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Published June 26, 2012, 11:33 PM

Fargo looks at letting more mobile food vendors set up

FARGO – To put a twist on an old adage, when one mobile food truck closes, another food cart opens. Amidst the recent demise of the popular Taco Bros. food truck in Fargo, city officials are looking at ordinances to try and make it easier for similar mobile food vendors to do business downtown.

FARGO – To put a twist on an old adage, when one mobile food truck closes, another food cart opens.

Amidst the recent demise of the popular Taco Bros. food truck in Fargo, city officials are looking at ordinances to try and make it easier for similar mobile food vendors to do business downtown.

According to Bob Stein, a senior planner for Fargo, the city allows two options for mobile food carts: Businesses can set up shop on private property, like with Taco Bros., or they can get a license to sell food on the city’s sidewalk.

What the city does not allow for is for a mobile food vendor to sell food from a parking lot or on the street.

“Right now, the ordinance reads that you can’t conduct sales from the street,” he says. “You can’t come and park in a parking space and start selling your product.”

Until recently, Stein says the city hadn’t thought too much about changing the ordinance, until a potential vendor approached him to ask about getting set up.

Now, city committees are looking at ways to permit more mobile food carts to sell food downtown, with one discussing the issue today.

“The current law just doesn’t permit it at all,” Stein says. “I don’t know if that’s where we want to stay. My personal opinion is we want to figure out a good place for it.”

Mobile food options

The first mobile food vendor in Fargo that prompted the city to create its mobile food vending license was Santa Lucia’s gyro cart, says Anthony Bachman, Santa Lucia’s sous chef.

“When we first started doing this (five years ago), there was nobody else doing mobile food vend-ing,” Bachman says. “So (the city) had to create a license for us.”

The cart sets up on the sidewalk near the Sports Bar at 619 NP Ave. N. on Friday and Saturday nights from roughly 11:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. (or whenever the streets clear out, Bachman says), selling gyros and hot dogs to late night bar goers.

In addition, Bachman says a second cart will open up in front of Dempsey’s on Broadway late this month or in early July to give downtown another late night food option.

More than that, though, Bachman thinks the Santa Lucia food carts, and the recent interest in mobile food options, speak to a change in what downtown Fargo is trying to become.

“Downtown is trying to expand to become a more big-city downtown,” he says. “(The cart) brings a lot more character to it.”

Lori Stenerson, owner of Broadway Dogs near the U.S. Bank Plaza, echoed that sentiment last week as she served up a hot dog to a customer.

“People just love the idea,” she says. “You have the atmosphere of downtown, it just brings people down.”

Broadway Dogs, in its third year of serving lunch, is open Tuesday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine, and serves hot dogs and tacos in a bag.

And while Stenerson is currently the only mobile food vendor on Broadway for lunch, she says she’d like to see more food carts because of what they do for the downtown atmosphere, even if that means more competition.

“I’d like to see more vendors, and more carts,” she says, adding that she plans to open an ice cream cart next to Broadway Dogs in the near future.

Then, there’s the elusive Kroll’s Diner truck, which made a brief appearance in Fargo several weeks ago, but has since been stationed in Bismarck as owner Keith Glatt and his staff get comfortable with the vehicle.

The truck opened for lunch in downtown Bismarck twice last week, Glatt says, offering traditional diner items from the Kroll’s menu such as burgers, shakes and knoephla soup.

Aside from just offering a convenient meal option for people, Glatt thinks the Kroll’s truck, in addition to other local food carts, is part of a cultural trend that’s slowly making its way to North Dakota.

Food carts are especially popular in the South, in California and on the East Coast, in part because Glatt says more moderate weather allows for them to be open year round.

That’s not quite the case in North Dakota, he laughs, unless we have more moderate winters.

“Who wants to sit and wait for your food outside when it’s 20 below?” he said.

Once he becomes more familiar with the truck, Glatt will eventually bring it over to Fargo for a week or more at a time through-out the summer.

Fans will be able to find where the truck is sta-tioned by following Kroll’s Diner on Twitter at @KrollsDiner.

However, at least according to the current Fargo city ordinance, the Kroll’s truck won’t technically be allowed to sell from down-town parking spaces.

Stein says he hasn’t discussed that issue with Glatt yet, but he expects that’s a conversation they’ll have in the next few weeks.

And, moving forward, Stein expects that conversation will also be one he’ll have with other city officials and potential vendors as the food cart trend continues to catch on.

“It’s something that we see coming,” Stein says.

But for the time being, downtown foodies will have to survive without authentic Mexican food, following the unexpected closure this week of Taco Bros.

The truck, which had been stationed at Eighth Street and Second Avenue North, had amassed a following before a family feud shuttered its windows this week.

Fans of the business, as well as one of the Taco Brothers, are holding out hope that another taco business can soon rise from Taco Bros.’ ashes.

Octavio Gomez and his sister, Cindy Gomez-Schempp, say they hope that they’ll soon be able to find private property to start up another version of the popular taco truck.

“We’re hoping for the best outcome, and that has to be that Octavio can move forward with his food truck dream,” Gomez-Schempp said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535

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