@story and images MARCUS COKER
For the longest time, I’ve associated food trucks with greasy eats and the state fair, two things I dearly love. There’s just something about eating a deep-fried Twinkie while standing next to barnyard animals that makes mealtime unforgettable. Still, despite my love for corn dogs and funnel cakes, there’s only so much grease one can handle. Thankfully, grease is something you won’t find at Mountain Crepes, a gourmet food truck in Fayetteville on the corner of Dickson and Gregg Streets.
Mountain Crepes opened on March 15 and is part of the growing food truck trend. Nationally, food trucks are a billion dollar a year industry, having grown by eight percent each year for the last five years. Statewide, the number of trucks increased from only 112 in 2008 to 665 in 2011. And in Fayetteville the number nearly doubled from 15 in 2006 to 27 in 2011. The growth coincides with the launch of TV shows like The Great Food Truck Race, where the menus in the mobile eateries include gourmet items, like crepes.
If you happen to know what a crepe is, I won’t blame you if you stop reading right now and start driving to 608 W. Dickson Street. (They’re that good.) But if you don’t know what a crepe is, it’s time you learn.
I don’t feel like it’s hyperbole to say that a crepe is a small miracle, just like Velcro or Hot Pockets. “It’s basically a really thin pancake,” says Mountain Crepes co-owner John Lester. I think of it like a gyro made out of magic pancake batter, filled with tasty ingredients, then rolled up like a burrito. I’m guessing it’s a sin to eat one, but only if it has whipped cream on top.
Crepes come in two basic styles—sweet and savory. Sweet crepes are like desserts, savory crepes like meals. Mountain Crepes offers over a dozen of each kind, ranging in price from $5 to $10. All are handmade in Mountain Crepes’ bright yellow, eighteen and a half by eight foot trailer.
Inside the trailer, there are refrigerators, grills, and a sink. “We make our own batter from scratch. We use staples like butter, sugar, and flour, but also two secret ingredients,” says co-owner Bo Clower, who offers to make me a Bananas Foster. Bo pours the batter onto a grill, and it forms a thin circle a foot in diameter. When it’s light brown, Bo folds the crepe in half and places it on another grill, which burns at a lower heat. He adds butter, a sliced banana, brown sugar, and a splash of Grand Marnier, and then puts it on a plate.
I start producing insulin immediately, and then Bo adds chocolate, powdered sugar, whipped cream, and strawberries. I feel guilty about breaking my new diet, but I remind myself that the strawberries are organic and locally grown. “The nature of a crepe is not a health food,” says Bo, “but we try to stay with organic fruits and vegetables.”
The Bananas Foster is warm, and melts in my mouth. I rarely moan when eating, but I end up sighing strongly more than once. I collapse a bit in the chair as all the flavors blend together, and I feel like I’ve made a new friend. John talks about their best sellers, crepes with brie cheese, honey mustard, raspberry jam.
“Food trucks are starting to come around big,” says John. “Customers are responding to TV shows like Food Truck Wars and realizing that trucks are selling good, unique food. And people are looking into it for business, because of the low rent and overhead.” Of course, like any business, there are costs involved. A food truck can range in price from $2,000 to $75,000. But many trucks cost less than just the kitchen equipment required for a traditional restaurant.
Food trucks can often succeed where restaurants would fail for two main reasons. First, customers like variety and a changing menu, which food trucks can provide more easily than brick and mortar restaurants can. Second, food trucks are mobile, which means they can travel to where demand for their product is high.
Mountain Crepes currently has a ninety-day permit to be in their present location, and they hope to get that extended. Bo says, “If we’re doing well, there’s no need to move. We’d like to build a deck out here and put out more tables and chairs.” John wants to start making their own sodas and ginger ales and eventually have a fleet of gourmet food trucks in the area.
So the next time you see a food truck, don’t just think of the fair. Try something new, and you may discover a small miracle like Mountain Crepes. Gourmet food on the go could easily be the answer to your next meal. And if you’re anything like John and Bo, it could be the answer to your next business venture.
Mountain Crepes is open six days a week (closed Sunday or Monday), from 10 AM to 10 PM, and later on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, visit mtncrepes.com.