The Charlotte food truck scene has every corner and craving covered, but only a handful of trucks use locally sourced ingredients. These three food truck chefs are bringing local produce, meat and vegetables to the streets of Charlotte.
Bleu Barn Bistro
The Blue Barn Bistro food truck is hard to miss with it’s vibrant, teal-painted wood paneling and long line of people trailing behind it. Tara Diamante, Creative Director and CEO, always had a passion for farm-to-table cuisine, as did her husband and business partner, Brenton Ebersold. “We wanted our passion for local, all-natural cooking to follow through into our professional lives,” says Diamante.
Diamante works hard to ensure that everything on her menus is made from local ingredients; she even grows produce in her own backyard and has chickens to supply fresh eggs. “As kids, we grew up gardening with our grandparents. Now that we are adults we have our own gardens. We like to know where our food comes from and how it is grown,” she notes.
For Diamante, the greatest challenge of locally sourcing food is the changing seasonality of produce. “We’ve taught our customers to understand that our menu changes often and that we won’t always be able to offer the same products every day. Our Beet Salad, for example, we can only offer in the fall and spring, but not during the hot summer months when beets aren’t growing locally.”
Menu Highlights: Chicken Burger
“[It’s] is made with local chicken, mozzarella, arugula, shaved red onions, basil pesto, and chipotle-maple aioli on a pretzel bun.” Chef Tara Diamante
The Blue Barn Bistro schedule is posted weekly on Facebook.
The Dumpling Lady
It’s not uncommon to see food truck patrons taking large gulps of beer to douse the spice after eating The Dumpling Lady’s Burning Noodles. When Chef Qian Zhang moved from China to America, she brought with her a passion for Sichuan cooking—and spice.
“It was both my husband’s and my idea to start the food truck,” Zhang says. “We started our dumpling business by selling frozen dumplings at the farmers markets where we sourced our ingredients from.”
Zhang soon realized that in order for her customers to truly enjoy her cuisine, she had to ensure they were cooked just right. “So we decided that we needed to control the whole process of making the dumplings, from choosing the ingredients to the presentation in front of the customer.”
Zhang takes great care when preparing her food, which starts with selecting the right ingredients. All of the meat, vegetables and seafood on her menu are locally sourced from farmers in North Carolina. Zhang can find most spices locally too, except for the most important one, Szechuan Peppercorn, which has to be shipped to her from China. “The Szechuan Peppercorn I use is all from local markets in China and have been hand-picked and hand-dried by Chinese farmers,” she explains.
Menu Highlight: Spicy Beef Noodles
“My food is very spicy. So in terms of noodles, my number one seller is the spicy beef noodles.” Chef Qian Zhang
The Dumpling Lady schedule is posted weekly on Instagram (thedumplingladyclt) and Facebook.
A Bao Time
For David Mahr, chef and owner of the food truck A Bao Time, locally sourced food is a goal that he’s continuously striving toward. Currently, about a quarter of his menu is locally sourced.
The New York City native has eaten authentic Asian food all his life. When he moved to Charlotte, he saw an opportunity to sell steamed buns; bao, a Taiwanese dish popular in Asian street food culture, consists of meat and various condiments sandwiched between steamed bread.
“I use a local farm to source our microgreens,” Mahr says. “Those are the leafy greens and herbs used to garnish the steamed buns.” The monthly pig roast—which takes place on the first Saturday of every month— also uses local ingredients in the form of the hog.
All chefs face the same challenges when working with local sources, mainly product reliability. “I’m trying to find a farm that can consistently give me products,” Mahr says. “Locally sourcing supports local farmers in the area. I’m a small business myself, so I think it’s really important to support each other.”
Menu Highlight: Watermelon Curry Tofu Bao
“Organic curry tofu, baby arugula, watermelon, coconut lime, and local amaranth micro greens.” Chef David Mahr
A Bao Time can be found outside Lenny Boy Brewing Tuesday-Saturday.