Street Food: Dine Stands Still
The mobile eateries at À La Cart sit for a spell, giving patrons a chance to enjoy varied cuisine and craft beer.
April Williams talks with bartender Jake Dann behind a sampling of menu items, including poke, vegan tacos, chargrilled meats and empanadas.
Call it a food hall, food hub, or food truck park—we’ve been in the throes of a traveling dining revolution for almost a decade. But unlike roving truck assemblies or the bazaars pioneered by The Daily City’s Mark Baratelli, À La Cart Street Food and Craft Beer gives transient truck chefs a place to settle and lets us find them on a regular basis.
Owners Dustin and April Williams grew up in Orlando and lived in the Pacific Northwest for 10 years, working as high school teachers.
“There was a pretty good food park in Bend, Oregon,” April says. “We would find ourselves going there a lot.” When Dustin’s family visited from Orlando and suggested they bring the idea here, April resisted. “My original response was, ‘I don’t know about beer, I don’t care about beer’ ... A few months went by and Dustin said, ‘I know what we’re doing.’ By the end of the year we’d put in our notice at school, sold our house and moved back.”
“So here we are.”
The space is on a truncated, rather overlookable street off East Colonial Drive, basically behind the popular Se7en Bites Bake Shop. Modern and industrial, with big swatches of teal on white block and commercial rolling windows that expose the interior to a greenspace, the immutable part of À La Cart is the pavilion with tables and beer pulls. Fifteen taps offer beer, cider, wine and cold-brewed coffee on draft. The selection changes and featured on one visit an eminently drinkable blood orange cider from Caribé, rich coffee-brewed Russian porter à la Fulton Beer, and sour plum Berliner weisse from Octopi Brewing of Waunakee, Wisconsin. A four-glass flight is both jewel-like in appearance and delicious in mixed flavors, a perfect way to get familiar with new brews.
Surrounding the outdoor space of chairs, tables and lawn games are food trucks. PokeKai poke bowl truck from Raúl Ramirez and Alessandra Linero (poke tacos every Tuesday); Adao Pastel Gourmet from chef Romulo Ferreira Costa (a large variety of savory and sweet empanadas); and Steak It Easy Brazilian food truck from Connie and Thiago Lisboa (charcoal-grilled meats) all have contracts for permanent spots through December. The two rotating positions are currently shared by SwedeDish Scandinavian truck, Cala La Pasta homemade pasta truck, and Jacked Up Tacos vegan taqueria (jackfruit in a habanero guava BBQ sauce that will convert meat lovers).
À La Cart Street Food and Craft Beer
“We started construction in May 2018,” April says, “and opened in November. We had trucks booked to start July 1… I can’t thank them enough for waiting. It’s early; I still talk of us in terms of weeks like a mom.”
The crowd is diverse, coming not only for a quick bite and a beer, but events like movie nights on Mondays, trivia on Tuesdays, football watch parties and guest brewery beer dinners with food from the trucks every six weeks. April says her culinary park draws people “passing into the middle thirties,” young hipsters moving away from bars and clubs, and older locals looking for a place to savor casual food and good beer in an unusual atmosphere. “That’s been one of the biggest surprises to me, the diversity of the crowd.”
“I’m a people pleaser,” she says. “We wanted to create a place where everybody can hang out, a place we would want to come to. Apparently other people like it too, so that’s good.”
More Park Places
Boxi Park Lake Nona has a roster of restaurants in shipping containers, a dog park, beer garden and volleyball court. The Food Factory at Oviedo on the Park boasts several restaurants, a wine bar and brewery. The soon-to-open Henry’s Depot in Sanford will include food from Dixie Dharma, Grain & Ember and Salvatore’s Sandwiches. And downtown’s Creative Village will feature a food hall.