A New Sense of Community through Food Truck Culture

by Brianna Sörne

The idea of the food truck represents something humble and earnest that allows creativity to flourish for an aspiring business owner.

TFM_Summer_Web_Page_47_Image_0002Over the past five years there has been a growing discussion about how Tallahassee is interpreting and adjusting with the changes of the modern world, and what will come of the developmental projects that have been implemented to improve our quality of life. Within a city like Tallahassee there is a mix of traditional and varied cultural influences. When the primary focus is on government and university buildings, it is often difficult to strike a widespread cultural harmony within a community of diverging interests. Yet, there have also been certain emerging avenues that have been initiated entirely by people of the community that are improving upon our sense of place and home, regardless of class or affiliation.

The idea of the food truck represents something humble and earnest that allows creativity to flourish for an aspiring business owner who wants to materialize their vision. The public has shown their support through their increased patronage at events like Capital City Amphitheater concerts, The Word of South Festival, The LeMoyne Chain of Parks Art Festival, First Fridays at Railroad Square, and Food Truck Thursdays at Lake Ella. Where people collect and celebrate, there is now a collection of diverse food trucks that expand the breadth of the celebration.

TFM_Summer_Web_Page_47_Image_0005Consider the food truck El Criollo, a testament to an aspiring food lover’s ability to make his traditional food histories accessible to the modern public. The food truck was started by owner Geno Arroyo, a native to Puerto Rico, after many years of traveling the world. He partnered with Chef José Robles, who was taught at a young age to make dishes with ingredients and recipes passed down through his Puerto Rican lineage. Through Arroyo’s and Robles’ personal histories and passions for sharing them, they have extended their food cultures to a growing and supportive customer base.

The story of El Criollo is similar to other stories that are derived from cultures around the world where old food histories extend back multiple centuries and teach us the importance of understanding a broad range of palates and techniques. TFM_Summer_Web_Page_47_Image_0003For example, a section of El Criollo’s menu is dedicated to multiple mofongo dishes. Traditionally an Afro-Puerto Rican staple, mofongo is a base of plantains paired with beef, seafood or chicken that can be mashed, stuffed or rolled into balls. A dish like this shows how the Caribbean islands such as Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba spent most of their formative years as melting pots of African and Creole influences. Because Arroyo and Robles bring food from a region that has multiple ethnic influences and reinterpret it for a new audience, they communicate a deeper, richer message from their past to our present. As Arroyo has stated, he never experienced a true Puerto Rican meal outside of Puerto Rico, before starting his business and partnership with Chef Robles. The history and culture behind the El Criollo food truck allow them to channel their personal traditions to their local community.

TFM_Summer_Web_Page_47_Image_0004When businesses like Lasang Pinoy Philippine Cuisine, Ono Kai Hawaiian Style and Catering, El Criollo Grill, Dany’s Cambodian Cuisine and Valhalla Grill are in the same location, within the same platform, their presence initiates an excitement to explore the differences between them. We start asking “Why are you passionate about your food? What is the story behind your truck? What made you want to pick up and serve food to the masses in open spaces?” These questions expose a desire to make connections for a more fulfilled and significant human experience in Tallahassee. It is easy for someone to be fed to fulfill their basic human need for food, but when these small businesses seek to educate and create a narrative around food, it then incites us to think differently about what we’re eating. We begin to change our minds about how food is created, where it comes from and its impact on our shared ideas of the arts, cultures and our collective experiences. These food trucks are portable vessels that champion these concepts, and the dishes are the messages that voice the stories behind them. When these businesses convene at our most central and pleasant focal points like Lake Ella, Cascades Park or Railroad Square, they are helping to shape our city and our friends and families within it. They continue to improve upon the way we satisfy our basic needs and in turn, we are able to expand upon plans to develop Tallahassee into a city of its own strong local customs, culture and food histories.

Brianna Sörne is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University, whose studies focus on art history, visual landscapes, city structures, and global food, music, and architectural cultures.



Part of the food truck philosophy is their mobile inclination. Here are just a few of the spots around town where you can start.

Wednesdays and Thursdays:

Food Truck Court, 725 S. Brunough Street 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Captain Q’s

El Criollo Grill

The Mann’s Doghouse

Food Truck Wednesdays:

Four Oaks Community Church, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Backpacker’s Box

Dany’s Cambodian Cuisine

Donaven’s Road Cookin & The Munchie Bus

El Criollo Grill

Foodz Traveler

Momma P’s Ice Cream

The Cake Shop Bakery

The Mann’s Doghouse

Valhalla Grill

Food Truck Thursday, Every Thursday:

5 to 9 p.m., Lake Ella

Dany’s Cambodian Cuisine

Julio’s Food on the Move

Scott’s Smokehouse

Street Chefs

Taco Truck Juan

Valhalla Grill

First Fridays, Railroad Square Art Park:

First Friday of every month, 5 to 9 p.m.

Big Five Braai

Captain Q’s

Foodz Traveller

Scott’s Smokehouse

Street Chefs

Lake Ella Sunday Brunch:

Sunday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Captain Q’s

Island Pound Hounds

P&G’s Mobile Table

Street Chefs



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