If you see a food truck parked anywhere south of I-20, chances are good that it ran out of gas on its way to Westside Atlanta, Inman Park or any of the other half-dozen places in town where people have come to expect to be able to get lunch from a mobile kitchen.
Not that South Atlanta doesn’t have its own rich history of street food, but it’s typified by church fish fries and guys barbecuing ribs in gas-station parking lots.
Claire Reeve hopes to change the notion that the city’s exploding food-truck movement is exclusively a northside phenomenon. Starting Thursday evening, the former design director for the Living Walls street art confab and budding art-center entrepreneur will launch Food Truck Thursday on a former industrial property she co-owns in the decidedly non-upscale Chosewood Park neighborhood a mile or so south of Turner Field.
For this first foray into bringing modern street food to South Atlanta, Reeve wanted to start small, so she decided to book only two food trucks. That proved challenge enough. Initially planning to hold the event last week, she contacted the Atlanta Street Food Coalition, which gave her encouragement and a few referrals. One well-known vendor never followed up on their first talk. Another confirmed, but apparently had second thoughts after double-checking the location of 140 Milton Ave. SE, which led to an uncomfortable conversation.
“They called me back a week out and said, ‘Um, you’re down there by the federal prison, aren’t you?’” Reeve says. “I told them it’s nearby, but it’s not like you can see it from here. And they said, ‘We’re getting some repairs done and I don’t think our truck will be ready by then.’ I suggested moving the event back a week and they said, ‘Yeah. It’s not going to be ready then, either.’”
In the end, Reeve booked the Marlay Mobile and Filipino food trucks, which will give patrons a choice between pub grub and French-Filipino fare from 5-8 p.m. So far, more than 40 Facebookers, mostly nearby residents, have indicated their interest in stopping by.
“This is our trial run. If enough people show up, we’ll see if we can make this a regular event,” says Reeve, who adds that she’s not getting a cut of the proceeds. At this point, she’s hoping the turnout encourages more vendors to ply their trade in South Atlanta.
Ironically, Reeve, a graphic designer, lives north of I-20, in the Old Fourth Ward, but is in the process of starting another, even riskier, southside enterprise. On May 2, she and partner Greg Lloyd expect to open their Monarch Arts Center, a studio rental, exhibition and performance space, on the Milton Avenue site. The two-and-a-half-acre property overlooking the Beltline contains a former office building that has been divided into six artist’s studios and a huge, covered concrete pad that can hold several hundred people.
Reeve is courting controversy with the center’s inaugural show, an exhibition of artwork by Warren Ullom, a local rock musician currently serving a twenty-year prison sentence for causing a woman’s drug-overdose death. Musicians with connections to Ullom are expected to play on the show’s opening night.
(EDIT: A change was made to indicate Reeve was formerly with Living Walls.)