Food Truck Tuesdays

It got chilly right after five o’clock last Tuesday afternoon. Down on Santa Monica’s Main Street, several food trucks started to set up in the connected parking lots of California Heritage Museum and The Victorian. People were  already in line as the sun began to set, and more were  arriving. The well visited “Food Truck Tuesdays” draw crowds of eager watery-mouths every week. The food-lot has grown in popularity among Santa Monica residents, with over 1000 visitors every week. Hosting the event was the California Heritage Museum, the Victorian, and the Southern California Mobile Vendors Association (SOCALMFVA).

Founder and CEO of SOCALMFVA, Matt Geller, studied law at UCLA before starting the association. “Matt has always been involved in the community, and he has a lot of experience in the catering and restaurant business,” said Yeyen Ong, assistant to Geller and lot administrator.

SOCALMFVA was started after a plea for legal help from Geller’s friend. His friend explained that his food truck had been shut down for three weeks due to a violation. “In the beginning, it was a lot of work learning and understanding all the regulations and restrictions,” Geller said. It was a battle to change certain Santa Monica regulations, such as time-limit restrictions that only allow  food trucks to park for 30 minutes in one place.

Gellar would go on to aid in the start-up of a designated food-truck lot in Santa Monica. The former car-dealer parking lot seemed to be a success, but the lot was shut down after only one day for zoning code violations. Even with owner consent, the city would not allow food  vending on that particular property.

The association soon teamed up with The Victorian and California Heritage Museum to gain a temporary permit that allowed the transformation of their private parking lots. Since October 2010, that temporary-use permit is still in effect today; allowing vendors and foodies to take to the lot every Tuesday. Geller and the SOCALMFVA continue to work on a permanent solution for the future.

Mobile vendors pay a membership fee to the SOCALMFVA and in return the association organizes different events and lots around the city. The association provides legal security to vendors and donates a percentage of sales to the California Heritage Museum each week. Business isn’t doing too bad; thus far they have raised over $70,000 for the museum.

Eight to 12 trucks can be found in the lot every Tuesday from 5-10 p.m. Different trucks appear arbitrarily on a 5-week rotation to maintain a variety. A popular pastime for the Santa Monica community, vendors and visitors alike appear to thoroughly enjoy themselves as families and friends, locals and tourists all take to the lot’s offerings.

Yeyen Ong’s weekly job is deciding which trucks will be involved; always staying conscious of variety. This week, an array of trucks influenced by  Indian, Latin-American and Asian cuisine could be found parked right next to the ice cream and hamburgers.

Veteran patron Samia Dillsi frequents the lot at least once a month. “I like it because you can try a lot of different things for a small price,” Dillsi explained. Dillsi’s friend, Brad Lang, emphasized on the menus that cater to those who are allergic to gluten. Eating his $4 gluten-free ice cream sandwich from the “CoolHaus” truck, Lang proclaimed; “I come here every time I’m in town. I’m allergic to flour so I like that they have a variety of choices.”

Annie Reardon and her girls found the lot through a relative while on vacation from New York. After  deciding  to try the “Round Premium Burger” truck, Reardon confessed;  “I love cheeseburgers, but this is one of the best I’ve had.” At the “Round Premium Burger” truck you can find  a  gourmet “classic with cheese” for $6.50.