words: Marla Cantrell
images: Saidee Holmes and courtesy Truckin’ Delicious
When I was told that Greenwood, Arkansas, has a growing food truck presence, I decided to investigate. I drove there on a stifling day in the middle of June with not much of a plan. I’d stop when I saw one of the mobile eateries, and I’d ask a few questions.
The food truck owners I met seemed like minor celebrities. As I interviewed them, there were regular customers ready to offer praise for both the dishes and the friendships that had formed between the buyers and sellers. As for why Greenwood is such a spot for this kind of interaction, it comes down to location, location, location.
Greenwood is separated from Fort Smith by only about twenty miles. But Fort Smith has a population of just over 88,000, and Greenwood clocks in at a little less than 9,500. There is much to recommend Greenwood: a school system that gets a ton of praise (Go Bulldogs!). A close-knit community that shows up for football games and church on Sundays and festivals that happen in the spring and fall. What it doesn’t have is as many restaurants as Fort Smith. And that, I was told, makes this bustling town perfect for the food truck scene.
There is a spot at 636 West Center Street, across from Walgreen’s, that is the mainstay for these mobile eateries. There’s a rotating system in place that allows different food trucks on different workdays. For instance, on Tuesdays, One Stop Burrito out of Charleston, sets up shop. On Thursdays, the day I visited, Beef O’ Brady’s, which has a brick and mortar restaurant in Fort Smith, was set up and taking orders well before eleven in the morning.
Owners Kim and Randy Didier, who live in and love Greenwood, talked about what their truck does for them. At Beef O’ Brady’s full-service restaurant location, they can’t be as nimble. Menus are less flexible, but at their truck, Randy
mixes things up, trying whatever he likes. On a recent trip to New Orleans, he picked up Chef Justin Wilson’s cookbook, and he’s been cooking things like jambalaya and shrimp gumbo at home, getting the recipes perfected for when the backbreaking heat of summer finally leaves.
While selling food is their top priority, advertising runs a close second. The truck serves as a rolling billboard. Greenwood is only one of the places they serve. On other days, they drive to other towns like Ozark, Waldron, and Clarksville, getting to know customers, and inviting them to stop at their main location when they visit Fort Smith.
One of their best practices is that they take orders by text message, and they provide their phone number and daily menu on their Facebook page.
As I was interviewing them, one of their customers stopped by to pick up lunch. Todd Hales, minister for Greenwood’s Northside Church of Christ, is a regular. “They make the food while you wait,” he says, “so you know it’s fresh.” As he’s leaving, two construction workers arrive, and Kim hurries to take their order. “We understand that many people only have thirty minutes for lunch, so we make sure they get their food quickly.”
The Pulled Pork on a Bun with Cole Slaw and Fries was selling fast while I was there. I tried the Southwest Eggrolls that had just the right amount of spice. The menu also included Funnel Cake Fries. One day if I throw caution to the wind, I just might try them. Beef O’ Brady’s truck operates from 11am-7pm, every Thursday in Greenwood.
My second stop was at Holy Smoke Barbeque, at 2321 West Center Street. This trailer remains stationary, at least for now. Holy Smoke Barbeque sits in the shade with white picnic tables topped with patio umbrellas ready for customers. Caren Byers, the owner, bought the establishment about two months ago, a quick decision that changed her life.
Caren loved cooking at home, and when this place went up for sale, she jumped at the chance. Her roots run deep in Greenwood, and she believed she could make a go of it. As she was talking to me, one of the regulars, Chris Brewer, of Greenwood Collision, was picking up his order. “All their food is good. Their pulled pork is good. Their barbeque sauce has a really smoky flavor. They’re close to work,” he said, citing why he’s loyal to this place.
When Caren bought the trailer, the top seller was the Barbeque Nachos, a dish she’d never considered before buying the place. Justin Sweeten, whom she calls Sweet, helps with the cooking and smoking and makes the barbeque beans every day. Since she’s been here, the pulled pork sandwiches and ribs are selling well.
Each month, she changes Holy Smoke’s special, and she has a family pack with brisket, pork ribs, and two Polish or hot links for less than sixteen dollars.
I tasted the ribs, pulled pork sandwich, beans, potato salad, and cole slaw. The food was delicious, and Chris was right: the barbeque sauce made the meal even better. Holy Smoke is open from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.
My third stop was at Truckin’ Delicious, a food truck that is often in Greenwood on Tuesdays. (Check their Facebook page to be sure or sign up for email alerts.) Owner Tasha Taylor was standing outside, wearing flower-patterned pink Crocs, polka-dotted sunglasses, an apron printed with row after row of food trucks. One of the first things she said was, “Feeding people makes me happy.” And then she told the story of dreaming of this truck, of reading a guide to starting a food truck business night after night.
Truckin’ Delicious just celebrated its third anniversary, and Tasha estimates they’ve served at least 100,000 meals since then. Part of that calculation includes participating in events like the Peacemaker Festival in Fort Smith, which takes place on July 27 and 28 this year.
Tasha’s food has been described as upscale comfort food. She likes to take something familiar and turn it on its head. “For instance,” she says, “the Pizza-rito has everything that comes in pizza, but we stuff it in a burrito.”
Another big seller is Truckin’ Tot, giant tater tots filled with cheddar and scallions.
The Truckin’ Delicious menu changes every two weeks, offering dishes that keep Tasha’s customers happy. “We do a Caprese salad with cheese tortellini and tons of other ingredients. I had someone say they wished they could roll around in it.” Tasha laughs. “People like a little flair.”
Tasha, who grew up in Greenwood and lives there still, is proud to see food trucks gaining ground. Food should be an experience, she says, and she thinks these new options are a good way to add variety wherever they go. Follow Truckin’ Delicious on Facebook to see where the truck will be on any given day.
By the end of my day, I was overheated and overly full, and fascinated by those who operate food trucks. Imagine what it’s like for them, when the temperature around a grill can rise to 120 degrees in the summer. Some of the owners said thirteen-hour days are the norm. Not one of them offered this information as a complaint. Instead, they remarked on how lucky they feel to do what they love and to meet customers who often become friends.
Several other food trucks, including but not limited to Hungry Wolf Café and Fat Man’s on the Move, also serve Greenwood. They have Facebook pages. I also found a wealth of information at the River Valley Food Truck Association’s Facebook page, including which trucks are where, and for how long, on any given day.