While it’s not the proverbial dinner bell, trucks rolling into the new Modesto Grub Hubs are having the same effect — bringing in hungry diners.
May 1 was opening day for the new downtown Modesto food truck court at the corner of Ninth and G streets. The long-vacant lot near the heart of the bustling city center is being transformed into a vibrant destination meant to attract workers, families and anyone with an appetite. The court will be home to 19 mobile eateries serving everything from tacos to barbecue, kebabs to Cajun food.
“There’s been a lot of excitement about the location and the kinds of foods we’ll have here,” said Gregory Reed, who owns the lot and operates the food court. “And (before today) everyone kept asking, ‘When are you going to open?’ ”
Reed, president of Reed Properties and G&K Enterprises, came up with the idea for Grub Hubs about two years ago. He had owned the lot for more than a dozen years, and in the past it was the hub for Vito Trucking and then was a trucking school. Now, a totally different kind of truck is filling the space.
On Wednesday, the court opened with three food trucks: Fonzi’s Tacos, Franci’s Pupusas and Taqueria La Guadalupana. By the end of the week, Reed said, two or three more trucks should be ready to join the party. Then, throughout the month, he expects the rest of the food vendors to complete their builds and finalize their permits. By the end of May, most if not all the businesses should be moved in.
Curious customers were already trickling in Wednesday morning, despite the limited options during the soft open. Many, like Turlock resident Estella Barraza, said they’ve been watching its development with great interest the last few months.
“We’ve been waiting for it, and when we saw it was open thought we’d give it a try,” she said. “They’re all in one place here, so you can try them all.”
The site setup is pretty simple. Customers can enter from G or Ninth street, and parking spots circle the perimeter of the court. The asphalt lot is well lit and has a long shade structure running down the center to protect diners from the searing summer heat. Other clusters of picnic tables have umbrellas or awnings, and the complex has a full bathroom converted from an old shipping container. The site has seating for more than 200 currently.
Now that trucks have started filling up the space and selling food, Reed said, he expects the Grub Hub gates to remain open 24 hours a day. The site will have daily security in the evenings with later hours for the weekends.
The businesses on site on opening day said they welcomed the opportunity to be part of the new food court. Most of the early arrivals have run their trucks for at least a year, if not much longer. Fonzi’s Tacos owner Fonzi Meraz has had his trailer for two years, parking for the last six months just one block away at the Redeemer Modesto church at Ninth and H streets.
“This place offers a lot more,” he said. “A lot more parking. A lot more restrooms. They have tables and chairs. It’s a nice setup. It’s safe and easy for people to stay and park.”
Krepe Dog, which debuted in Turlock about a year ago, is also moving to the site and expects to open by the end of the week. Husband-and-wife owners Jorge and Eileen Rodriguez said that while it was difficult to leave their Turlock base, they wanted the exposure to new customers the Modesto site will provide.
“Modesto is just a bigger city, and we liked the Grub Hubs idea of gathering up different styles of food trucks and giving all these options to people,” said Eileen Rodriguez.
As more trucks come in, Reed said, more features will be added to the site. That includes creating an area for people to play corn hole, building a beer garden area and bringing in live music.
Work will also begin soon on Reed’s own eatery, Fire and Desire Texas BBQ. The restaurant is being built in another shipping container on site, and should be completed this summer. Pitmaster Brian Kiser, Reed’s restaurant partner, will serve up Texas-style dry-rubbed barbecue including brisket, pulled pork and ribs.
The court’s trucks will be heavy on Mexican food, with everything from traditional taco trucks to fruit cup sellers and seafood specialists. Non-Mexican options will include the Ragin Cajun Kitchen (Louisiana-inspired Cajun food), Spuds & Corn (loaded potatoes and corn bowls), Doc’s Q’in Pit Stop (barbecue and soul food), Franci’s Pupusas (El Salvadorian filled flatbreads), Romson’s Kebab (Middle Eastern meat skewers), Krepe Dogs (gourmet loaded hot dogs) and at least one truck from Greens Market. And there are still dozens more on a wait list to get in.
With the food truck craze showing no signs of letting up, this court has the potential to become a culinary star for the city. So now all that’s left is to get your grub on, Modesto.
For more information on Modesto Grub Hubs, visit www.facebook.com/ModestoGrubHubs.