The lunch crowd had come and gone on the opening day of Coeur d'Alene's Best Food Court. By dinnertime, they were dribbling in again, some by foot and others by bicycle or car. Whether driven by curiosity or hunger, the food court would not disappoint, with six of the seven permanent vendors — RawDeadFish sushi truck was at another event — dishing up everything from banh mi sandwiches to barbecue.
One out-of-town couple, intrigued by the red-and-white "Grand Opening" sign, sampled Taco Works' carne asada tacos ($1.50/$6.50 combo plate), pronouncing them excellent. With 11 years in the business — most of them on Best Avenue — Taco Works' (facebook.com/omar.reynoso) Omar Magdalena is the veteran of the food court, where he recently added a second truck.
Next door to Taco Works, a couple with several children debate the menu on the Left Coast Fusion truck: Would the kids eat the lamb burger ($4)? Maybe the Yucatan Griller instead — chicken cooked sous vide, dressed with avocado, crème fraîche and pineapple-mango salsa ($7).
For local Kim Gann and her family. Best Sandwich Shack, known for its Philly cheesesteaks, and Taco Works are favorite stops, even in the winter. Taking a break from the midafternoon heat under the newly installed, covered seating pavilion, Gann tried the spicy chicken bacon jalapeño melt ($8.50) from JJ's Roadside Grill.
JJ's is one of several trucks recently relocated to Best Food Court from another Coeur d'Alene location (it was formerly on Government Way). Triple B Backhills BBQ on Best did a brisk business on Saturdays in the Hayden Albertson's parking lot, says Troy Gordon, who co-owns the truck with Jason Cronister.
Coeur de Breizh French crêperie (facebook.com/cdbcrepes), which recently added a second truck, was also formerly on Government Way. They often attend public events to serve up galettes and crêpes both sweet and savory, such as Le Bretonne, with ham, egg and Swiss cheese ($8.25)
Although there are a handful of food truck lots throughout Coeur d'Alene, none are as large or as well-appointed as Best Food Court, which sits in front of Midway Restaurant Supply, where business owner Patrick Kinney has championed the mobile food court industry for several years.
In the past year, Kinney has reconfigured the parking layout, built a covered seating area, and added porta-potties. For vendors, whose monthly rent is between $350 and $450, he added electrical and water hookups and created a Facebook page. Most important, perhaps, is Kinney's active role in drafting city ordinances that are friendly to the mobile food truck industry.
"We're working with the city to figure out food court rules that would fit Coeur d'Alene," says Kinney, who cites the structure of Portland's food truck scene as a model.
For its part, Coeur d'Alene is still reviewing food truck rules, which will address everything from landscaping and signage to sanitation and parking. Acknowledging that the upgrades to Best Food Court have been done in advance of knowing what those regulations might look like — including the possibility of additional changes to the food court — Kinney is optimistic.
"They've been great to work with," says Kinney of his experience with City Hall. This, he says indicating the food court, "is a good thing." ♦
Best Food Court • 510 Best Ave., Coeur d'Alene • Days and hours vary; consult individual food truck sites • facebook.com/Bestfoodcourt • 208-769-7200