Aug 16, 2015

Sampling Bites on the Boulevard

Every once in a while, someone – or some group of someones – in my hometown of Springfield, Ill., surprises me and comes up with a pretty great idea for the community.  Case in point:  the recent (OK, recent in terms of this blog) Bites on the Boulevard, the first-ever gathering of some of the most popular food trucks on the Springfield scene. 

The event was hosted by the MacArthur Boulevard Association, an organization that helps promote the ongoing revitalization of one of Springfield’s major shopping and traffic areas.  I’m a little partial to the cause since I lived so close to the area for many years.  And, of course, I love food.  It was the perfect event to draw my attention. 

Granted, the food truck “craze” is hardly the next big thing anymore, as food trucks are a lot more ubiquitous in other parts of the country.  But, I suppose it’s better late than never for Springfield to get on board.  On the other hand, you could argue that Springfield has been favoring food trucks since they began permanently hosting a little thing called the Illinois State Fair in 1894 – as long as the food is fried and/or on a stick.  But, I digress.   

The official “host” store for Bites on the Boulevard was District 23, a nice store specializing in women’s fashion and accessories.  It’s also cool that a portion of all of their proceeds goes to the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation.   

As I hinted at, it was a good thing The April, The Kiddo and I arrived at the start of the meet-up.  Lines were already forming, and parking on the same side of the street was getting scarce.  I noticed the Chaditos food truck through the gate and made a bee-line for our first purchase – a couple of their delicious fish tacos and an order of nachos.      

By the time we had ordered, the picnic table seating that had at first seemed like plenty for all had filled up.  We settled for a bench by the fence provided by the Dew Chilli Parlor truck that makes the lot its home away from home. Still, judging by the smile on The Kiddo’s face, we had achieved success with our order.  Or, it could be that she really likes to have her picture taken. 

I'm an easy target for self-embarrassment.  Still, that's one darn good fish taco.
And honestly, you really can’t go wrong with Chaditos’ fish tacos.  For “fast food” I consider them some of the best in town. 

Mmmm ... chilli ... with the extra L.
Speaking of Dew Chilli, that’s where the Styrofoam cup came from.  Even though it was a warmish August evening, I had to try something from the “host” food truck for the event.  And while I prefer my own chili a little more “tomato-ey” The April and I agreed that the Triple Threat – with shredded cheese, diced white onion and sour cream – was a good introduction to Dew Chilli’s food.    

My meager attempts at photography do not do the lines justice.  
As the crowds got thicker, The April got more eager to move on.  But she was a good enough of a sport to wait for me to try something from the truck that seemed to be getting the most attention at the meet-up – Cooper’s StrEATside Bistro.

The Fancy Pants Pops vendors were equally irresistible.  
The line for Cooper’s was so long, in fact, that The April and The Kiddo had plenty of time to visit the Fancy Pants Pops popsicle cart nearby for dessert.  At two for $5 she really couldn’t afford not to try them.  The April showed her adventurous side by selecting the peach and jalapeno and coconut and ginger lime flavored popsicles.  Both were full of flavor and quite refreshing. 

The delicious and refreshing Coop's Salad
As it turns out, the wait at Cooper’s was worth it.  I chose as my final dish the Coop’s Salad – featuring fresh greens, tomatoes, corn and grilled ciabatta bread cubes, all drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette.  And, it was my favorite food at the event. 

As we watched the crowds steadily build, it was easy to see Bites on the Boulevard was an instant success and an indication that Springfield was long overdue for this type of foodie-themed event.  Plus, with quality locally produced adult beverages available from Danenberger Family Vineyards …

… and Rolling Meadows Brewery …

… it was the perfect venue for mingling on a lazy summer evening.  I suppose that’s why I saw so many politicians in attendance.  Even the governor came to check out the event.  Politics aside, it’s good to our state’s governor taking an interest and attending local events in the capitol city of Springfield (I also hear he’s become kind of a fan of the Danenberger wines). 

Although this was billed as a “one night only” event, I can see the seeds have been planted to make this a more regular thing.  And if it does, I hope the organizers resolve one minor quibble I had with the event:  more food trucks!  It’s the best thing they can do to address the length of the lines.    

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