Sydney: Food Trucks Have Kerb Appeal


Bernard O’Riordan

Sydney might have been slow out of the blocks when it comes to embracing the gourmet food truck craze, but mobile street food is reaching gastronomic new heights thanks to the new Paddy’s Night Food Markets.

Every Saturday night between 6.30pm and 10.30pm, the iconic Paddy’s Market at Flemington, 15km west of Sydney’s CBD, transforms from a wholesale fruit and vegetable market to a fleet of kerbside kitchens serving up quirky cuisine.

From travelling tacos and southern-style chicken wings to culinary curiosities like chocolate gözleme and coffee in a cone, these food trucks offer a small taste of the world without the added expense of an airfare.

More than 25 food truck veterans, as well as a string of up-and-comers, are cooking up a storm at the Paddy’s Night Food Markets, including Maverick Wings, Dirty Bird, Retro Rosie, Chur Burger, Bel’s Churros and the outrageously colourful desserts of Kayter Co.

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Retro Rosie serves up cakes and desserts from a caravan

If you are fortunate enough to catch Sydney’s all-singing, all-dancing bearded bakers from Knafeh Jerusalem Street Food, you are in for a real experience. They also create a range of sweet desserts out of an old shipping container that they’ve converted into a mobile kitchen.

Food trucks have inspired a whole new generation of businesses on wheels.

I’ve long been fascinated by the modern food truck concept and the idea that you can purchase a top-class meal from the back of a truck, as long as you’re quick and know where to go.

If you grew up in Sydney, you’d be familiar with the most iconic food truck of them all – Harry’s Cafe de Wheels at Wooloomooloo. There has always been something comforting about stopping for a pie and mushy peas after a late night out. Classic Aussie street food at its best.

And who doesn’t remember the hard-to-catch ice cream truck that used to roam the neighbourhood when you were a child? It would be there one minute and gone the next.

That’s the beauty of food trucks. They bring a little corner of the world into your own neighbourhood, tempting you with their curious spices and sweet flavours.

While food trucks in some form or another existed well before the 21st century, they actually started to boom in 2008 when the global economy started to tank.

In Los Angeles, at the time of the Global Financial Crisis, Kogi BBQ truck hit the streets with one truck and started selling Korean style tacos to late night revellers leaving nightclubs.

LA’s Kogi BBQ kickstarted a food revolution

At the end of its first year of operation, Kogi’s sole food truck was clearing $US2 million in sales – a then-unheard-of figure – which inspired a whole new generation of businesses on wheels. It also inspired a movie.

These days there are more than 4,000 food truck vendors spread across the US, from San Francisco to New York and almost everywhere in between.

It has also spurred on a new generation of ‘travel foodies’, who visit specific destinations just to sample the street food. There are even food truck festivals and big city tours designed to capitalise on this boom in food-driven tourism.

In Australia, it’s fair to say Melbourne is the food truck capital. It was the first Australian city to embrace the idea of meals on wheels, although a whole lot of wacky regulations have held back the food truck phenomenon in Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane. Only now is Sydney starting to get a roll on.

As a result, kerbside kitchens are becoming a regular sight at many sporting events and carnivals, and are regular fixtures outside CBD office towers every lunchtime. The Street Sliders Truck is a regular fixture at Cronulla Sharks NRL games, for example. The City of Sydney also provides an app to help people find where food trucks are operating.

It’s all part of the lively, atypical dining experience we’re seeing with hidden restaurants and  bars and hole-in-the-wall cafes. The small-is-chic craze appeals to us because it’s not just about food, it’s about an emotional experience (just like the ice cream truck of our childhood).

Social media is also playing an important role in the rise of food trucks. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have not only made food trucks more accessible, these platforms also allow vendors to cultivate brand loyalty by creating a sense of community.

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Social media is building brand loyalty at Paddy’s Night Food Markets

Loyal customers are rewarded with a sense of belonging to a high-tech and hip virtual and physical community whose common interest is food.

It’s little wonder then, that Paddy’s Night Food Markets is inviting on-the-go foodies to share their own experiences on social media using the hashtag #forknflava

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Coffee in a cone by Pull’n Shots Coffee Cart

If quirky, bite-sized and relatively cheap food is your thing, be sure to make a beeline for Paddy’s Night Food Markets. It’s a dining concept uniquely suited to our times, and one that’s long overdue in Sydney.

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Be sure to follow us on Twitter @travel_instinct


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