BY WIL CREWS
Opelika’s street food culture continues to grow.
While many by now are familiar with the Opelika Chamber of Commerce’s Food Truck Fridays, which take place on the first and third Friday of every month in downtown Opelika, there is a new food truck-centered event gathering the attention of the masses: Street Food Saturday.
“I’d ask the community that if this is what you are looking for … I don’t know how to say it … but this is for you,” said Rick Lanier, orchestrator of Street Food Saturday.
Street Food Saturday is a new, street-food-centric event that will take place on the second and fourth Saturday of each month.
“It’s always been my personal goal to increase the street food presence in Opelika,” Lanier said. “That’s why I started a commercial kitchen, opened it up for food trucks … that’s why I have a food truck. We have a diverse community now who have been around other cities and have seen what I’m talking about in regard to street food. Every city across America has a street food scene. They embrace it; it’s their culture. And that is what I am trying to do here.”
The inaugural Street Food Saturday event took place last weekend, Saturday, Jan. 7, in front of Twin City Mason Lodge #76 (across from East Alabama Health Center), and is sponsored by The Galley on McCoy Street in Opelika.
The Galley on McCoy is a shared-use commercial kitchen owned by Lanier, out of which street food vendors can work. The first Street Food Saturday featured three food trucks that operate out of The Galley: Franky Junes Weeny Wagon, Rollin Pepperoni and Hughes Family Barbeque. Each food truck that participates in Street Food Saturday pays an entry fee, which is then turned around and given to a charity of their choosing.
“It’s a symbiotic relationship between us and them — everybody wins,” Lanier said.
Lanier said the hope for Street Food Saturday is to capitalize, complement and coexist with the already established Food Truck Fridays in downtown Opelika. Its overarching goal is to continue to establish and grow Opelika’s budding and diverse street food scene.
“I don’t think we will ever rival Food Truck Friday; that’s a totally different beast,” Lanier said. “What we are trying to do is add some continuity with the goal being of establishing Opelika as a street food destination.”
Lanier said the first Street Food Saturday was an overwhelming success.
“It went well, very well,” said Lanier, who owns the Franky Junes Weeny Wagon. “We were hoping to garner some momentum to get the thing off the ground.”
The achievement of the first event was encouraging to Lanier, and he said it has him already planning ways to improve. Thanks to community feedback, Street Food Saturday realized the need for different vendors and is changing the times at which they will serve the community from noon to 4 p.m. to 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Upon reflection on the launch of Street Food Saturday, Lanier said he was overall satisfied. But he also said he knows the event can continue improving on its way to reaching the goal of bolstering the street food community in the local area.
“We got some good feedback from the first one — they are looking for dessert,” Lanier said. “We didn’t think about that, so that is going to be one of the new add-ons this week. I expect it to be bigger, and I expect it to become a very looked-forward-to event. The whole business is to provide a very nice complement to Friday night food trucks to help the food truck scene overall.”
For anyone with questions about Street Food Saturdays, contact Lanier at 334-750-7832. The next Street Food Saturday is scheduled for this Saturday, Jan. 14, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Twin City Mason Lodge #76.
“I would like to thank Rollin Pepperoni and Hughes Barbeques for their participation,” Lanier said. “I would like to thank Twin City Mason Lodge #76 and the community for getting this thing off the ground. We look forward to doing it in the future, growing it and a broader application of what the food truck scene and the street food scene can do.”