Photo by Gene Davis
Owners say they expect more eateries to follow
What helped keep Austin weird is now helping feed Lake Travis and Westlake-area residents.
At least three new food trucks have opened in the Lake Travis area in the past several months, serving dishes such as lobster rolls, pork sandwiches and gourmet soft-serve ice cream. The food truck owners said they expect more food trucks to open in the area because Austin has become oversaturated.
“Austin is kind of like been there, done that,” Dock and Roll Diner co-owner Daniel Dennis said. “More [food truck owners] are looking at the outskirts.”
In addition to RR 620, new food trucks have recently opened in Avery Ranch and Round Rock.
New food truck options
Brandon Pierce originally opened Boss Hogs Kitchen in Austin in a food trailer park on Fifth Street. However, when the city shut down the trailer park, Pierce closed his business.
Pierce’s friend who grew up in Lake Travis, Roland Garza, asked him a month later about opening a food trailer. After sharing his thoughts, Pierce asked Garza if he wanted to be his business partner.
“I was thinking that buying a trailer is a big deal, my menu was fantastic and teaming up made sense,” he said.
Boss Hogs Kitchen serves slow-smoked meats and unique treats such as Captain Crunch fried pickles. The food truck resides in the food trailer park next to Home Depot’s parking lot, 3595 S. RR 620, next to Dock and Roll Diner.
Dock and Roll Diner, which is expected to open Nov. 12 at 3595 S. RR 620, is run by three friends, two of whom graduated from Westlake High School. The food truck is in a converted 1957 Airstream and serves rolls, including a lobster roll and a Cuban rubbed and smoked pork sirloin roll.
The co-owners come from a variety of backgrounds. Lee Krassner, the primary owner, went to culinary school and was a chef in New York City and San Francisco, while co-owner Adam Lewis works in social media and co-owner Daniel Dennis has a background in health and nutrition.
“I think all of us have something to offer when it comes to this partnership,” Dennis said.
The original Dock and Roll Diner is in Austin at 1503 S. First St. The partners chose the Lake Travis–area location to open a second food truck because two of them grew up in the area and thought it would go over well, Dennis said.
“It’s [Lewis’ and Krassner’s] community and what they know,” he said. “We realized there is a real need for food options; you have a real limited availability as far as what to choose from.”
Cow Tipping Creamery opened during the summer at 10910 N. RR 620. The family-owned food truck specializes in gourmet soft-serve ice cream and has toppings such as sweet lemon Vietnamese curried toasted coconut.
As with the other new food trucks, owners Tim and Corey Sorensen have ties to the area. The couple lives in the neighborhood and thought it would be fun to offer something different, Tim said.
“Because we live here and there is a lack of smaller non-chain food sources, we wanted to offer an alternative to the big chains,” he said. “You can get that down south or in Austin easily. Up here it’s a little less common.”
The clientele at the Lake Travis–area food trucks is significantly different than Austin, Pierce said.
Boss Hogs Kitchen mainly serves families, and lunch is much busier than dinner, he said. Because the Lake Travis–area food trucks are not in places with heavy foot traffic, people have to go out of their way to eat at them, he said.
“It’s always a slow start, but every day is getting better, and every day there is more repeat business than new faces by far,” Pierce said. “It’s been awesome overall. I’m very, very happy to be out there.”
Being out of the way means the food has to be unique and good for a food truck to stay in business in the Lake Travis area, Tim Sorensen said. He said although he expects more food trucks to move to the area, he does not think they will survive unless they offer something different.
“When people are in downtown Austin, people are going other places and come upon you,” he said. “When you are out here, people are coming to you, so you kind of have to have a product that people will be willing to come to.”
For Lake Travis resident Carry Warner, having a food truck within a five-minute drive has been amazing, she said. She said she used to live in Austin and missed the convenience and uniqueness of the food truck culture.
“It’s nice to be able to order and eat different kinds of foods quickly,” she said.
In addition to being an easy food option for residents, food trucks are a practical options for aspiring business owners, Dennis said.
Opening a food truck is significantly less expensive than opening a regular restaurant, Pierce said. Refurbishing an old truck or van into a food truck costs about $40,000, and opening a sandwich shop in a strip mall costs about $160,000, according to the Austin Food Truck Alliance.
“For a lot of business owners, they don’t have to go out and find investors or take on a tremendous amount of debt and overhead to get their concept or idea going,” Pierce said. “A brick-and-mortar [restaurant] is a high-risk and high-reward type of thing, this just kind of tapers that a little bit.”
As the existing food trucks become more popular, Dennis and Pierce said they expect more food trucks to come to the area.
Laura Mitchell, Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce President, said more food trucks would be welcomed as they are typically locally-owned and -operated and offer a unique product to the community.
“We would love to see the same trends that are happening in Austin move this way,” she said.
The food trailers in the main Lake Travis–area food trailer park, 3595 S. RR 620, are regulated by Travis County.
To operate, the food trucks must get permits from the Travis County Health Department and pass a fire inspection.
The food trailer park is in the Bee Cave extraterritorial jurisdiction, and Bee Cave City Council must approve any signage for the food trailers. Food trailers are not addressed in the City of Bee Cave’s zoning ordinance, which means they are not allowed inside city limits on a permanent basis, Bee Cave City Administrator Frank Salvato said.
Food trucks are allowed to operate inside city limits temporarily if approved for special events, Salvato said.
Boss Hogs Kitchen co-owner Brandon Pierce said although the permitting process for Travis County is similar to the Austin process, the Travis County fire and health departments are less strict.
“It is a much more arduous process to open a trailer and get permitted and all of that stuff [in Austin] than it is out here,” he said. “If the trailers in town knew that, all of them would be out here.”