The Village Garden Food Truck Park ~ St. Augustine, FL
Sometimes things don’t go exactly the way you planned. As hard as you try, some things are just out of your control. Occasionally we’ll find ourselves at a restaurant that we’ve been planning to stop at for weeks, only to find out that it’s a little lackluster. Or worse, we find out the place has closed, and now we need to find a plan B (something that has been more common since we descended into the hurricane states). And then other times, something will catch our eye, and we decide to change our whole game plan altogether. When we got to St. Augustine, we were absolutely captivated by the city itself, such an unbelievably historic & beautiful place. We had a few places in mind around the historic downtown area, but all that changed once we saw St. Augustine in all its wonder. We really just wanted to soak it all in, so we decided to take The Blog Bus on a tour of the city, and just cruised around.
As we were driving down the A1A highway toward Anastasia Island, something caught our eye. As the road turned, we saw a bright-colored courtyard with palm trees, umbrellas, and—is that a food truck?! GAAHH! We love food trucks, and yet weirdly enough, we really haven’t been to any so far on this trip. And so I did what anybody from Boston would do, and I whipped that bus around, right on the highway (I love 'banging a uey'). Coming from the other direction, we saw The Village Garden Food Truck Park in all it’s glory, welcoming us in with open arms, with not one, not two, but FOUR food trucks! There’s even parking around the back, but it’s a little tricky if you’re in a bus, luckily there’s plenty of space on the surrounding side streets.
I’m so glad we chose to turn around because the Village Garden Food Truck Park is its own little island paradise. Apart from the food trucks, there’s one bright blue building in the center of it all. It looks as if it belongs up on a sandy beach, rather than right off the highway. Whoever designed this space knew exactly what they were doing. Everything is outside, making you feel like you’re in an island oasis. Large string lights, criss-cross overhead, with crushed white shells covering the courtyard below. Bright colorful tables & chairs with large shady umbrellas cast a fun & lively feel to everything, and they even ‘Frankie chairs’! Well, that’s what me & Chris call them anyways (from the show Grace & Frankie, you should watch it by the way). They’re really just hanging chairs, but whatever you call them, I love that feeling of being suspended in midair. Between all the colorful tables and palm trees, you really feel like you’re out on the water, and not right off the highway. In fact, all those cars whizzing on by, really help give you that ocean breeze! There’s even a covered patio area, and a little garden with a handful of tables if you’re looking to escape from the sun. But we like the idea of swinging in the sunshine—Frankie chairs it is!
The big blue beach bungalow, houses the Good Karma Cafe, a little coffee shop, with an amazing selection of coffee, teas, and quite a variety of espresso-based drinks. Now, as for the food trucks themselves? Well here at Village Garden Food Truck Park, they only provide the best of the best. There are four permanent food trucks: New York Beach Bagel, Pele’s Kitchen, Rip Tide BBQ, and Big Island Bowls. There’s also space for two additional food trucks on a rotating basis, so make sure to check their food truck calendar to see who’s visiting. But let’s check out the main four.
First, we have New York Beach Bagel, a classic New York delicatessen on wheels, offering authentic NYC bagels and sandwiches to the sunny shores of Florida. Living just 30 minutes from the New York border, believe us, New Yorkers are very (weirdly) picky about their bagels. Co-owner Mike Paladino, a New Yorker himself, is well aware of this phenomenon. That’s why he ships in their bagel dough from Long Island, so Floridians can experience what a real New York bagel is all about.
Next, we got Riptide BBQ, offering up everything you could hope for in a BBQ food truck. Genuine slow-smoked meats, like pulled pork, brisket, and ribs that you can get by the pound, grab as a sandwich, or even as a platter with any of their classic sides. They got Mac & Cheese, baked beans, and coleslaw, the perfect thing to get your southern comfort fix. From the smell alone I was enthralled. Sitting across from them in the courtyard, I was watching these people devour their meal, and from their faces alone, I could tell it was the most amazing BBQ they’ve ever had.
Then you got Pele’s Kitchen, a mobile pizzeria, complete with a traditional wood fire brick oven in the back. Now, we’re unmistakably picky when it comes to pizza. Back in MA, Chris was a master pizza maker if I do say so myself, working a wood fire oven with the greatest of ease. Obviously we had to try it out. We went with 'The Vegas', a white pizza spread with a layer of garlic ricotta cheese, meaty chunks of applewood smoked bacon, roasted button mushrooms, and arugula, then drizzled with a truffle vinaigrette. I'll let you savor the last sentence for a second... But here's the thing, me & Chris, not really a fan of mushrooms, and coming from the Berkshires, that’s pretty much like saying we hate sunsets. But for this 2nd place finisher in the world pizza competition? We couldn't live with ourselves if we changed it, so mushrooms it is. And you know what, it wasn’t bad at all. If fact, it was downright decadent! The cheese was impossibly creamy & rich, with layers of amazing flavor that compliment each other in perfect harmony. Brava Pele, Brava.
And finally, Big Island Bowls, which believe it or not, started it all. Kelly Schneck is a passionate & quirky businesswoman, who owns and operates Big Island Bowls with her husband Brendan (he was in Nicaragua at the time). We talked with Kelly for a bit and it turns out their story is very similar to our own. The two originally met as friends, building their friendship over the years, which eventually turned into love once they discovered a common passion (food!). Sounds pretty familiar! They lived in worked on the Big Island of Hawaii (hence the name) and fell in love with the happy healthy lifestyle as well as the locals' favorite fruit, acai berries. When they eventually came back to the mainland, not only did they bring that Hawaiian state of mind with them, but those amazing berries as well, Kelly & Brendan opened up Big Island Bowls serving the same acai bowls and smoothies that fueled them out in the Pacific. Fresh, organic, grade A, refreshing, entrancing, beautiful—I could go on forever. We tried one of their granola bowls, filled with fresh fruit, granola, puréed acai, and coconut milk artfully arranged in a bowl that fed your eyes as well as your belly. Each bite felt like a sinfully delicious treat, it's hard to believe something this tasty could be so good for you. Seriously if you’re used to getting ice cream to beat the heat, give one of these bowls a try. They're incredibly sweet, with such bright flavors, every spoonful took you away to an island paradise. We also tried one of their tuna poke bowls. Sushi grade tuna, creamy avocado, crisp cucumber, fresh red peppers, juicy mango, topped with sesame seeds and served over jasmine rice. What’s not to like? Each bite was paradise, sweet & savory paradise, that you can hold in your hand. Big Island Bowls delivers the refreshing delight we needed, without the heavy belly afterward (which usually is a concern for me most of the time.)
For years they served their community the freshest fruits & veggies in town. But like most food truck owners, they constantly had to fight for a place to sell their product, jumping from one spot to the next. Although you'll find that most people love the idea of a food truck, a lot of cities have made it quite complicated to operate one, imposing strict regulations or just straight-up banning them altogether. That didn't sit right for Kelly & Brendan, they knew there had to be a better solution. After a lot of planning and even more legal hoop-jumping, St. Augustine's first food truck park was born! And let me tell you, I couldn't be more thankful. The Village Garden Food Truck Park is an amazing concept encompassing the spirit that small businesses should support each other rather than compete against one another. We need to support ideas like Kelly & Brendan set up. Just an unbelievable community supporting local, hardworking men & women th