The food trucks that return to Minneapolis for the 2019 season are experiencing an increase in popularity, but weekday lunches still haven't reached the levels of 2019.
On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, when most office workers work downtown rather than remotely, a small collection of food trucks gathers at the corner of Sixth Street & Second Avenue outside Capella Tower. Hibachi Daruma is one of them, as are Jamo's New Zealand Pie Co.
Food trucks were more common in downtown Minneapolis during the lunch hour before the pandemic. Now, only a few have adjusted their schedules to accommodate hybrid work.
Hibachi Daruma is a downtown Minneapolis restaurant that has been in business for over a decade. In 2013, it was the Twin Cities' first Japanese-style hibachi food truck.
Miguel Alvarez, Hibachi Daruma's co-owner, recalls when up to 20 food trucks parked in downtown Minneapolis and workers formed long lines for them. He's seen more office workers buying food from Hibachi Daruma a few weeks into 2023. Both new and returning customers are purchasing the food.
According to the Minneapolis Downtown Council which anticipates that the number will continue to rise, by March almost 65% had returned to work in the largest buildings of downtown Minneapolis.
The Commons, across from U.S. Bank Stadium, is another place in downtown Minneapolis where food trucks are popular. It's harder to find parking in this area in the late morning.
The small but mighty food truck group that frequents Sixth Street and Second Avenue has gathered there to rally in the hopes of reestablishing this corner as a hot lunch spot, with a "if you build, they will be" mentality.
Kou Moua, Thai Thai's owner, said: "We have a truck team that is trying to rebuild it." When it becomes busy again, everyone will show up.
Moua stated that business is "starting to pickup" and has recovered to 70% of its 2019 levels.
Joe Cobb, of Jamo's New Zealand Pie Co., made a similar statement. "We are doing 25% more than last year, but we are only half way through 2019."
Some food trucks have since ceased operations, either by giving up or switching to catering or brick-and mortar.
Alvarez, his wife Ying and their company opened two restaurants – in Mound where they are based and in downtown Minneapolis near Capella Tower – but chose to continue using the food trucks because the customers requested it.
Thai Thai has also returned by popular demand. Two food trucks often parked outside Capella Tower or near The Commons.
I've heard people say: "Yes, we finally have other options." "We've eaten the same food in the skyway over the past two, three, or even all winter," Moua said. They want to soak up the sunshine."
Many food trucks are able to stay afloat by doing business at night and on weekends.
Jamo's moves to another brewery after the downtown rush. They restock and pack up their truck. The two food trucks of Jamo's are typically parked outside separate taprooms each night.
Cobb said that breweries have a more reliable customer base because many beer drinkers are looking for food, and most don't offer their own.
Thai Thai is also available at corporate campuses such as 3M and Medtronic where hundreds of mouths are guaranteed to be touched.