A tremendous part of the local food scene, and something that we believe has begun to make Jacksonville very unique, is the huge variety of food trucks. Food trucks are absolutely booming now locally and one of the folks who has played a big part in that success is Anthony Hashem. You may not know Anthony personally, but I’m sure everyone recognizes his ever popular Happy Grilled Cheese food truck. The recently opened Jax Food Truck Court is his newest venture to improve the visibility of Jacksonville food trucks. I do want to take a second to thank him for putting in so much work on behalf of small business owners. It is because of people like Anthony that we have had the rapid growth of so many unique and delicious food options in our area.
The Jax Food Truck Court opened for business on Monday, December 1st and it is open Monday through Friday from 11-2 at 3814 Beach Blvd (next to Kuhn’s Flowers). The concept is simple: there is a large parking lot where 3 to 4 food trucks will park daily. There is plenty of onsite parking for customers and there is also indoor and outdoor seating provided. Inside, there are bathrooms and large tables designed for bigger groups. The outdoor seating is better designed for small groups or individuals. There is also free wifi available for customers looking to stay awhile. The food trucks that park will rotate but the goal is to have 2-3 “meal trucks” and one “dessert” truck on site daily.
We had the opportunity to speak with Anthony during opening week to get some further information on the creation of the Food Truck Court and the daily operations. As far as the motivation behind creating the space, Anthony said “I monitor, we all monitor, the national food truck scene and this is something we saw happening in several cities. The property has been in my family for 50 years so we had the opportunity to develop it. There are not many local restaurants in this area so we really had the chance to impact this community.” Anthony’s mom and dad will be running the day to day operations of the site. Anthony has created the food truck schedule so that the trucks will rotate daily. The goal is to set the schedule about a month in advance to allow for full planning and organization. This will be an easy task, as everyone involved are local food truck owners so they already have experience planning out these types of schedules. The lineup will be announced each night for the following day to allow for any type of weather impacts or truck mechanical issues that could prevent food service.
As I visited on the Thursday of opening week, Anthony was able to give me a little insight into how the week had been so far. The first few days had been a complete success. “Every day we are seeing people come in who haven’t ever been to food trucks before. Jacksonville is very friendly to the local food truck scene, we have had media here every day this week with coverage of our opening.” The food truck owners also gave Anthony extremely positive feedback over the first few days, they all reported that the customers coming in were happy, calm, and relaxed. Anthony expects that this is due to getting them away from their work environment and into the more laid back atmosphere of the Food Truck Court.
Suzanah Raffield, owner of Bold City Pops, was thrilled to be involved in the opening week. “I was invited to be here all week for the inaugural week which is an amazing opportunity. I’ve seen an immediate increase in our social media followers so the exposure has been wonderful. I will be back as often as they’ll invite me. We are such a family, it’s like having a food truck reunion every day where we get to visit with each other (the other food truck owners).”
I arrived shortly before opening time for the trucks and there were already people there beginning to order. By the time I left, there were at least four times as many people as when I arrived, including doctors and nurses, students, and business men and women. It was an incredibly diverse crowd of people. Parts of the outdoor seating areas are communal, and I had an opportunity to speak to Janet Wilson, who was having lunch with a friend. They work on the north side but they were on this side of town and decided to stop by to try out the food court. Both she and her friend had never tried any of the food trucks that were on site on Thursday but had heard about the grand opening on the news and wanted to see what the buzz was about. Another couple eating lunch said they worked within walking distance and had already been twice that week. This type of exposure is exactly what Anthony and the other food truck owners hoped for, and have obviously quickly achieved. When I asked Anthony about the familial atmosphere of the food truck community and the owners themselves, Anthony said “We call ourselves a Food Truck Fraternity. You have to think that three years ago, food trucks were completely illegal in Jacksonville. We made this progress working together and we need each other to succeed.”
Congratulations to Anthony and all the local food truck owners participating! We at Jacksonville Restaurant Reviews couldn’t be happier to have this addition to Jacksonville. Make sure to follow Jax Food Truck Court or Jax Truckies on Facebook for daily updates on food truck locations and stop by the Jax Food Truck Court for some fantastic food this week!