Visiting Chicago for the first time, Joanna Rakoff got lost on her way to the Chicago Art Institute and ended up at Daley Plaza on Friday.
There, she found a crowd of people waiting to grab lunch from one of four food trucks.
It was the return of the weekly Food Truck Fest, which had taken a year off due to the pandemic. The trucks will be back every Friday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., through Oct. 15.
Rakoff, an author, loves food trucks, from taco trucks in LA to the ones in Cambridge, N.Y. where she lives now. So rather than hurry on to the Art Institute, she stopped to see what Chicago’s trucks had to offer.
Friday, the lineup was A Sweet Girl, Chicago Lunchbox, The Fat Shallot and Lawrence’s Fish and Shrimp.
Rakoff, who has Celiac disease, said it’s hard to find good gluten-free desserts. So she was happily surprised that A Sweet Girl offers them, and bought a pink vanilla cupcake — “the best gluten-free cupcake I have ever had,” said Rakoff (her latest book, “My Salinger Year,” is now a movie).
“I haven’t been to a food truck since before the pandemic,” Rakoff said. “So, I wound up here and said ‘Oh, I am going to eat a cupcake for lunch today.’”
Rakoff was not the only person enjoying A Sweet Girl; by 3 p.m., the truck was almost sold out.
“Today went great,” said Anna Wu, owner and operator of A Sweet Girl. “I really appreciate everyone coming out to support us.”
Like the other trucks there, A Sweet Girl had been in Daley Plaza before the pandemic, she said.
Back then, though, there might be 10 or more trucks, said Isaac Gomez, who manages the Fat Shallot truck.
Like Wu, Gomez also had a good day, moving plenty of sandwiches; their BLT was the top seller.
Alvalyn Neal-Gardner had heard some time ago that the food trucks would be returning. She works nearby, so she’d been coming every week, to see if they were there.
Her dedication was rewarded on Friday, when she got to try the fried shrimp from Lawrence’s Fish and Shrimp. It was delicious, she said.
There’s a downside to eating at plaza, though: the flocks of pigeons waiting for handouts, she said.
“I like all the food choices here,” Neal-Gardner said. “The birds, not so much.”
Jeff Singer, who also works in the area, had not heard about the trucks. So he was pleasantly surprised to see them when he left for his lunch break, especially because many of his favorite places closed during the pandemic.
Like Neal-Gardner, Singer had the shrimp. It was great — but more than anything, he said, it’s great having the food trucks back.
“The farmers market is back, the food trucks are back. It is like life is coming back to normal,” he said. “I love it.”