International spots offer alternatives to turkey.
The Pittsburgh Food Truck Park, which a month ago began teasing people on social media about opening as “Pittsburgh’s first food truck park” without saying where or when, aims to open on the Allegheny River in Millvale, starting this fall, pending approval by borough council.
The outdoor and indoor space is the part of the Millvale Riverfront Park that once was Mr. Small’s Skatepark, right on the riverfront trail and River Front Drive beneath the 40th Street Bridge to Lawrenceville. So plans call for lots of bike racks for customers who’ll come for a daily rotation of up to six of the region’s food trucks, plus a bar with 30 craft beers beneath a beer garden deck, outdoor tables, fire pits and a game yard for corn hole and other pursuits. There’ll be music and other events outside and inside, as the business grows into part of a warehouse the borough now uses for storage.
That’s the vision of the Lang brothers — Matt, Shawn and Tony — who grew up in Millvale and who now run the Lang Restaurant Group. They started with Steel City Samiches Bar & Grille and Twisted Jimmy’s Bar & Lounge in Indiana, Pa., and then Pig Iron Public House in Cranberry, a second location of which is planned for Downtown next year.
They’d thought about adding their own Pig Iron truck to the region’s blooming mobile food scene, but decided it’d be better to start a place where other food trucks could thrive. They say they already have a lot of interest from operators who want to be part of what they expect will be a 50-truck rotation.
Food truck parks are popular in other cities, from Austin, Texas, to Portland, Ore. The Langs have visited several and say they want theirs to be less static than some. They want to be able to rent their space for weddings and other events and include other local businesses besides food trucks.
“A collective of all things Pittsburgh,” according to their website, which describes it as “a fun place to hang with your friends or your kids, a place to unwind after a day in the office, a place to cap off your most recent river rendezvous, a place to plan your next epic adventure, a place to congregate ... A backyard party.”
“We wanted to open something in Millvale for a long time,” Matt Lang said Wednesday, after Millvale officials gave tentative approval for them to announce the location while they work on a lease. “We think the time is right. It is in our eyes the prime space where we think this concept will do best.”
There apparently is a lot of interest in this. Even without giving a location, the “Pittsburgh Food Park” Facebook page got more than 2,000 likes in two weeks.
Several mobile food vendors already have expressed interest. Cool Beans Taco Truck’s Dan Bartow calls the concept “brilliant” and says, “Millvale is now one of the hippest destinations in Pittsburgh! Maybe they will have a Taco Tuesday with all the taco trucks in one place?”
“I think it’s a great idea,” says Nicki Cardilli of the Sharpsburg-based The Coop Chicken and Waffles truck. “We would love to be part of it.” The vibe sounds to her like “a bigger version” of setting up at small family- and dog-friendly breweries, which a lot of food trucks do.
The concept also is reminiscent of the late Bayardstown Social Club, a vacant lot on Penn Avenue in the Strip District that the Deeplocal ad agency rented and ran as an outdoor music venue with tables, fire and horseshoe pits, food trucks and more from 2013 to 2016. A similar outdoor concert series with food trucks called Weather Permitting happens on Sundays at Shadyside Nursery.
There is a longstanding group of food trucks at Carnegie Mellon University, but those rarely move. There are also regular gatherings of food trucks and other mobile vendors at businesses and events, such as the Aug. 26 Feastival — pghfeastival.com — in McKees Rocks.
But this park will be the brothers’ business, and one they see being open seven days a week, at least for dinner, and also for lunch on weekends and warm-weather holidays. The adjacent trail, part of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system, makes it bike-accessible to several breweries, including Millvale’s Grist House and Draai Lang and Sharpsburg’s Dancing Gnome and forthcoming Hitchhiker, plus all the breweries over in Lawrenceville. It’ll also be close to the nearby Riverfront 47 development, which makes Shawn Lang say, “The timing is awesome.”
They hope to start working on the property within a few weeks and start holding some pop-up events this season, and then be more in full swing by spring.
“The outdoor space is what’s guaranteed to happen right way,” says Matt Lang, who says that is about 8,000 square feet. They’ll start with about 2,000 square feet of the warehouse, which has about 6,000 more square feet that they could eventually move into. On a busy night, there could be 200 or more customers at any given time.
Millvale’s director of administrative services and zoning officer Eddie Figas says the food truck park “is in line with the borough’s Master Plan, Riverfront Strategic Plan and Eco-District Plan. We see this development as an opportunity to add another family-friendly destination point in Millvale” that “we expect [will] attract food lovers from all over.”
For more and to sign up for email updates, visit pittsburghfoodpark.com.
Bob Batz Jr.: email@example.com, 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.