By Nadine Kam
Eat this street held its first anniversary at the Kakaako waterfront, from 4 to 9 p.m. Jan. 27, where the truck count is up to 32, and founder Poni Askew said she regularly turns away 25 to 30 vendors for lack of space, although she said it breaks her heart to do so.
They include people who are starting up specifically to be a part of the monthly communal food event. Picking which newbies get in is difficult, she said, and is a matter of finding those with something new or novel to offer. For instance, one to look forward to in coming months is the Sweet Revenge pie truck that’ll offer sweet and savory selections.
In the beginning, Poni was working as a district manager for Starbucks when she started her Street Grindz blog and website just to bring the food truck community together and offer a convenient place to share sightings and locations of trucks. But with the popularity of the trucks affordable fare, the whole project took on a life of its own.
Now, it’s become political as well, with the city moving to enforce a 1978 law that requires street vendors to move at least 300 feet after being in one spot for 15 minutes. Violators face a petty misdemeanor charge punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000 fine.
After police began citing lunch wagons and other street vendors several months ago, Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard introduced a bill that would allow the vendors to stay in place two hours, to get them through a typical lunch period, although final testimony is pending.
Poni said it’s a shame that the city is doing this at the height of the trucks’ popularity, and I think attendance at the monthly events also speaks to consumers’ wishes.
“It would be a shame if they turn away a legacy that’s been here for so long, for so many generations of Hawaii families,” she said.
Shortly after arriving at the event, I stopped by the Eat the Street booth, where food writer Mari Taketa said she’d just been asked if she were me. The late John Heckathorn also told me in the past that people asked him the same question!
This city is not without precedent of the mystery writer with the fake name and fake gender. The Honolulu Weekly once had a male restaurant reviewer writing under a woman’s name. But I started writing about food a decade before that, when I was 22, too young to consider the consequences. If I had to do it over again, I probably would have used a pseudonym and just walked away from any grief.
Getting fancy. An $8 lobster roll made with Maine lobster was one of the specials at the Why’z truck. Andy Hope was prepping lobster outside and I had to do a doubletake when I saw his doppelganger inside the truck. His twin.