Eating Out: Fresno food trucks turn nursery into garden party

The Fresno BeeFebruary 17, 2014 

It's wintertime, but that hasn't slowed the food trucks down. They're still showing up at a variety of events and have some new goodies — both edible and otherwise — to show off.

Food trucks and craft beer are now a regular Saturday night option at Gazebo Gardens Nursery. The business, at 3204 N. Van Ness Blvd., started doing occasional garden parties among the roses and rhododendrons last year. The nursery got its liquor license in September and has been hosting food trucks, beer and live music every Saturday since from 5-9 p.m.

Food trucks include Casa de Tamales, Dusty Buns, Mattie's Wood Fired Pizza, Summertime Pies, Tako BBQ, Tropic Dog and sometimes Benaddiction, Morton's Grill and Raw Fresno.

There are four beers on tap and about 40 bottled beers to choose from, including local Tioga-Sequoia beer. Pouring the beer is Ephiram Bosse — some of you may remember him as the friendly, bearded bartender who used to own Fresno Brewing Company.

Newcomers will find a few picnic tables and chairs, and a neighborly vibe. The food trucks are inside the fence now, meaning you can sip a brew while waiting in line for your food. It's also a family-friendly event, so it's not unusual to see kids running around. The event has attracted crowds of hundreds on nice days.

The food vendors have had some changes recently, too.

First, the Tropic Dog trailer has joined in, selling Hawaiian-style hot dogs. Bob Hogg — doesn't he just sound like someone who would be selling hot dogs? — ditched a career managing big-box stores to serve his spin on the hot dog.

They're actually smoked sausages served in a Hawaiian sweetbread roll made locally by La Boulangerie. It's toasted to caramelize the sugars in the roll. The dogs are served with garlic aioli — mild, medium or hot — and a choice of tropical sauces, including mango, pineapple, peach and others.

Tropic Dog also sells "puka" sandwiches. They include a roasted chicken sandwich with peppers, avocado and peach sauce, a chopped steak sandwich with pepperjack cheese, peppers and onions, and a molasses-jalapeno shredded pork sandwich with pineapple sauce.

An old standby on the food truck scene, Casa de Tamales, is still serving tamales, but it is shaking things up a bit. The owners are quietly rolling out a new concept, Absolutely Tapas.

Their dishes include the fish tacos that are a "super hit," Jose Aguilar says of his wife's creation. There are also tortas — the sandwiches are beef, chicken and vegan — made by owner Liz Sanchez.

She's planning to debut patatas soon — potatoes served in waxed bags. Customers choose one of three seasonings from shot glass-sized containers, dump as much as they want in, then close the bag and shake it to season.

Mattie's pizza is also at Gazebo Gardens Saturday and, as of two weeks ago, is using its pizza oven in a fully enclosed trailer. The bigger, better trailer was funded in part by a Kickstarter.com crowd-funding campaign.

Having an enclosed trailer — instead of a mobile oven with a tent — has opened some doors for Mattie's owners. They're now selling on Saturdays at Bella Frutta, a family-run farm store at Willow and Shepherd avenues.

Bella Frutta

The food truck gathering at Bella Frutta on Saturdays and Sundays has a following that continues to grow.

Some food vendors show up as early as 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays, including the Benaddiction truck with its breakfast sandwiches, and Crumb Snatcher Goodies, with its muffins, cookies and brownies. You'll find many of the same food trucks from Gazebo Gardens at Bella Frutta, with a few extras such as Eat Street Bistro and The Shave. Most are gone by 2:30-3 p.m.

A patio has seating for about 100 and the location is kid-, pet- and bike-friendly. It has water bowls for dogs and a bike rack for the many cyclists stopping from the nearby trail. Some families have been known to tailgate in the parking lot.

The store sells single-serving size Fresno State ice cream and chocolate milk, along with drinks and the regular offering of fruit, vegetables, nuts and olive oil. And Girl Scouts plan to sell their cookies on the patio soon, too.

The food trucks are at other regular events as well, including Fridays at Manchester Center from 9 a.m. to sundown and Thursdays on Fulton Mall near Peeve's Public House from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Other food trucks also show up on Tuesdays in the Applebee's parking lot at Friant Road and Fresno Street, and a few on Fridays at the water tower downtown.

Since organizers vary and food truck schedules tend to change a lot, it's best to visit their Facebook or Web pages to find out who is where.

The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6431, bclough@fresnobee.com or @BethanyClough on Twitter. Read her blog on fresnobeehive.com.

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