Archive for August, 2010

Taco Bike: Interview with Todd Barricklow

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on August 18, 2010

Back in June, I first spotted the Taco Bike during my daily perusals of online oddities. Given my love of bikes and tacos, it seemed the best of both worlds.

SF Weekly tried it out later that month, noting: “We enjoyed our first taco bike fish taco, made with tilapia and piled with cilantro, sour cream, and thick jalapeño slices. But it was the purple cabbage Holt had picked the day before from his and girlfriend Naomi Brilliant’s Healdsburg-based Roshambo Farms that was the unexpected star.”

SFW also noted that the idea for the Taco Bike dates back to 2008, and is sort of mentioned in sketch form on Weird Fish’s blog.

Todd actually wrote me back on June 10, and it took me over two months to post this interview. My apologies.

1) What inspired the creation of this bike? How long did it take to build? Is this a one-off or are you going to be making more?

My friend Timothy Holt from Weird Fish in SF had this idea to somehow have a bike and be able to ride around and serve/cook tacos from it. I jumped at the idea and started telling him all these features that I thought it could have. It took me several long and sporadic weeks of working at night to get this thing put together. The hardest part was figuring out which components could come together to make the whole of the bike. Finding and ordering parts and hunting down little bits here and there was really a challenge. Some parts I could pick up at the hardware store, others parts had to be special ordered from restaurant supply and specialty tool catalogs and RV supply websites.

I’m an artist by day and I don’t like to go into production on anything, but I would like to build another food bike, maybe a Crepe Bike? I work in Ceramics for my fine art and I also build strange pedal powered contraptions, and I’m in the middle of building another bike right now. This one has one nine foot wheel and two smaller wheels that jut out from one side.

These contraptions are built to race on the railroad tracks for an event that my wife produces. After I race them one year, I put rubber on the wheels and make them street legal.

2) Is it specifically designed for tacos? If so, why/how? Have you had any response from real taqueros?

The Taco Bike is specifically built for making three different kinds of tacos, and has a four-slot custom griddle so none of the meats touch each other. Also because Weird Fish has a large vegan demographic, the griddle was designed to make sure the veggies are not touching the beef tongue.

I did talk with the owner of our favorite taco truck about the bike and she made some good suggestions on what she would need to meet safety codes here in Santa Rosa. She definitely had stars in her eyes when I showed her the bike.

3) Will we see this out on the streets anytime soon? The Bite Club Bites site says Weird Fish commissioned it. Will they be using it? If so, when/how/where?

The first date of use will be Friday June 18th and Timothy may just run it in front of Weird Fish for that night. It’s only 4 blocks to Delores park so I’m sure it will end up there often.

4) How does it handle hills, especially SF-grade ones? Are there gears?

It has a Nexus 3 speed hub on the back, and I have ridden it fully loaded up on some medium size hills here in Santa Rosa.

I kind of like the idea of it being limited to a certain footprint of the city where it can go. It keeps things micro-local.

5) What’s your favorite Bay Area non-Twittering taco truck?

I don’t know if they Twitter or not but Antonjitos La Texanita here in Santa Rosa is pretty awesome. It used to just be a truck, then the owner opened a restaurant and now the truck is more mobile around the county.

'The Great Food Truck Race' to debut Sunday, August 15

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on August 14, 2010

So yes, I’m a little behind on this one. And thank you to friends and family alike that have asked me: “Hey, have you heard? There’s going to be a food truck show on Food Network!”

Well, at least I posted in time for the premiere, which airs tomorrow night. Scope the trailer below.

Ok, I’ll bite. (Har.)

I haven’t seen the show yet, and will post my review of the first episode next week. But my gut reaction sort of breaks down into three ways.

1) “Yeah, food trucks!” I think it’s absolutely fantastic that these trucks, a few of which I interviewed on this here blog way back when, are now going to be on national television. (Grill ‘Em All, Nom Nom) Kudos, guys!

2) Everyone seems to think that this is new. And maybe it’s just the latest example of a good idea from one part of society getting appropriated and commercialized by another. I worry that in this hype over tweet-fueled trendiness, somehow the classic taco trucks that aren’t on Twitter and don’t come to flashy downtown art strolls, get pushed aside, when in fact many of those guys were there first, and def could use the exposure.

In an article previewing the show, The New York Times proclaimed: “We’re living in a food-truck moment. Thanks to a booming gastro-culture and an economy gone bust, America’s streets are filled as never before with high-quality meals on wheels.”

I’d speculate that there are already tons of high-quality meals on wheels. Heck, check out the Yum Tacos map. I’m sure the Grey Lady didn’t know that there’s taco trucks in Arkansas, Illinois and Idaho. (I sure didn’t.)

3) Do food trucks really need to be a reality show? Do I really need people put in situations where they’re yelling at each other, à la The Real World? I really loathe these type of shows with these sit-downs at the camera and people talking smack about one another.

That said, as I found myself drawn to this part of TV Squad‘s interview with Tyler Florence, the new host of the show:

So it really is a race for them? Who can get set up and selling in new places the fastest.

Absolutely. There’s an elimination challenge in every city. They got 72 hours to make the most money. We start each truck with a full tank of gas and a completely cleaned out pantry, and everyone gets the same amount of money, so everyone starts on a completely even playing field. They’ve got 72 hours to shop, prep, cook and compete for the dollars and the hearts and minds of the whole community.

In their hometown, they’re rockstars — they can literally just Twitter, “Hey I’m on the corner of whatever,” and 25 minutes later, there’s a line around the block. But in the new cities, they don’t know anybody, so they’re trying to figure out who’ll Twitter, who’s calling the paper, who’s calling the television station, who’s gonna let them know we’re out here. These guys really thought out of the box. It was amazing to watch them all step up to the plate and be strong, independent mobile companies.

No matter what, I’ll be watching.