If I ask you to picture a place where you can sample and buy food from a variety of different vendors serving different cuisines in a single location, I might evoke depressing images of unhealthy food slowly drying under heat lamps, and women pushing mystery teriyaki meat on a toothpick as you hurry through your local mall food court. Thankfully, we now have a much more inspiring alternative, with the creation of the Atlanta Food Truck Park & Market, which opened in April to an overwhelming response.
To borrow a bit from the famous movie line, they built it, and the people came – herds of people who inundated the 3-acre tract of land on the corner of Howell-Mill and I-75 on its opening weekend. A lucky few also got to celebrate the grand re-opening a few weeks later thanks to a bit of a permitting snafu with the city where the park was forced to close down temporarily. All has been sorted out. The park features live music and a smorgasbord of delicious offerings, and it will stay open 7 days a week, providing a great new place to come together as a community with high quality food as the centerpiece. Consider it a modern day, open-air food court, without the bad food, sticky floors, and depressing ambiance.
Open for both lunch and dinner, a variety of trucks (up to 15 at once) sell everything from Cajun to Korean to Cupcakes. The park, once the site of a run-down motel, now features a huge green space perfect for picnics (chairs and coolers are welcome), a playground set, bocce ball courts, and a bean bag toss. All are perfect diversions for the kiddos. When you’re ready to eat, there are picnic tables set up in front of a stage where local musicians play. The owners were even clever enough to install an ATM machine and provide high chairs!!! This is so much nicer than feeding your little ones in your lap. Little A is one who can’t be trusted to eat on a picnic blanket; he is usually more interested in nibbling grass or whatever debris he can stealthily stick in his mouth.
While many of the food truck mainstays were at the park the night we went, we decided to try a handful of newcomers to the scene. The Mighty Meatballs truck was our hero of the night. Super friendly brothers Sean and Jason Truelove are carrying on the tradition of their grandmother’s meatball recipe, serving them up naked, in slider-form, or as a sandwich. Grandma’s original celebrated recipe is the Italian Meatball: beef and pork mixed with pine nuts and raisins, and topped with marinara and shaved parmesan. We also enjoyed the Vietnamese inspired Banh Mi Meatball (pork), topped with sriracha mayo, carrot and daikon salad, jalepeños (hold for the Little Foodies), cilantro, and thai basil. The Gyro Meatball (lamb and beef with tzatziki, lettuce, tomato, and red onion), like the previous two, was juicy and flavorful. These guys will definitely save your day when the little ones are hungry, as they were a big hit with My Little Foodies. Seriously, meatballs are a no brainer for kids. http://www.mightymeatballs.com/
After our meatball appetizer, we came to the green “Ferrari” of food trucks. While some trucks are retrofitted package delivery cars or repurposed buses, others are souped up behemoths designed specifically for the job, with all of the bells and whistles. I was immediately intrigued by the Happy Belly Curbside Kitchen’s display of the Big Green Egg logo on their truck. It is the only food truck in the world grilling with maple hardwood charcoal on this easily recognized grill with a loyal following. Happy Belly is one of the healthier options. Their food is local, natural, and/or organic. We love the fact that 5% of their profits go to the Boys and Girls Club for education on fighting childhood obesity. We felt great about our Go Paleo pick of grilled free-range chicken on a bed of sautéed zucchini noodles, pine nuts, basil, and chiles. While a bit pricey, the portion was large enough for two and unique enough to intrigue My Little Foodies. The idea of julienning veggies into “noodles” was a great idea, and will soon be implemented at home. Think of it as a clever way to get your veggie-phobes to try something they might otherwise reject on sight. Another popular item on the kids menu (although I saw more adults ordering it) was the Granny Smith and Gouda Grilled Cheese on wheat challah, served with fruit. I love the combination of crisp, tangy fruit like apples or pears in a sandwich, and know your kids will enjoy it too. Like their Facebook page says, the Happy Belly definitely “serves food so good it runs down your arm and puts a smile on your face.” http://www.happybellytruck.com/
We topped off our dinner with one of My Little Foodies’ favorite desserts: gelato. Having recently gorged ourselves on multiple samples at a community fundraiser, we were delighted to see Honeysuckle Gelato at the park. We love that their flavors reflect the founders’ Southern roots. I always opt for a lighter, refreshing sorbet to share with Big A, and was pumped to see Watermelon on the menu. Although popular enough, it is a rare flavor to find served like Honeysuckle does it – in an all-natural state (i.e. without the high fructose corn syrup and all the red dye). True southerners will opt for a sprinkle of sea salt on top. And speaking of sea salt, we also indulged in some Sea Salted Caramel gelato, which was an ooey gooey, decadent delight. We look forward to trying some of their other creative flavors, including Snacks on a Plane (biscoff gelato layered with pretzels and peanuts) and the Elvis-inspired The Kang (toasted banana gelato with ribbons of peanut butter caramel). http://www.honeysucklegelato.com/
No matter what you choose for your menu, you and your little ones can’t go wrong. This is also a venue that won’t get old any time soon, given the incredible variety of food trucks (check the calendar) that have already partnered with the park. To top it all off, the Howell Mill Farmers’ Market operates out of this site on weekends, and plans are in the works for an evening Artists’ Market featuring fresh and emerging young artists. So come to Atlanta’s new mobile food court and experience a diversity of flavors and fun for the entire family. Now if they only had some yummy samples…
Mighty Meatballs’ Italian or Banh Mi Meatball Slider-$2.50
Happy Belly’s “Go Paleo”-$10.00
Happy Belly’s Gouda & Granny Smith Grilled Cheese-$6.50
Honeysuckle Sorbets and Gelatos-$3.50 (for 2 scoops)