Motor to Mortar: Durham Food Trucks Turned Restaurants
The mobile history of the Bull City food scene.
Posted By Ashley Strahm
We pride ourselves on being an innovation incubator. While still on wheels, the Bull City's food scene began packing a huge punch in palates. Durham supports its own, and that helped turn those wheels into brick and mortar. Here's a look at the journey some of our favorites have made ... from taking up parking spots to having parking lots and a slice of Durham's culinary glory.
"Tell a friend! Tell a friend!" If you follow Big C Waffles on Instagram, you know the rallying cry of Big C. In 2017 Big C Waffles established their first brick and mortar location located at 2110 Allendown Dr near RTP. Anyone that's visited knows Uncle Wayne’s fried chicken and Granny B’s Kool-Aid are life-changing.
The 1999 Freightliner MT55 Tool Truck powering this 'Southern soul, Caribbean flair, Euro-African' cuisine possesses a bold, unapologetic moniker: The Soul Patrol. We're so glad it does, because that's exactly what Boriqua Soul gives: food for the soul. Husband and wife team Toriano and Serena Fredericks have been melding their Puerto Rican and African American heritage into delightful bites for locals everywhere, and are soon moving to a permanent space at the American Tobacco Campus this summer.
From a bike they parked outside of Motorco and at the Durham Farmers' Market in 2012 to three locations throughout Durham today, Cocoa Cinnamon is sweet indeed. Couple Areli Barrera de Grodski and Leon Grodski de Barrera formed Durham staples we'll treasure endlessly. Barrera de Grodski was born in Mexico and lived in Tijuana until she was six years old, and her ingenuity and determination to bolster community mean that we all get to celebrate culture, churros, and delectable, locally sourced desserts and beverages well into the future.
David “Flip” Filippini, owner of the KoKyu BBQ food truck, opened the new Kokyu Na’Mean near Research Triangle Park in Durham (with a second location on the way). Filippini became a quick favorite since taking to the streets in 2010 to serve mouthwatering global street food (we're talking short rib quesadillas and duck fat tots, here, folks). His diverse offerings have yielded an expansion of his mobile fleet, too, meaning the addition of a second truck, called KoKyu Ondo, to produce new offerings like a Cheerwine & swine slider, featuring seared pork belly, Cackalacky Cheerwine sauce and Korean pear slaw.
Summer Bicknell of Locopops made it to Durham from Nashville by way of Mexico, stopping to learn how to make paletas and speak Spanish. She then brought creamy and juice-based popsicles all over Durham via the small window of her vintage minibus. Find these delicious treats at their new location at 2618 Hillsborough Road, and at summer concerts and various partners throughout the Bull City.
Chefs and owners Lindsay Moriarty and Rob Gillespie didn’t set out to open a restaurant when they first dreamed of Monuts. Their deep commitment to good food, quality jobs and regional economic development led them to set out to "prove that restaurant’s don’t have to sacrifice their profits in order to support their communities." Since beginning as a donut stand operating from a tricycle near the Durham Farmer's Market in 2011, Monuts is now a thriving counter-service restaurant and bakery with a full menu of breakfast and lunch fare including soups, salads, sandwiches, and of course, donuts on Ninth Street.
What do you get when you combine a coffee shop with a beer hall with a Korean-inspired menu with a zen garden? You get the ever-inspiring Namu. It's fitting that the restaurant is a combination of wonderful things because it was the result of two food trucks (Bulkogi and Bo's Kitchen) combining their forces to create a Megazord of culinary delights.
What is now an orange-clad storefront near the Durham Bulls Athletic Park began as one of the first food trucks to hit the scene over a decade ago in 2008. Numerous accolades, reviews and headlines later, Only Burger continues to sell fresh ingredients on protein-packed meals in downtown Durham.
The Parlour co-owners Yoni and Vanessa Mazuz fondly call themselves Mr. and Mrs. Parlour, and we wouldn't have it any other way. What began as an at-home hobby to share their love of ice cream with family and friends soon blossomed into a business in 2011, when the couple bought a used commercial ice cream maker, started making bigger batches at The Cookery, and served it throughout the Triangle from a pastel pink converted school bus. In 2012, a Kickstarter campaign yielded open doors to a permanent location downtown in April 2013. How sweet!
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Mike Hacker and Becky Cascio launched Pie Pushers on April 1, 2011, and though their food truck is still rolling, they announced their plans to serve slices, fried Brussels sprouts and chicken wings from a brick-and-mortar version of their food truck in the space above The Pinhook in 2016 — and did. The spot is open for lunch and dinner service, as well as that steamy, late-night snack.
An extended fare of Puerto Rican cuisine including rice bowls, mofongo, empanadas, sandwiches, and more began as a food truck traversing the Triangle. Their motto is simple, "Barriga Llena, Corazón Contento" which translates to "Full Belly, Happy Heart." Soon, they'll open their first brick and mortar location in downtown Durham across from City Hall!
Though not technically a food truck, Blake Hawthorne is known to many Durham residents as the purveyor of his beloved concessions stand in the parking lot of Lowe’s, which served hot dogs and other novelties for eight years. Now he owns a brick and mortar at the location of Old Wimpy’s Grill, which operated for thirty-two years. In the first hour of the shop's opening, customers placed over 60 orders! Expect to find cathead drop biscuits, hot dogs, classic fatback, pinto beans, bratwurst sausage, and burgers available between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day.
It's Durham, y'all! We're moving.