Milwaukee: It’s food on the Move During Tosa’s Mobile Days

By STEFANIE SCOTT | WauwatosaNow.com

Streetza Pizza was named the best food truck in the nation by Business Week last month.

Workers can sample pizza, gyros, more

It’s nearly noon, and the sounds of a hungry stomach start to drown out the music coming from your headphones as you try to finish a report due by the end of the day.

Sleeping a few more minutes won out over making lunch at home that morning, and there’s nothing with any nutritional value in the office vending machine. Heading out to a restaurant will only take time away from the project.

That scenario plays out five days a week for many people who work in Wauwatosa. But on May 19, there will be a solution – at least for the 4,500 employees in the Milwaukee County Research Park.

Food trucks selling dishes from crepes to grilled cheese sandwiches will set up shop in the parking lot of the Crowne Plaza hotel to serve lunch to hungry workers.

The Wauwatosa Chamber of Commerce teamed with research park officials to offer Mobile Days – a second event is already set for Aug. 18 – to not only expose workers to the street food trend, but also to show food truck owners the market that is available in Tosa.

“I really just don’t want to see Wauwatosa left behind on anything really cool,” said Meg McKenna, the chamber’s executive director. “The food is amazingly good.”

In fact, Streetza Pizza was named the best food truck in the nation by Business Week last month. The pizza business is one of the 10 trucks that will pull into the lot.

Streetza offers six to seven different pizza choices, including the slice of the day “where things get interesting,” said Scott Baitinger, one of the business partners. They’ve created “neighborhood” recipes, finding inspiration from the history and culture of the East Side, Bay View and the Miller Park area.

Baitinger has been contemplating what would go on a Wauwatosa pie, and he urges locals to give their input via Twitter or on the business’ Facebook page.

Using social media is a key to the food truck craze. The owners let their followers know where they will be parked each day, and in some cases, enough demand could get a truck to move to a new spot, Baitinger said.

Streetza will celebrate its second anniversary next week, making it one of the food truck pioneers in the Milwaukee area. Hot dog carts and taco trucks have been around or years, but several years ago a movement started that put gourmet chefs creating restaurant-quality food on the road, said Jackie Valenti, owner of the Fast Foodie truck.

The ability to see how food is prepared and talk to the chef makes street food an experience, Valenti said. Also, many of the businesses buy ingredients locally, which is good for the economy. From a business standpoint, she can be her own boss, cook food her way and not be tied to the expenses of a traditional restaurant. Instead of waiting for customers to find her restaurant, she goes out to them, Valenti said.

Valenti has set up tables and grills inside the Research Park’s Technology Innovation Center on Thursdays for the last month. But this will be the first time she’ll roll out her extra-large truck so she can prepare just about any food item.

W. Chang, owner of the Tiger Bites food truck, said he’s free to try new recipes. Within a day or two, he can learn if a menu item is hit or miss without hurting business. His signature dish is a braised pork taco with meat fused with the seasoning used in Asian pho noodle recipes.

Organizers expect residents and employees outside the research park will want a piece of the action. Chang has catered events at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The students and staff have asked that he bring the truck back to Tosa so they can buy lunch, so he’s hoping they’ll come out in force.

Many research park employees have a short lunch period and the property is pretty spread out, so area hotels will offer free shuttle service and Cream City Rickshaw will provide rides for tips, McKenna said.

Those who drive to the Crowne Plaza will find a few mobile auto services, too. Tri-Kleen will offer environmentally friendly car washes, spraying biodegradable organic soaps onto the vehicles rather than water and harsh cleaning chemicals. Meanwhile, Movin’ & Lubin’ will offers mobile oil changes and car repairs.

IF YOU GO

Here’s a look at some of the foods that will be offered at Mobile Days:

American Euros: Mediterranean gyros, hummus and baklava

Chubby Cheese: gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches

Cold Spoon Gelato: European-style gelato and sorbet

Cowboy Kettle Corn: salty and sweet popcorn by the bag

Fast Foodie Milwaukee: creator of the Globaco, tacos with fixings from a variety of ethnic cuisines

Frankie’s Sammiches: Italian beef sandwiches

Pita Bros.: Lebanese flatbread filled with veggies, meats, spreads and cheeses

Satellite Crepes: thin French pancakes filled that come in sweet and savory varieties

Streetza Pizza: pizza by the slice or entire pies to share with co-workers

Tiger Bite: Asian egg rolls, tacos and quesadillas

AT A GLANCE

WHAT: Food trucks and other mobile businesses will offer their products and services on Mobile Days

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 19; rain date is May 20

WHERE: Crowne Plaza hotel parking lot, 10499 Innovation Drive

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