Aldermen on Evanston's Human Services Committee Monday night voted to recommend that the full City Council approve plans by local restaurant owners to operate a mobile food truck in the city.
Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, gets a tour of the mobile food truck from restaurant owner Steve Schwartz.
The plan requires adoption of a new ordinance to regulate such trucks. Currently the city permits distribution of prepared food by mobile vendors, but doesn't allow food preparation in the trucks.
The owners of Campagnola and Union Pizzeria parked the truck they hope to use in the city behind the Civic Center and gave aldermen a tour after the meeting.
Schwartz reaches to turn on the lights in the truck, which features a 12-burner gas range and other gear that he said makes it as fully equipped as most restaurant kitchens.
Restaurant owner Heather Behm said the truck would add another dimension to Evanston's reputation as the culinary mecca of the North Shore.
She said the 28-foot truck with its self-contained kitchen would meet the same inspection standards as existing restaurants "effectively dispelling any concerns regarding food safety."
She added that the goal was to bring food to locations where there is no food service now, that they "have no intention of opening up in front of somebody else's restaurant."
The truck built by Custom Mobile Food Equipment of Hammonton, N.J., also features a roll-out canopy to provide cover for patrons waiting for their food.
Russ Abell, general manager of the Hilton Orrington hotel, said he'd originally planned to oppose the food truck idea, "for the classic reason that brick-and-mortar restaurants pay real estate taxes and food trucks don't."
But he added, "If you could know that every operator applying for a license was as passionate and professional as those applying tonight, I wouldn't have any concerns."
The proposed ordinance includes a variety of restrictions on where mobile food trucks could set up shop -- including one that would bar them from locating within 100 feet of the entrance to a restaurant or near Evanston Township High School on school days.
It also restricts mobile food truck licenses to persons who already own a restaurant in the city.
Several other speakers at the meeting said they welcomed the idea of food trucks coming to Evanston.
Rebecca Noyes of 1219 Maple Ave., who said she manages a restaurant in Wilmette, said food trucks "are all the rage right now."
"Chicago is doing the same thing," she said, "and we have the opportunity here to show how to do it right."
"So many spots in Evanston could use this kind of business," she added.
The food truck ordinance is scheduled to be on the City Council's agenda next Monday night.