The Arts District's Food-Truck Plaza is Back, But It Really Shouldn't Be This Hard, Dallas

Categories: Complaint Desk

Food Trucks Arts District.jpg
Does this kid look like he's having any fun to you?
Yesterday The Dallas Morning News reported that food trucks serving the Arts District had received notices of violations. They were operating in a public right of way and that's no good.

The trucks responded by moving from where they were -- a plaza across from the AT&T Performing Arts Center -- into a private parking lot down Flora Street. Trucks can do what they like on private property, given the owners' consent.

I stopped by yesterday and checked out the setup. Five trucks packed into the lot served hungry lunch goers. Still, it felt like a temporary solution. The trucks were cramped and the space felt stuffy. So I called Joey Zapata, who oversees code compliance for the city, and asked what the deal is. Why can't we give the food trucks a little breathing room?

Turns out they just got some.

The Arts Center pointed out their use agreement with the city today. It says the Center has control of the grounds surrounding the Winspear and the Wyly Theatre. So that's that. The trucks can park on the plaza and everyone's happy.

Almost.

I asked Zapata why trucks can't just park in parking spaces on the street like other cities I've visited. He told be they couldn't operate a business in a public right of way without a permit.

More permits. The same permits that valet companies use to block off a section of curb for parking and exchanging cars. Zapata says they're looking into offering similar permits to food trucks. If the trucks can afford the permits and the spots they're allowed to use are flexible, it would be a decent deal for the trucks, and it would make Dallas' food-truck scene way more usable and dynamic.

Imagine working in an office building where a different truck parked across the street every day. Monday is banh mi day; Tuesday is kimchee french fry day; Wednesday you get a loaded pastrami; and so on. Food trucks are supposed to be mobile, after all. That's why they've got tires on them. But with all these constraints the city has effectively given them all the boot.

What's happening at the Arts District may be working for people working near the Arts District, but it certainly doesn't work for people who can't walk there. I visited the plaza Tuesday and tried to park in the lot where the trucks had been forced to move. They wanted 10 bucks. I wanted to buy a sandwich that cost $5.

Check out this short blog post from Ruth Reichl, the editor of the much-missed Gourmet, which describes her happening upon a food truck. She ordered some dish called Eggslut, which she describes as "a tender egg, held together with no more than a wish, on top of buttery pureed potatoes," which makes me question my efficacy as a food writer forever. But the point is she happened upon the food truck. There's serendipity involved. An element of chance.

The way things are set up right now feels stodgy, forced and completely devoid of fun. That's what needs to change if Dallas wants a chance at a decent food truck scene. The problems with the food many of them serve -- well, I'll save for another rant.


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21 comments
Jessica Roberts
Jessica Roberts

There are obviously a lot of issues to contend with here but one quick solution for the parking is the free 1-hour parking available in front of Booker T. Washington High School. Only one block down from the Myerson, and two blocks down from the parking lot the trucks have currently returned too nearby the Nasher. It's quite a pleasant walk if you take Flora all the way down, and nearby Sammons Park should you take advantage of the tables in that area. You only get an hour or so, but if you aren't having a lingering lunch, it works.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

This is why we can't have nice hipsters!!

Anon
Anon

It's unclear why you'd complain about not being able to drive to a food truck (or at least not without paying for parking). It costs someone money to provide the parking, so either you go to a restaurant where its cost is built into the price of your meal or you go to a food truck and pay for it yourself. 

Tsbrown75
Tsbrown75

Why is Texas always last on everything....food trucks should be able to go anywhere...Chicago has trucks everywhere downtown. the food trucks here should all of downtown not just art district which is not a full arts district

Melissa
Melissa

I'd also like to see them come someplace besides the few "oh-so-fashionable" neighborhoods.  Spread the wealth.  How about Casa Linda or someplace out here once in a while.  Everyone doesn't live in the Arts District or Oak Cliff.

ah
ah

Thanks for this article.  The red tape exists badly in Austin, TX, where over 1k trucks reside including my own...

Veletta Forsythe Lill
Veletta Forsythe Lill

Thanks for mentioning the one hour free parking in front of Booker T.   There is also one hour free parking across Flora from where the trucks are currently parked at 2121 Flora.   In addition, in front of the Meyerson there are some one hour spaces.    The Winspear parking is $5 during the day, where there are no performances (most week days). 

Veletta Forsythe LillExecutive Director - Dallas Arts District

CheeryBitch
CheeryBitch

Paying for parking, in some places, is equivalent to paying for your bags to fly on the plane with you. It should be included in the 'price'. You shop at Eatzi's, you park for free. If you've bought tickets to the Opera, you should be able to park for free. If you're a patient at Medical City, you should be able to park for free. If you're buying from a food truck, that had to pay for a permit, and possibly has to pay a percentage of sales to wherever it's parked, you should be able to park for free.

Melissa
Melissa

We're not.  Food trucks are fine as long as they are industrial ones going to job sites. Tons and tons of them. It only has to be so regulated when "nice" people instead of construction workers are eating from them.

db
db

I’ve made a conscience decision to live where I can walk orride my bike to almost everything.  Mycar sits for days and days at a time.  I knowthat parking places are expensive (approximately $7K at street level, $15Kabove ground, and $30K below ground), and I would prefer that the cost not bebuilt in since I’m not a user.  I feelthe same way about bag fees, etc..  If I wantto use the service I am happy to pay for it, but would prefer not to subsidize thosethat do.

Anon
Anon

The analogy to airlines and bags works, but I'd arrive at the opposite conclusion every time. I walk to many of the stores and restaurants I patronize. Their requirement to provide parking adds a cost that they must pass on to me, even though I don't use the parking. I don't think parking should necessarily be free in any of the examples that you provide. Many businesses will provide the parking either way, rightly assuming their customer base wants it. But that doesn't change whether it SHOULD be provided.There is definitely a bare minimum level of service, to be sure. I don't want to start getting charged for every additional napkin I use at a restaurant. But requiring customers to pay explicitly for parking or airline bag check doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

Anon
Anon

I was going to say something similar. The construction workers in Uptown have been dining from food trucks for all 6 years that I've worked there and had occasion to observe it (minus the recession when construction in Uptown stopped). Once you start going after the office workers in Uptown, you will face barriers. Which of course makes sense. There's little risk the construction workers were going to spend half a day's wages dining in Uptown for lunch regardless.

CheeryBitch
CheeryBitch

I'd LOVE to be able to walk to everything (if I lived in a city), but with the way citys are zoned... it's not always possible. So, it's a necessary evil to provide parking - even free parking -  if you want the business. Charging for extras makes sense (a third bag, parking in the front [or valet], etc.), but when the nickel-and-diming starts.... you have to draw a line somewhere.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

As am I. Some are just pickups with storage space, and you're correct that they prepackage only. Many others are full-on food trucks with cooktops and fryers and the like. All the mise en place are obviously pre-prepared, but they will grill meats as they roll and do final cooking/assembly on-site.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

back when I worked in a warehouse district, I used to buy breakfast off the roach coach.  They had breakfast tacos, burritos and the such that were obviously not prepackaged, but I couldnt tell you if they cooked them on the truck, or back at their home base and were just kept under heat in tha back of the truck while they drove around

Mark Wootton
Mark Wootton

I'm referring to the ones at construction sites and similar situations. Those that I've seen in such places are all prepared food. I suppose I've not seen the ones you're speaking of.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

I don't know how many roach coaches you've encountered, but the vast majority do have a cook or two in the back preparing some things to order.

Mark Wootton
Mark Wootton

I believe the food trucks you're both referring to are different in that they serve prepared, packaged foods. The major permitting changes apply when you want to cook and prepare food on the truck rather than at a brick & mortar commercial kitchen.

Mervis
Mervis

"half a day's wages"  --------      you're funny............

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