harvest/Little Yella
With a food truck-friendly city ordinance finally in place, Simon Joseph – owner of Traverse City's first food truck, Roaming Harvest, and leader of the advocacy group TC Street Food – is now ready to turn his attention to his next big project: expanding his business.
Joseph has purchased a second vehicle, nicknamed Little Yella, that will make its home at The Little Fleet. While the unit will retain Roaming Harvest branding, its menu will depart slightly from its predecessor's. “We're focusing on lighter fare,” explains Joseph.
“Things like simple sandwiches and salads...as well as our curries, which have been big with customers.”
For more information on The Little Fleet, visit www.thelittlefleet.com.