Thousands of folks — and a horde of local food trucks — packed the public market’s parking lots Wednesday for the final Food Truck Rodeo of the year.
The Public Market hosts the rodeo on the last Wednesday of each month from April through September, and it features over 40 local trucks serving up mouth-watering bites to droves of eager customers.
The tradition started in 2011 when the Market Director, Jim Farr, attended a similar event in Orlando, Florida, according to the City’s website. He brought the idea back to Rochester and with the help of John Urlab, owner of Rohrbach’s Brewery, Rochester’s Food Truck Rodeo was born.
Since then, the event habitually attracts hordes of people, often well over 5,000 each month. Local bands take the stage, and each month features a different music genre. This month, Big Blue House headlined the foodie fiesta.
The Rodeo is popular amongst families, couples, and students alike. Locals Karina and Gabriella, who declined to give their last names, have been going to the Food Truck Rodeo for years. Gabriella said the atmosphere and good food are what keep her coming back.
“There’s just a ton of options,” Karina said.” You get to just sit and listen to some music. Iit’s really nice.”
She had “The Gobbler” from The Melt, an upgraded grilled cheese with bacon and turkey. Gabriella got fries and a chicken sandwich, also from The Melt.
As for myself, I enjoyed jerk chicken from Caribbean Soul Food. While their truck was far too busy to make time for an interview, I was thoroughly pleased with their offerings. The pieces of chicken were perfectly tender and literally fell off the bone. They paired with a classic jerk-style sweet sauce with a big kick.
I also got dessert from Rochester’s own Waffles R Wild Truck, which also has a permanent location on Lyell Avenue. I opted for a ten-piece mini waffle basket covered with powdered sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate dipping sauce. One word: yum. This dessert provided me with the motivation I needed to finish a paper.
The owner of the truck, Roxanne, also took the time to talk to me about the community of vendors at the Food Truck Rodeo.
“We know all the trucks, so it’s a great experience,” she said. . “Our all-time people favorite is our chicken and waffles.” Finally, before I had to trudge back to my assigned hole in the ground on campus, I got a Beef K-Bowl from KO-BQ, a Korean-American fusion truck. I’m a frequent customer of this particular food truck, so I’m a bit biased, but their K-Bowls are to die for. I first had their food at this summer’s Lilac Festival, and I’ve been following them religiously ever since.
The owner, Clay Kim, was ecstatic to talk to me about his love for the truck and the Rodeo. He mentioned that the KO-BQ truck opened for the first time at the Food Truck Rodeo last year in August.
When asked what he loves most about the rodeo, Kim motioned to the crowds of people surrounding his truck.
“Just look around,” he said. “Just about every food truck in Rochester is here. And the people!”
Kim’s recipes were all passed down from his mother, so the dishes have a special place in his heart — which shows in his food. While KO-BQ currently only offers three meat options (beef, chicken, & pork), Clay says he plans on introducing a vegetarian option in the near future.
Kim also clued me in on a secret: He’s been talking with the University about bringing KO-BQ to campus in the coming years.
If you are in Rochester from April to September, be sure to add the Food Truck Rodeo to your list of summer activities. It’s a wonderful opportunity to familiarize yourself with and support local businesses. It’s a favorite amongst locals for a reason!