Alas, food trucks and wine don’t usually go together. But they do in this week’s food news.
LOOSE THE FOOD TRUCKS!
Ever notice how seriously snail-like it is for new restaurants seeking permits, licenses and inspections, even in what we might (maybe) now (please!) call the post-COVID world?
It’s been three YEARS since North Port’s City Commission first held congenial workshops on mobile food vending.
Before that, Charlotte County, Punta Gorda and Sarasota had loosened their regulations, inviting mobile vendors (i.e., food trucks) onto more city property, with fewer restrictions. But North Port’s rules had remained simple.
No food trucks allowed, period — except for special events.
North Port residents, including Matt Ashley, then owner of the Triple B BBQ truck, disagreed but understood that change would take some time.
That time finally came, nearly two years ago, when the City Commission approved a truck-welcoming ordinance on July 10, 2019.
But it took until now for the full intent of the ordinance to be realized. North Port has finally loosed the food trucks.
The Planning and Zoning Division recently announced that trucks no longer need apply for an annual $100 permit to park at designated city-owned areas like Center Front Green and several parks. They may also operate on private property with written permission from the property owner.
“North Port proudly supports the many food vendors that frequent our City and we enjoy seeing them feed our community!” the division reported.
Lee Caglioti, former co-owner of Port Charlotte’s legendary Ravenous Rhino food truck and now a nationwide food truck advisor, couldn’t be more tickled. She remembers the dark days when food trucks seemed more welcome just about anywhere else in the state and the nation.
“Now it’s booming and showing no signs of slowing down,” she said. “Charlotte County is ripe for a food truck park similar to Celebration Park in Collier County. I’ve had some inquiries from investors but no forward motion. I’d love to see a combo commissary/event space here (and would love to run it!) but I don’t have the financial means to make it happen myself.”
How about it, Allegiant?
It’s a highway of opportunity for newcomer The Dank AF Food Truck — now serving a twisted menu of modern American food and all-purpose munchies, covering everything from chicken and burgers to vegan options like hearts-of-palm lobster roll.
One monster on the menu is so eerily reminiscent of the Ravenous Rhino’s HogZilla that we suspect Dank of being a Millennial Rhino reincarnation. Their Cluckin’ Gorilla Burger boasts two quarter-pound patties, two beer-battered tenders and double cheese topped off with boss sauce.
Impressed Rhino mama Caglioti said, “They seem young and energetic. I envy them that!”
Suffice it to say that, given their name (check UrbanDictionary.com) and munchie game, they were a huge hit at last year’s first annual Sarasota CannaFest SRQ.
Look for Dank AF at PaddyWagon Irish Pub on weekends or at truck-friendly My Buddies Pet Care, 3681 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte.
WE’LL DRINK TO THEM
When one door closes … you know the drill.
After they moved their home décor boutique, Coastal Expressions, from Rotonda West closer to their PGI home, and added a full wine/charcuterie bar to boot, Lori and Tim Savage had no idea that their Punta Gorda go-to spot — The Orange House Wine Bar — was phasing out.
The Seattle couple are now Punta Gorda’s newest and biggest wine bar action — the only one outside the downtown area — offering craft beers and plentiful Old World, New World and domestic wines by the glass and bottle.
Specifically matched with the wines are charcuterie and burrata boards, flatbreads, and desserts, with ingredients sourced from such local mom-and-pop vendors as Bella Balsamic.
“Food and wine have been a thread through our lives,” Lori said. “We’ve always traveled other places to enjoy it; now we’ve brought it home to our community.”
Now they have their own 20-seat bar, 32-seat dining and lounge area, and 6 more seats outdoors, in a space twice the size of their old shop.
Lori, who worked in software sales and continues to work as a director of computer security, said, “When we made the big move from Seattle to Florida, I wanted to leave the corporate world and start doing something where I could be more involved in the community. That’s also why we moved the business from Rotonda closer to home.”
Now that they’re fast becoming a PGI Cheers, they’ve hired kitchen staff, waitstaff and bartenders, and can spend more time socializing and becoming part of the community.
For serious wine aficionados, their Gasparilla Sound Wine Club offers members a complimentary monthly tasting, discounts and two, three or four bottles of preselected premium wine per month.
Between Mar. 30 and May 15, Flights Around the World lets customers sample wines from 10 different countries, get their passports stamped and participate in an exclusive wine-tasting event at the end.
But don’t think this is just a food and drink venue. Nearly half the space houses a home décor and gift boutique that customers can browse while imbibing. It features the work of local artists and supports Lori’s Coastal Expressions Home Staging & Design.
Coastal Expressions & Wine ($$, O, M), 941-214-8599, 1133 Bal Harbor Boulevard (Bal Harbor Plaza), Punta Gorda, is open Tuesday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday and Monday only for private parties. Wine-O Bingo Fridays at 6 p.m. Live music by Paul Roush, Bill Fredericks and others on Saturdays.
Send restaurant and bar news and recommendations to columnist Sue Wade at email@example.com.
Average price ranges are $ = inexpensive (under $10), $$ = moderate ($11-$30), and $$$ = pricey (over $30), including tip and beverage. Outside dining available = O. Masked servers = M.