Jae Johans sat at a folding table in the middle of the Eads Bridge, eating a stuffed crepe and enjoying a bird’s-eye view of the Mississippi.
It was a special culinary experience, made possible by food trucks.
“I think they’re amazing,” said Jae, 61, of St. Louis, who works for a non-profit organization. “They travel, and they give an individual proprietor a chance to try (his or her) business without a traditional brick-and-mortar place.”
Jae is a regular at Food Truck Fridays in Tower Grove Park, and sometimes she patronizes food trucks at City Garden in downtown St. Louis.
The rolling restaurants had a big summer in St. Louis and the metro-east, serving at many outdoor festivals, concerts and art shows.
On Friday, Jae was part of a crowd celebrating renovation of the Eads Bridge, which Bi-State Development closed to vehicles for a few hours. Officials made speeches, bands played music and people ordered lunch from food trucks.
“They’re adorable,” said Elizabeth Possinger, 53, of White, Pa., who was in town with her husband, Lorne, for a conference.
“I just love the individuality of them,” she said. “This one is so unique and old-fashioned.”
I think they’re amazing. They travel, and they give an individual proprietor a chance to try (his or her) business without a traditional brick-and-mortar place.
Jae Johans on food trucks
The Possingers were getting dessert from The Fire & Ice Cream Truck, a rusty, red 1946 fire truck from Albion, east of Mount Vernon, complete with ladder and hose.
Elizabeth also admired a converted school bus painted green with fleur-de-lis stenciling, flowered curtains and a generator on the back. That business is called Holy Crepes!
“We have sweet and savory crepes for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said owner Sheila Korte, 46, of St. Louis, formerly of Pocahontas.
She fills the thin pancakes with meats, vegetables, fruits, cheeses, eggs and other ingredients. They sell for $6 to $9.
Sheila grew up on an organic farm and learned to cook from her mother. She bought the food truck three years ago after leaving her career as an environmental scientist.
“I wasn’t fulfilled,” Sheila said. “I felt like I was putting Band-Aids on oil companies.”
Today, Holy Crepe! is a vendor at Tower Grove Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings. Sheila also sets up outside Barnes-Jewish Hospital, serving doctors, nurses and medical students on the go.
Her season ends when the weather turns cold, as the bus doesn’t have heat.
“I like that I’m my own boss, and that it’s a small business,” Sheila said. “I can be creative, and I like to see the customers’ faces when they enjoy the food. You get immediate feedback.”
Another food truck on the Eads Bridge was operated by Doughboy’s Wood Fired Pizza. Its long line of customers included several women who work for a law firm in downtown St. Louis.
Legal assistant Kristy Merz, 42, of Collinsville, got a personal-size Buffalo Chicken Pizza.
I like that I’m my own boss, and that it’s a small business. I can be creative, and I like to see the customers’ faces when they enjoy the food. You get immediate feedback.
Sheila Korte on her new career
“It’s amazing that you can get wood-fired pizza from a truck,” she said. “It’s better than throw-it-in-the-oven pizza.”
The law-firm employees have become big food-truck fans in recent years. On Fridays, they walk to Lunchtime Live events with food and music on the Old Post Office Plaza.
“My favorite one is Guerrilla,” said docketing coordinator Stacey Barger, 41, of Collinsville, referring to the “fresh, local, Filipino” fare of Guerrilla Street Food.
Food trucks operate much like other businesses, except they’re mobile.
Some of the tiny kitchens are equipped with grills, refrigerators and sinks. Others have fans or mini air conditioners.
“Do you accept debits?” asked urban designer Laura Schatzman, 32, of St. Louis, standing at The Fire & Ice Cream window on Friday.
“Sure,” replied co-owner Matt Armstrong, 48, of Webster Groves, Mo., pulling a Dipstix chocolate-dipped cone out of the freezer. “Cash is becoming obsolete these days.”