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Eating in Klyde Warren Park in Dallas: A Roundup of the Food Truck Scene

John Coleman and Joe Scigliano (right) working the Relish truck at Klyde Warren Park. (Photo courtesy of Relish)
John Coleman and Joe Scigliano (right) working the Relish truck at Klyde Warren Park. (Photo courtesy of Relish)

So why the lack of variety?  Currently, Relish, The Butcher’s Son, Gandolfo’s NY Deli, Nammi, and Crazy Fish are on site almost every day. Ruthie’s Grilled Cheese shows up on occasion. For dessert, What’s Da Scoop gets the beginning of the week and CoolHaus gets Thursday through Saturday.

So why the lack of variety?  Here are a few things I’ve learned:

Originally, the food trucks were meant to supply food to park patrons until the two official KWP restaurants, Savor and Relish, could complete construction.  In October 2012, the KWP restaurant plan was announced. John Coleman and Joe Scigliano of F2M Hospitality llc., the masterminds behind food in the park, opened the Relish Food Truck and planned to flip burgers until the brick and mortar restaurant could be completed. At that point, they estimated it would take six months to open the restaurants. Since KWP was a hit from day one, Coleman smartly adjusted to provide food to the park customers and keep the KWP board happy. Relish would also generate some revenue for the park’s operational expenses.

At that point in time, there were perhaps less than a dozen hot food trucks in Dallas that were viable candidates. KWP’s research found Two Trucks, LLC (who own The Butcher’s Son, Gandolfo’s, and What’s Da Scoop), Nammi (that also includes CoolHaus), and Ruthie’s Grilled Cheese. At that time, The Butcher’s Son, Gandolfo’s, Nammi, and Ruthie’s were the most popular in Dallas and had been on the road for at least a year. Behind the scenes, the three teams that run Two Trucks, Nammi, and Ruthie’s are the most organized and professional. These food trucks were in the right place at the right time.

Coleman initially coordinated the scheduling of the food trucks in KWP, but in the last couple of months, Celia Barshop, the VP of Business Affairs, now manages the scheduling. Barshop, Coleman, and the KWP board closely monitor the food truck activity. They are keenly concerned with not only getting high quality food, but also anxious about the throughput coming from the food trucks. The last thing KWP management and the public want are hour-long wait times, as has occurred at some food truck events, or for trucks to run out of food. Plus, Coleman inspected their commissary sites to check the conditions on how the food was prepared.

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There were other experienced food trucks available in October 2012, including two favorites: Easy Slider and Jack’s Chowhound. Unfortunately, as long as Relish the Food Truck or Relish the Restaurant is at KWP, you will never see these two fan favorites because they are in direct burger competitors. John Coleman’s company has the exclusive contract on burgers. This just seems to fly in the face of fair competition. I would like to see Easy Slider and Jack’s allowed to serve in KWP.

From my research, I’ve also learned that KWP initially asked for 30% of the food truck’s revenue in order to secure a spot at the park. The trucks already work on thin margins, so there were no takers. Currently, a portion of the each food truck’s revenue goes to the park’s operational fund, but it is a much more reasonable percentage.

Since CoolHaus and What’s Da Scoop are owned by the Nammi team and Two Trucks team, respectively, those two became the default dessert solutions for the park.

That explains why Nammi, Gandolfos, The Butcher’s Son, and Ruthie’s have consistently been at KWP, as well as CoolHaus and What’s Da Scoop. It also explains why Easy Slider and Jack’s will never be at the park.  Quite frankly, I still don’t understand why Crazy Fish Sushi truck is consistently included. It has become mostly a snowcone truck (not that there is anything wrong with that in this Texas July), but just does not seem to fit with the other KWP food trucks.

Going forward, I expect significant changes when the restaurants open in the fall. In fact, they are legally not supposed to be there, but temporary “gentlemen’s agreements” among the affected entities keep them operating. After the restaurants open, City Hall will need to continue to turn an eye or develop a special permit. According to my sources, we can expect to find a fewer number of food trucks and they will be moved to the area near the game center (near the ping pong tables). I also understand that there is considerable KWP Board and public pressure to increase the variety. While KWP is happy with the current line-up, we expect one or two new trucks in the next lineup.  When Relish the restaurant opens hopefully in mid-September, Relish the Food Truck will be off premise and used only for private events.

Since October 2012, several food trucks have developed solid followings and have shown an ability to crank out the food and keep lines moving. Dallas-permitted food trucks that I feel could fit into KWP’s parameters (quality, popularity, performance ability) include Rock ‘n’ Roll Tacos, Good Karma Kitchen, Cajun Tailgators, Oink n Moo BBQ, Taco Party, Lucky Ducky Dogs, Rockn’Ricks, Little Greek Food Truck, Bombay Street Food, Simply Dosa, Tutta’s Pizza, Eat Jo Dawgs, and Empanada Armada. On the dessert side, include Enticed Shaved Ice.

While I’m on my soapbox about new options at KWP, I’d love to see a Breakfast in the Park program. Coleman and Scigliano told Nancy that Relish will offer beignets and coffee. I’d love to see even more.  How about Hypnotic Donuts (yes, they do have a food truck)? Or  Wound Up Café (a coffee cart)? Breakfast menus from Ruthie’s and The Butcher’s Son? There is even a Biscuit Truck trying to raise funds and launch (although the success of Kickstarter-funded trucks has not been good).

And that’s the end of the long drawn out saga of the Klyde Warren Park food trucks. Nancy toured the both facilities and will post an extensive report loaded with details on the two restaurants. Until then, let me know what changes would you like to see in the food truck rotation in KWP?