Food Trucks Invade Suburban Streets: Shaker Heights Embraces New Local Choices
Economic Development director invites trucks to youth minor league games, events within city.
Food trucks have been popping up all over the suburbs of Cleveland, at offices, festivals and outside bars.
While some communities seem to resist the trucks' presence, some communities have embraced them with open arms.
In Shaker Heights, Economic Development Director Tania Menesse did not know where they would park, but she wanted food trucks. So she found a spot for them.
“The main motivation to me was to begin to expose to the larger Cleveland foodie culture that Shaker Heights is a good market to open a great local restaurant,” said Menesse. “The population in our city is — literally — hungry for local food.”
So she asked around in the city and, with the recreation department, decided to invite Umami Moto to youth minior league baseball games. It’s turned into a popular feature at the Shaker Heights ballfields on weeknights – dinnertime often rolls around before the seventh-inning stretch, and the fields have no concession stands.
On top of that, “It creates more of a sense of community – they come out, stand around the trucks, chat with their neighbors,” Menesse said.
“Shaker Heights has been really, really generous with us,” Umami Moto founder Sandy Madachik said.
Her truck was the second to take to the streets of Cleveland, right at the beginning of the 2010 rush that has since sparked at least half-dozen gourmet food trucks to open up shop.
Still, she said, most trucks stay close to downtown unless they are invited to the suburbs for a special event or a festival.
In Beachwood, trucks were invited to serve grub at the Green Dream Expo last spring, and they lined the Shaker Arts Festival in June.
“There’s a pretty big difference between the suburbs and the downtown mindset,” said Madachik. “Downtown, people will walk more and they’re more interested in trying new food, but in the suburbs, if you’re not parked right next to a building, they won’t find you.”