Mike Stephens of Indianapolis didn’t know exactly what he wanted for lunch on Saturday, just where his appetite would take him – the third annual Springfield Rotary Gourmet Food Truck Competition at Veteran’s Park.
“I’m kind of a foodie and my wife is into antiques and I’ve been looking forward to this for a while,” said Stephens, who heard about the event on Facebook and planned out a weekend trip for food and antiques in the area. “It was a great location, shade, tables, music. And it smelled so good.”
A mid-afternoon downpour and intermittent rain thereafter didn’t deter the hunger for a variety of delicacies available from the 35 food trucks.
“The quality of the food was the best we’ve ever had, and despite the rain people still came,” said Eddie Bell, Rotarian and Food Truck Competition marketing committee chair.
The number of attendees was unavailable, but Bell said the early part of the event had the most attendees in its three years, likely anticipating the wet weather to come.
Tortilla Street Food from Columbus earned the $10,000 Best Food Truck Cuisine grand prize for its dish, chipotle tortilla taco. Participants offer a signature dish judged by a panel of local chefs.
“We put a lot of hard work in our fresh-made food. I’m excited, this is our first time here,” said Carlos Torras, who accepted the prize and said they’ll likely return in 2017 to defend the title.
Smokin’ Bee-Bee-Q was runner-up with a $2,000 prize. Other award winners earning $1,000 each included Best Menu: Street Thyme; Best Customer Service: The Queen’s Table; and Best Truck Design: Mojo Tago, last year’s grand-prize winner. Mojo Tago has won awards at all three competitions.
Springfield’s Greg Noll and his family dined on Italian sausage, Reuben balls and crabcakes.
“We really like trying things we don’t always get to,” said Noll, who returned Saturday after missing last year’s event.
He and daughter Brianna didn’t mind the 45-minute wait for the two small crab cakes, describing them as worth the wait and full of meat despite the size before moving off to enjoy waffles for dessert.
Firehouse Crab Balls traveled the farthest to be here, all the way from Maryland. Co-owner Tommy Gibson thinks nothing of the long travel and was rewarded with long lines for his seafood fare.
“I love the people out here,” he said. “It’s a compliment all the people waiting in line for our food.”
Gibson believes part of the appeal is making its food fresh and cooked to order, not using a heat lamp.
About a third of the participating food trucks came from Columbus, which also had its food truck event this weekend.
That left Andy O’Brien, co-founder of Dublin-based Kinetic, with a choice. He opted to return here after coming to the first competition in 2014.
Kinetic is representative of the variety of food at the Competition, offering health-conscious options.
“This has grown since we first came here. There’s good support and a good network of volunteers,” said O’Brien, who mentioned he’d like to return here.
Money raised from the Competition go toward a number of Springfield Rotary charities.
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