The food-truck craze hitting Tampa this fall is further energizing the city, especially a vastly underrated downtown. Who doesn't enjoy taking a break from work and picking among a variety of grub offered by mobile businesses with names such as Killer Samich, Taco Bus, Fire Monkey, Gone Bananas, Jerk Hut and Burger Culture, among others?
But add in the food vendors who work a popular downtown fresh market on Fridays, and some bricks-and-mortar restaurant owners feel a bit threatened.
While city officials and civic leaders should be sensitive to the concerns of these property tax-paying business owners, the owners themselves should consider the big picture:
The excitement, aroma and crowds are great for downtown Tampa — and for bricks-and-mortar restaurants. When thousands of people are walking about searching for food, it's the best possible advertising available — the free kind.
Marketing downtown Tampa doesn't get much better. It's a fair-like atmosphere in more ways than one.
And when food-truck lines are long — as they often have been — folks head to restaurants that don't have wheels. These could be people who normally eat at their desks or elsewhere but wanted to check out the food trucks, and instead spotted an appealing eatery downtown.
Ask the people who attended the first food truck rally in Hyde Park in late September, and a subsequent rally in Seminole Heights a month later, and Mayor Bob Buckhorn's first Food Truck Fiesta at Gaslight Park in early November. They were happenings.
The next Mayor's Food Truck Fiesta is set for Joe Chillura Park Courthouse Square on Dec. 7. That the locations are being rotated should help ease the concerns of local restaurateurs — as should knowing that the rallies aren't being held every day or even every week.
The rallies are part of the further development of downtown Tampa as a place that people should want to come to for food and entertainment. The city also is continuing its efforts to finish the last two segments of the Riverwalk project, which will make the city even more attractive to residents, commuters and visitors.
Buckhorn summed up the fun perfectly to Tribune food writer Jeff Houck after the inaugural Mayor's Food Truck Fiesta around Gaslight Park. "This is part of being hip. It's part of what makes a downtown cool. …"
You got that right, mayor. Keep on food-truckin'!