It’s 7pm on a Thursday in Dahisar, and a truck rolls up to the side of the road. The exterior is remarkable, even by Indian truck standards — decorated with stencils of burgers, sodas and pizzas. The side of the truck has a doodle declaring ‘Food is my best friend’. A crowd has assembled in anticipation. In one waiting car is Mona Solanki, a 47-year-old housewife. “This is the third time we are coming to the truck,” she says, gesturing to her husband and son. “We saw it when out for an evening drive and had to stop, because we hadn’t seen anything like it before.”
The side of the truck opens up to reveal three young men wearing aprons — the FoGo food truck is open for business. For the next four hours, they serve piping hot sausage pav (Rs 49), kheema pav (Rs 49) and Nutella-banana pav (Rs 39) to customers.
FoGo is one of the half-a-dozen new food trucks that have opened in the city over the past six months. While Bangalore and Delhi have had food trucks for a couple of years, Mumbai had issues because of space and an absence of norms. Now, young entrepreneurs are bypassing the city’s sky-high rents, and passing up the restaurant business for food on wheels. FoGo opened three months ago, and averages a hundred customers a day, says owner Neeraj Kambli, 27, a hotel and hospitality management graduate. “A food truck can offer variety you won’t find in any other street stalls. Also, we can drive to where the most people are,” he says.
* Big Bite Burrito, Vasai
By hospitality students Kunal Patel, 27, and Nived Rawool, 28, (see picture above) the three-month-old Big Bite Burrito food truck offers Mexican fare. Popular items include the barbecue chicken burger (inset) (Rs 80) and the cheesy chimichanga (Rs 80). The salsa doesn’t taste very fresh, but the portions are generous.
What: Mexican fare
Where: around Vasai
When: 6 pm to 9.30 pm
* Mumbai Rolling Kitchen, Airoli
Opened four months ago by 28-year-old Sagar Waghule, you can find everything from Hyderabadi kebabs to grilled sandwiches (left)here. The Mumbai Shahi (Rs 90) has the spiciest bang for the buck — with tandoori chicken, masala omelette and enough mint raita to soak both. Pramod Katoj, 24, an engineering student, says she returns often for the Mumbai Rolling Kitchen burger (Rs 125).
What: Indian, continental cuisine;
Where: Mindspace office complex, Airoli, but changes regularly;
When: Noon to 11.30 pm;
*Eat N’ Run, Parel
The truck is parked inside Empire Complex in Lower Parel, under a stretch of green awning. Catering mostly to office-goers in the mill and nearby offices, the truck’s menu is a tad uninspired. Sandwiches, cold coffee and momos dominate, and they also serve aam panna and kokam sherbet for Rs 30 each. For Rs 60, you get freshly steamed chicken momos with a tomato-based spicy sauce.
What: Momos, sandwiches, desserts
Where: Empire Mills, next to Kamala Mills, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel
When: 11.30 am to 7.30 pm
Log on: www.facebook.com/eatnrunfoodvan
* Paninaro, Andheri East
The Paninaro food truck serves two functions for the chain restaurant —it works as a testing ground for new markets, and also as a fully-functional outlet.
The menu, as at the other outlets, features bread-heavy sandwiches and slightly stale brownies. The day we went, most of their sandwiches were sold out, but the smoked chicken sandwich (Rs 160) was piping hot, having been freshly grilled in the truck.
What: Health food, salads, sandwiches
Where: Solitaire Corporate Park, Andheri (East); When: 9 am to 8 pm
Log on: http://bit.ly/1dyiPoI
* Indigo Deli to roll out deli on wheels
As part of Indigo Deli’s 10th anniversary celebrations, there will be a Deli on Wheels on June 29, and a ‘Food Truck Menu’ at all outlets on June 27.
The Deli on Wheels will traverse Bandra, Santacruz, Juhu and Andheri, handing out free cookies and desserts.
The Food Truck Menu will attempt to recreate the truck experience within the restaurant. “We will have nachos, a Middle Eastern wrap, fish and chips, deep-fried cupcakes, and our take on the quintessentially Mumbai sandwich,” says executive chef JD.
How they navigate the law
“The problem in Mumbai is that there is no legal definition for a food truck,” says Kunal Patel, 27, co-owner of the Big Bite Burrito food truck in Vasai, who earlier worked for Amadeus restaurant. “So all we can do is get as many licences as possible.”
Patel’s approach is common to all food truck operators in the city. “RTO licence, food licence, NOCs from the BMC, traffic police, from residence welfare associations, you name it, and we’ve got it,” says Sagar Waghule, 28, the owner of the Mumbai Rolling Kitchen in Airoli, who was previously a restaurant manager in Abu Dhabi. “Beyond this we can just cross our fingers and hope for the best.”
Others, of course, find more amiable ways of appeasing local authorities. “I’ve grown up in Dahisar, so all the cops know me and don’t harass me,” says Kambli, who got all the required licences before even starting on his menu. “Also, the cops like our food.”
(HT Photos: By Sanjay Solanki, Aloise Tiers, Bachchan kumar, Vidya Subramanian)