COSTA MESA — The Orange County Fair has ended, but fare for foodies has once again fired up the grills in the OC Fair & Event Center parking lot.
After being on hiatus for the duration of the fair July 15 to Aug. 14, Food Truck Fare Thursdays resumed at lunchtime with crowd favorites.
Piaggio Gourmet on Wheels, the Burnt Truck, Lobsta Truck, Chunk-N-Chip Cookies, Tropical Shave Ice, Fresh Fries and other food trucks rolled out an array of offerings from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event features eight to 12 different trucks each week.
"I like being outside, the freshness of the food and the variety," Benny Taitague of Highland said while sitting in a collapsible camping chair underneath a shady canopy of trees in the parking lot behind the trucks.
Taitague and his wife, Susan, made the about 60-mile trip to visit their daughter who attends Cal State Long Beach, he said.
"But the food was the first priority," joked their daughter, Alyssa Taitague.
The three had dined at the Burnt Truck, which specializes in gourmet sliders. The truck had a line of about 20 people just after noon.
Other trucks also had lines, although not as long as the Burnt Truck. Green picnic tables with green umbrellas were packed with an eclectic mix of diners — from families and teenagers to men in business suits.
The three-hour, high-traffic event posed both rewards and challenges to truck owners.
"The biggest challenge is to cook with limited space and equipment," said Piaggio Gourmet on Wheels owner Jose Piaggio. "We only have a grill and a fryer and limited storage space. You have to buy stuff in small amounts, prepare for the day and go back and buy more the next day."
Piaggio is the former owner of Gaucho Grill in Brea, which he closed in 2009 to launch his Argentine cuisine food truck.
He was among the first trucks to roll into Orange County and later sign on as a regularly featured truck at the weekly fairgrounds event, he said.
"The benefit is that you are free to go where the business is," Piaggio continued. "I can go after the business instead of being stuck in a location waiting for people to come to my door."
About 400 people attend the weekly event, which started in September, said OC Fair & Event Center spokeswoman Robin Wachner.
"There is this community of followers that are very supportive of the trucks," said Claudia Gonzalez of Chunk-N-Chip Cookies, an artisan ice cream sandwich shop.
Chunk-N-Chip Cookies travels all over Orange and Los Angeles counties and as far as San Diego for special events. The dessert truck will be a park of Food Truck Fare Thursdays every other week.
"People who come to these events have this excitement, whether it's a big food truck festival or something smaller," Gonzalez continued. "It's kind of like going out to Disneyland or a social event. People come out to hang out with family, friends or meet new people. It's become a great big social scene."
If You Go
What: Food Truck Fare Thursdays
When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Thursday
Where: 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
Cost: Parking and admission are free, food prices vary