The Main Street Food Truck Festival has turned into a colossal event over the past 9 years. It now spans over 11 city blocks weaving down Main Street, Capitol Ave, and many side streets and alleys along the way. Last year saw over 45,000 attendees and this year could easily surpass that.
This year features a whopping 84 trucks (which is about 24 too many IMHO, but no one asked), and it can get a touch overwhelming. Your chances of survival are slim to none if you do not plan a little. So we built this survival guide to make things a little easier.
Good luck and enjoy some great food this Sunday (September 22nd).
Guide to Surviving Main Street Food Truck Festival
With at least 84 trucks, you are not going to be able to try everything. Dig through the list of trucks before you get there and pick a few you absolutely want to hit. If you are not familiar with the trucks we put a list together of our top 20 trucks at the end of the article.
Divide and Conquer
Lines for the best trucks are usually long, especially around noon. Bring some friends and decide on a handful of spots you want to try. Then divide up, grab food, and meet back up. Depending on how many in your group you can easily try 5 or 6 trucks in the same wait time that it would take you to get food from one by yourself.
Small Portions, Sample Multiple Trucks
That said, go for small portions so you can try more. Most experienced trucks lower their typical portion size (and price point) to allow sampling. Not all though, so keep an eye out and split a dish with a friend if it is large. Every truck is required to have a sample size item, it is a good place to start but feel free to explore the menu more.
Get There Early
Gates open at 11 am. From past experience, the lines are fairly short everywhere at the opening and you can practically walk up to the window and order. By noon the lines are sometimes 40+ deep at popular spots. Again, experienced trucks handle this better and create menus items that move quick, but not everyone.
Also, the best places will sell out. It is guaranteed. Don’t expect a hot spot like Low Ivy or Delta Biscuit to still have food at 5:30, right before the event ends. Most trucks plan to sell out, it is sort of the goal.
Yes, almost every truck takes cards as well as cash. Cards slow the lines down, but high denomination bills can wreak havoc on a truck. Every year there is a mad rush behind the scenes to trade money around, it helps the trucks a lot to bring $1 bills to help circulate around.
Tip Your Favorite Trucks
The trucks are making money off the event, but many local places that carefully source their food make a very little margin. If you really love a truck, feel free to drop a buck into their tip jars. They will absolutely appreciate it.
Visit Restaurants in the Area
While most restaurants are closed anyway on Sunday, there are several restaurants in the area that remain open including Soul Fish and Brewski’s that are directly inside the Food Truck Festival area. These restaurants are heavily impacted by the festival, so stop by and sample some of their goods or grab a drink there as well. Soul Fish will have special items just for the food truck festival.
Pick Something New
Before we drop our top 20, we are also going to encourage you to try something not on the list. Every year there is a truck or two that we never heard of that ends up having a huge splash at the festival. With 84 trucks there are guaranteed to be a few gems of new trucks, trucks we have not visited, or ones that rarely set.
That said, be smart about it. There are always also a lot of duds in there too. Avoid the specialty product trucks (Twisted sandwiches from a few years ago is an example), they are typically a franchise model where the truck buys a premade product, gives it a quick fry and sends it out the window. Also, skip the carnival/concession stand food. Just don’t do it. Finally, prioritize spots you can’t get as easy. There are a few spots that set up frequently or are associated with a brick and mortar. Head to some harder to find places first that catches your eye.
Some spots that I am 100% not familiar with at all that I would love to try this year are Blue Sage Vegan, Jimmy’s Jerk Chicken, and Shell Shocked.
Finally, be aware that there seem to be an alarming number of out of state trucks at this year’s events. In researching some of the places I was not familiar with I found most places that I had not heard of appear to be traveling food trucks. Keep this festival focused on local trucks, or Arkansas based at worst, and spend your money accordingly. If you see an out of state number or out of state license plate, move on.
Our Top 20 Food Trucks Participating
This is strictly in alphabetical order, not a ranking. These are trucks we are familiar with or have heard great things from trusted sources. As stated earlier, there will be gems outside this list, but you can’t go wrong with anyone here.
A Little Crepesy
Adobo to Go
Cheesecake on Point
El Sur Street Food
Hall’s Southern Express
Jackie’s Mobile Cafe
Kyleigh’s Lemond Stand
Low Ivy – note: Low Ivy is rolling out the new truck at this event, so pay attention when tracking it down.
Slader’s Alaskan Dumpling Co
Taqueria Jalisco San Juan
Tren Al Sur
Rock Brick Oven Pizza