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Food trucks roll in for first rally in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Oleana Lamendola stood in the middle of the grass lot surrounded by food trucks, a devoured chunk of corn-on-the-cob clamped between her fingers.

It was only her latest victim.

Before that, there was the pulled pork slider, an empanada and a taco. All delicious. All from different trucks.

"I'm not done," the 32-year-old Tampa resident said at St. Petersburg's first-ever food-truck rally. "I plan on eating until I break."

She had big plans yet for a crepe and a burger — to be shared with her husband, of course.

"I'm going to try a little bit of everything," she said.

That was part of the mission of Saturday's rally — to give people access to a wide variety of food.

"It's a great place to come out and get a bunch of different foods," said Michael Blasco, vice president of operations for Tasting Tampa, which brought the rally to St. Petersburg. "There's something for everybody."

Indeed.

There were the basics, such as hot dogs, burgers and macaroni and cheese. Then there were the basics with a foodie twist.

Americanwiener served a hot dog called "the Asian," featuring grilled onions, teriyaki, Japanese mayonnaise, seaweed strips and pickled ginger. O'Macalicious offered up Mac n' cheese dishes in waffle cones, if you wanted one, or over a bed of tater tots. There was deviled crab, grouper sliders, Shrimp Po' Boys, Cuban sandwiches and barbecue. Among the most dangerous: deep fried Oreos and s'mores.

"The more creative someone gets with their concept, usually the better they do," said Blasco.

There was a steady stream of people during the midday event, which was held next to the Value Fair Market on 34 Street S. The lines, if there were any, rarely got long at the 17 vendors' stations.

"It's actually kind of slow compared to the other ones," said Stephanie Barr, behind the counter at Sinful Pleasure Dessert Co.

Organizers estimated at least 2,000 people attended.

"We had much less time to promote it," said Todd Sturtz of Tasting Tampa. "We really had to do it shotgun-wedding style."

He said that the people who came, however, had a positive experience.

Sanjoy Bagchi of Clearwater loved the high-quality options, especially the clam chowder.

"It has a lot of clams," he noted, holding a bowl of the thick soup. "Normally you're hunting for clams."

The St. Petersburg rally is the latest in a burst of food-truck rallies around Tampa Bay, which began in September with a rally in Tampa's Hyde Park neighborhood that drew thousands. Tampa has embraced the food truck phenomenon with open arms. Largo had Pinellas' first food truck rally in November.

But getting food trucks to St. Petersburg was more difficult, as the first attempts ran out of gas when officials told organizers what they wanted to do would be violating city code.

A special-event permit, it turns out, solved the problem and food trucks got in the fast lane for St. Petersburg.

Thomaura O'Sullivan, co-owner of O'Macalicious, was grateful St. Petersburg and other communities have come around to food truck rallies.

"It was like divine intervention," she said. "A year ago at this time there was nothing going on."

Danny Valentine can be reached at dvalentine@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8804.

Food trucks roll in for first rally in St. Petersburg 12/03/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 3, 2011 11:28pm]
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