Food trucks, carts and pop-ups are revving up taste buds everywhere. Customers love the convenience and the chance to try new flavors. Entrepreneurs often see a food truck as a great side hustle or a way to get into the food business. And many restaurant owners have gone mobile as a way to expand catering operations and try new menus.
In addition to spicing up pop-up events around town and at Greenwood’s many great festivals, food trucks were the headliners at two events in the past year. The first was a lunchtime event last fall, followed up with an evening version. Gibson Hill, Uptown’s events and market coordinator, says the events have been so popular that the city plans to hold them quarterly. Check the Uptown calendar to stay updated on planned events.
Restaurant veteran Chris Reeder, owner of Greenwood favorite Fat Daddy’s BBQ, kicked off a mobile offshoot, Fast Daddy’s, in 2020. “The restaurant model has changed forever,” Reeder says. “We used to think you had to be open seven days a week, be everything to everyone all the time.”
In the early days of the pandemic, “We had to keep employees afloat and safe at the expense of profits,” he says. “But they’re my family.”
Food trucks were the answer to some of the struggles that brick and mortar restaurants experienced during the pandemic, as well as the answer to many diners’ desires to get out of the house and enjoy great food.
Although it’s taken time to find and train the staff to run both the restaurant and the food truck, the Fast Daddy’s venture has been successful. “For sole proprietors to grow and expand sales, the possibilities are endless,” Chris says. “We can pull up at lunch and do an event at Lander, and it’s a guaranteed 150 people.”
“The food truck culture has grown a lot in the past year,” says Kelly McAllister Gray of Smokey Gray’s BBQ Shack. “I do believe that the pandemic has some to do with it, but it is also an easy way to get a variety of food to one event.”
With so many great restaurants in Greenwood, it’s no surprise that food trucks are bringing the flavor, too. More than 20 food trucks are feeding hungry crowds in the area, some with broad menus, others more highly specialized. From Southern favorites to Polish fare, from Tex-Mex standards to delicious desserts, there’s something for every taste. And it wouldn’t be South Carolina without plenty of BBQ, smoked to perfection.
Chris Reeder isn’t the only familiar face in the food truck business. Jamie Workman practically grew up in restaurants before starting his award-winning barbeque business, Smokin’ the City BBQ & More. His success at festivals led to an expansion of his truck’s kitchen to ramp up to a full menu for catering. From steak dinners for 200 to taco bars, Jamie has it nailed down. “You name it, we cook it,” he says.
A variety of menus is part of the appeal of food trucks, and Greenwood has plenty to choose from. As the weather cools, many food trucks are gearing up for holiday and special event catering.
Kelly McAllister Gray of Smokey Gray’s BBQ Shack is a newcomer to the food world. “The way we got into it is a little comical,” she says. She and her son were kicking around ways to be self-employed. “Since we absolutely LOVE my husband’s BBQ, we started discussing selling it to the public. My husband looked at us and said ‘So you want to buy a food truck and sell BBQ?’ By the end of May we had ordered a food truck.”
Their fan favorites are brisket and pulled pork nachos with sour cream and jalapenos. “We also have a special side that everyone seems to love—cheesy jalapeno corn casserole. All of our sides are homemade and the meats are never reheated. My husband Derick stays up all night on the smoker to make sure everything is fresh.”
It’s South Carolina, so there’s no such thing as too much barbeque. Smell My Smoke BBQ & Catering is another local entry in the BBQ and catering business. Owned by Todd Damon, the truck caters to business, church and family events in the area, and the menu is never limited to just BBQ.
Jesse Willey at the Rolling Dough Co. serves up incredible, extra-large, homemade donuts and pretzels with mouthwatering flavors like maple bacon, strawberry lemonade, orange Creamsicle, s’mores and key lime.
Get a fun twist on Mediterranean flavors from LeCordon Bleu-trained chef John Makkas at the One-Eyed Donkey. It’s the mobile version of his Ji-Roz Greek restaurant in Greenville. Lobster Dogs brings Maine style seafood rolls, stuffed avocados and seared tuna to locations throughout the Carolinas and Georgia. The “tie-dyed world of Groovy Granny” features chicken and waffles of all kinds, even a South of the Border version.
While festivals have been the mainstays of many food trucks, the assortment of private parties, special events and weddings are big business. “Weddings aren’t all traditional any more,” Chris Reeder says. “They like the experience and the choice, food prepared at the moment. They like the thought of people ordering and socializing.”
He saw the Fast Daddy truck as a way to recapture some of their usual catering business lost during the pandemic. “It has been quite the learning curve,” he says. “We want to add one more to compliment the one we have, an ice cream and dessert thing. But it’s fluid.”
Unlike Chris, Connor Lewis of Common Pops Greenwood was not part of the restaurant scene. After tasting Common Pops (and then tasting them some more) at a festival, Connor and his wife decided to get on board. While they stay busy with festivals and pop-ups at markets and office centers, much of their business is in special events—weddings, vacation bible school and employee events.
Their slogan of “common ingredients, delightful experiences,” is indicative of the flavors and fun they bring to events, along with their colorful carts. “We started right in the middle of Covid,” Connor says, just setting up in their driveway.
“People were ready to get out of the house. Whole families would come, stand around and chat,” Connor says. “It gave people a social outlet when they needed it. It was such a blessing, because that’s how we got our name out. First it was just friends, then after a couple of weeks, we started seeing people we didn’t know.”
As for favorites, “We break it down to dairy based and fruit based. We sell a lot of cookies and cream. People take it out of the packaging, see that it has whole Oreos, and realize it isn’t just a normal pop,” Connor says. They also do seasonal pops, like s’mores and pumpkin spice, and special order pops like a coffee flavor for a local coffee shop. In summer, their peach pop and strawberry lemonade are particular favorites.
Local sourcing is important. “A key part of what makes us who we are is the ingredients,” Connor says. “ We work with lots of area farms. A lot of our dairy comes from a creamery in Mills River (S.C.), and we use fruit we can get locally…as seasons change.”
Finding your favorite food truck flavors is easy enough. Most food trucks keep customers posted on their whereabouts through social media. Kelly Gray, Rolling Dough and others post their whereabouts and hours on Instagram or Facebook. It’s also the way to keep find out about menu specials that change with the days, the seasons or the availability of local produce.
As the mobile boom continues, Greenwood is adding more events where food trucks will bring the flavor. Get your taste buds ready and stay in the know about upcoming culinary adventures.