As the mid-day sun beamed down on Civic Center Park, Jorge Dominguez smiled warmly from the window of his truck.
The young lady standing below him returned the smile as she ordered an arepa — a stuffed white cornmeal bread that is a staple in Dominguez’s home country of Venezuela. The truck, Arepas House, is brightly colored with the yellow, red and blue of the Venezuelan flag.
“We really love this place,” Dominguez said.
Along with Arepas House, 24 other trucks ring the edge of the walkway at Civic Center Park as Civic Center EATS ramps up to full force just past 11 a.m. on a recent day.
The 13th annual EATS food truck gathering introduced 28 new trucks to its lineup, giving eaters a choice of 82 vendors on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays across the May 1-Oct. 4 season. The trucks that are scheduled each day vary, with some trucks like Arepas House enjoying two days per week across the season, while others will be in the line-up a few times a month. The Civic Center Conservancy, a non-profit that coordinates the event, has the line-up on their website at civiccenterconservancy.org, or in person at their booth.
Across from Dominguez stands the baby-blue trailer of “What Would Cheesus Do?”, making its second annual appearance at Civic Center EATS.
Owner and operator Genevieve Hardin bought the trailer in February and had it up and running for about two weeks before it was stolen. It was found gutted two days later.
After hearing Hardin’s story, Colorado Food Trucks and Restaurant Equipment decided to fix her trailer and donated new equipment to get Cheesus back on the road and at Civic Center EATS for Tuesdays in June.
“I hate being remembered by the press of being stolen,” Hardin said. “I want to be remembered by our delicious grilled cheese.”
Hardin happens to share a space at the Denver Kitchen Share, a commercial kitchen in Northeast Denver, with Dominguez, and a few other food truck vendors. Denver law requires mobile food retailers to work in conjunction with a city-approved or -licensed kitchen. Often, if a truck doesn’t have an established physical location beforehand, they rent space in shared kitchens alongside other vendors. Hardin said that the shared kitchens and a shared Facebook forum for local breweries and food trucks create a close community.
A few of the trucks that can be found along Civic Center’s promenade already have physical locations, while others hope to open soon. Arepas House plans to open a restaurant in the Sloan’s Lake area next April, while Infinitus Pizza Pie already has three locations in the Denver-metro area.
The Civic Center Conservancy starts the application process for new food trucks in January of every year. Trucks can apply for a drop-in list throughout the season, to be a replacement in the event that a vendor can’t make a day.
“We had more trucks apply this year than we ever had before,” said Amanda Johnson, marketing coordinator for The Civic Center Conservancy. “It’s definitely a pretty involved process of vetting through who are some of our veteran favorites (and) wanting to give enough of the new ones a chance — then also having a nice variety.”
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