Backyard on Bell opened this month, doubling Denton’s combination bar/food truck park options. Located on the corner of Bell and McKinney (formerly Ken’s Produce), Backyard on Bell offers a few things Austin Street Truck Stop lacks, mainly green space and the overall sense that you’re eating a convenient meal under a shaded picnic table that just happens to be located next to a bar, instead of vice versa.
Here's hoping this much-needed physical expansion will usher in a food truck renaissance for Little D, a call to wheels persuading established food trucks from other cities to take the northern trek and make use of the facility and the growing demand for mobile food. Better yet, perhaps local entrepreneurs will see Backyard on Bell as an opportunity to realize their own dreams and open trucks of their own, as JB Paschall and wife Lissa did recently with their renovated Airstream-turned-hot-dog-truck, Beware of Dog.
With a few exceptions, Denton’s food truck options reflect the town’s already present dining options, with a slimmer selection but expanded hours. If you’re in the mood for tacos, barbecue or a sandwich, take your pick. But the beauty of the food truck format is that it provides a vehicle that can quickly fill a niche dining void with lower overhead than a brick-and-mortar business. And considering Denton’s food trucks are often the only available non-fast food dining option after standard dinner service ends, the more diversity they offer in dining options, the better. So if you’re hot in the biscuit to start your own food truck but aren’t sure what your concept should be, allow us to lend you one of ours. Here’s our list of seven food truck concepts we’d love to see around Denton.
A German pretzel wagon
Don’t confuse a legitimate German soft pretzel with the overly sweet, twisted sponge cake your kid throws a tantrum for at the mall. A true German pretzel is something to behold; they’re glossier and darker than your standard stadium pretzel because they’re dipped in a caustic lye solution before baking. The lye breaks down and gelatinizes the pretzel’s surface proteins and starches to achieve that shiny crust.
If done right, they’re slow-fermented, allowing the dough’s flavor and structure to develop gradually in a colder environment, leading to a tangier and more complex pretzel. Pretzels are the perfect bar snack, and even more perfect food truck fare. And there’s no need to get all fancy with toppings — just stick to a few shakes of good old fashioned coarse sea salt. Of course, nobody would hold it against anyone if they offered, say, a gourmet mustard bar.
Grilled cheese sandwiches
Denton needs more cheese. A grilled cheese truck might sound silly at first, but imagine it’s 1 a.m. and you’ve had a few beers. You know you should eat something, but the idea of wolfing down an entire plate of nachos without wearing the damn thing in the end seems impossible. And what if, just maybe, you could eat a freshly made grilled cheese sandwich with your choice of cheese and bread and even possibly a side of tomato soup? Doesn’t that sound lovely? Think about a day out with the kids. There’s no way you’re going to talk them into a taco, but perhaps you could build yourself a dressed-up grilled cheese with Gorgonzola and wilted spinach and cranberry chutney while the tykes reveled in melted American on Wonder Bread. It’s a match made in heaven.
Even with a dedicated grilled cheese truck, Denton would still need more cheese. Yes, there are a few places around town where you can treat yourself to a pretty great cheese board, but our a la carte cheese options are just sad. Last time we checked, Kroger’s most adventurous cheese was Havarti with dill. Abendbrot, roughly translated as “evening bread,” is the German practice of eating a light snack of open-faced meat and cheese sandwiches for dinner. (Think gourmet Lunchables and you’re almost half way there.) Instead of slaving away to make a large meal, the deconstructed cheese and charcuterie spread, replete with pickles and mustards, lets you unwind with the family over a low-fuss meal that still satisfies a good portion of the best food groups, and clean-up is a cinch. An Abendbrot truck could pair a rotating selection of cheeses with fresh breads and gourmet meats in a convenient takeaway container for a quick lunch, last-minute picnic plans or a satisfying dinner for those of us who don’t plan ahead.
Fried pies and soft-serve
Denton needs more dessert. Beth Marie’s ice cream is the only dessert-dedicated business in the downtown area, and anyone who’s stood in line for 20 minutes for an ice cream cone knows they can get slammed on a nice day. Imagine a food truck parked near the square in the early evening that offers fried pies and soft-serve ice cream. By the time your kids are absolutely done sitting still at the restaurant, you can take a family walk for hand pies and a swirl cone of soft-serve.
Denton’s breakfast and brunch options are pretty stellar, as long as you’re hungry during standard weekend brunch hours. Inside the workweek, however, your choices for a quick healthy breakfast are pretty slim, though they’re slowly getting better. We love Royal’s bagels (and their cinnamon rolls, of course), and all of Denton breathed a sigh of relief when Brekkies started delivering us breakfast while we were in our jammies, but most of our food trucks cater to the dinner and late-night crowd. Though some of our favorite trucks are open for lunch, we don’t have a single food truck option before 11 a.m. during the week. This makes for an English muffin-sized void in our hungry little hearts. Imagine a world where you could call ahead for a toasted brioche bun topped with herbed goat cheese, shaved ham and an over-easy egg. Or a Southern-style Monte Cristo with homemade dipping jam. Can’t you just see yourself sauntering into work with the king of breakfast sandwiches under your arm, the envy of all your co-workers and their pathetic Kind bar desk breakfasts?
Chicken and waffles
Oh, the buttery beauty of a perfectly cooked golden waffle topped with crispy bone-in fried chicken smothered in butter, maple syrup and hot sauce. It is the perfect union of sweet and savory; a classic soul food dish that is simultaneously the best late night post-bar indulgence and morning-after hangover cure. And yes, we know Denton’s Waffle Wagon sells a chicken and waffle dish that we all love, but there is always room in our hearts (and bellies) for more chicken and waffles — perhaps one that’s open for breakfast?
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North Texas finally got a taste of fall this past week when temperatures dipped into the crisp 50s, and that means we can start looking forward to soup season. Some of the best soup in Denton can be found at the various pan-Asian or Thai places around town — there are no less than three places churning out respectable khao soi right now. If we’re lucky, Pickled Carrot will serve pho again once it gets cold. But we could really use a food truck specifically geared toward soup.
Rustic minestrone, hearty three-bean chili, lobster bisque, Italian wedding soup — come December we’ll be loath to leave our houses for food, but what if the light at the end of that cold tunnel was a giant container of piping-hot, made-from-scratch soup and a hunk of crusty bread? There is no better dinner during a chilly evening at the bar, or a more fitting snack during a cold morning at the community market.