Since 2002, the Baltimore City area has witnessed a growing industry of Black-owned food trucks. With a variety of cuisine, these food trucks not only provide Baltimoreans with original mealtime options, but serve as a conduit for the dreams and passions of their enterprising owners.
James “Shawn” Glanville, a 15-year veteran of the Baltimore City Police Department, started out cooking for his fellow officers and squad mates. His Caribbean style cuisine was such a hit that one of his colleagues suggested he start a food truck.
Three years ago, Glanville did exactly that. His truck, Savannah’s Kitchen, named after his six-year-old daughter, was the first Jamaican food truck in the Baltimore City area, according to Glanville. Savannah’s Kitchen operates Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and while jerk chicken is a staple for his customers, “Everyone absolutely loves the red snapper,” Glanville said. Locations for the food truck are available on its Twitter feed, which can be seen at the company’s website www.bmorejamaican.com.
Glanville continues to work for the Baltimore City Police Department, and plans to open a brick and mortar restaurant towards the end of July. Even with the full-time career and new restaurant, Glanville will continue to operate the Savannah’s Kitchen food truck. “That’s where I started and I will still offer that service across the city,” said Glanville.
Gary Brooks grew up in Windsor, Conn., where his father, a mechanical engineer whose roots were in Alabama, passed on the family passion for food and barbeque. Brooks moved to the area to attend Howard University where he majored in business management with a concentration in finance. Like Glanville, Brooks was first encouraged to enter the food industry by friends who loved his cooking, but was hesitant to open a restaurant, understanding how risky that line of business could be.
From Howard, Brooks came to Maryland where he taught high school for seven years in Baltimore County. “I was good at teaching, but I wasn’t passionate,” Brooks said.
In late 2012, the call of Brooks’ inherited passion for food, particularly barbecue, won him over and he began bottling a proprietary barbecue sauce in mason jars, selling them online. Brooks’ ultimate goal was to get the sauce into grocery stores, a goal which required more exposure for his product. A restaurant seemed too risky, but a food truck would allow him to get his sauce out on the streets of Baltimore. So in July 2013 he opened the Fowl Play Food Truck.
Fowl Play specializes in chicken-based dishes, but the Fowl Play sauce is the real star. “It’s the driving force of our business,” said Brooks.
The Fowl Play food truck operates from Monday to Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Daily locations, as well as any evening or weekend events, are posted on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, links to which are available on the company’s website www.fowlplayfoodtruck.com. The company’s sauce may be purchased on the website, as well as from the truck.
Derek Pediford opened the Four Brothers Mobile Cafe two years ago. Pediford, who formerly owned a barbershop as well as owning and managing real estate, said he has always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and that food is something he inherited from his family of cooks. “I’ve always had a passion for cooking,” Pediford said. “I cook for my kids, cook for my family.”
Pediford wanted to open a business where he could sell his hamburgers, but after researching the costs and scouting locations for a restaurant, decided that a food truck made more sense.
The mobile cafe has two signature dishes. The Windsor burger is named after Pediford’s father and consists of a half-pound patty, sautéed onions, sweet chili sauce, and crumbled blue cheese. The Summer burger consists of a half-pound patty, Caribbean mango sauce, sautéed onions, lettuce tomato, and provolone cheese.
Four Brothers operates seven days a week at the Queenstown Outlets and recently opened a second mobile cafe serving the downtown Baltimore City area.
Perhaps the longest serving Black-owned food truck operating in the Baltimore City area is Eric Session’s South Carolina Bar-B-Que. Formerly a contractor, Sessions always had a desire to feed and house people. His previous career allowed him to do the latter, while South Carolina Bar-B-Que, which he opened in 2002, has allowed him to pursue the former.
“We’re a southern style BBQ in the inner city,” said Sessions of his business, which won the award for best barbeque in the 2013 Taste of Three Cities, an annual food truck festival featuring trucks from Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Baltimore.
“When I started this, I didn’t want a food truck per se, I wanted a mobile trailer because when a food truck is broken, you’re down for the count. If my vehicle is broken, I can just rent something else and still pull and go work,” said Sessions.
While he hesitates to name a signature dish, noting that different items sell on different days, the ribs are Sessions’ personal favorite.
In April 2014, Sessions opened a brick and mortar restaurant that he runs in addition to his mobile food trailer. The restaurant, in Essex, Md., operates from Wednesday to Sunday, while the food truck operates Monday through Wednesday, and Fridays at different locations in the Baltimore-D.C. corridor. South Carolina Bar-B-Que can be reached at 410-780-2821, and found on the web at www.sccaterers.com.
One of the newest additions to the unofficial guild of Black-owned food trucks is Michael Austin’s Rena’s Corner Kitchen. Opened in January, Rena’s Corner Kitchen currently operates from Monday to Saturday by the Wabash courthouse in Baltimore City, selling breakfast and lunch items.
Austin was wrongfully imprisoned for murder in 1975, and exonerated in 2001. Currently a musician and producer whose album, ‘I Just Want to Love You,’ is available on iTunes, Austin is working with his chef to develop a signature style for his newest venture.
“This is relatively new for me but it’s something I really enjoy doing. We’re just trying to get our own flavor, our own style, so when people hear our name they’ll know exactly what kind of food we have, and they’ll know it’s going to be good food,” said Austin.
Austin believes that food trucks offer a great opportunity for anyone interested in opening their own business. “If anyone is in the position to purchase a hot dog stand or a food truck, do it, because it’s getting ready to be a lucrative business. Not just in Baltimore – in D.C. they’re really making a lot of money – but around across the country. And if anyone is in the position to do it, get a truck, and become an entrepreneur and open up your own business because it’s wide open out here,” said Austin.