For Judy and Kenny Thomas, it all started with a food truck.
For six months, the couple cooked up hot dogs, chicken fingers, fried bologna sandwiches and much more.
In November 2011, they moved out of their Lunch Wagon into a restaurant. Since then, the Thomases have operated the baseball-themed Coach T’s Diner located on Whiskey Road.
A year and a half ago, the family brought back the food wagon because they realized they couldn’t do without, Judy said.
“I really like going out in the trailer and going to the festivals and going to the rodeos and going to the fairs (etc.),” she said. “You just meet so many people. The variety is just unbelievable.”
Fans of the restaurant can get the same experience from the trailer.
“I can do about anything in the trailer that I can do in the diner,” Judy said.
A few other items Coach T’s can serve out of the trailer are wings, hamburgers and fries, in addition to what they served out of their Lunch Wagon.
It will go out to private and public events like parties and fairs.
Outside of downtown Aiken, The Willcox operates a restaurant for its guests and visitors.
Two years ago, the hotel wanted to start offering its services beyond its walls.
To do so, it bought and customized a food truck, or its “gourmet kitchen on wheels,” as hotel co-owner Geoff Ellis calls it.
When the hotel was requested to do off-site catering before, it would have to call in trucks, hotboxes and various other equipment.
Now, it can just pack the essentials up and go, Ellis said.
The truck has gone out to events like Aiken’s Makin, weddings and birthday parties.
Like Coach T’s trailer, The Willcox’s food truck has everything the staff needs – from refrigerators and freezers to fryers and burners.
A sample menu is available on The Willcox’s website, though requests can be made, Ellis said.
Although Cutter Mitchell might not operate Ryan’s Downtown Market and Deli anymore, he has still kept up his business through the use of The Deli Cart.
Mitchell has operated the cart since October, he said. Ryan’s Downtown Market closed in July.
Through this mobile option, he saw “the opportunity of going out to his customers,” he said.
According to Mitchell, people are glad to see him still in operation, as he is happy to still be able to get out, especially when he is in the downtown area where he sees familiar faces.
The Deli Cart does more than just keep the market alive; it also keeps a piece of Mitchell’s history going.
Bert Ryan, Mitchell’s great-great-grandfather, operated a horse drawn meat cart in the mid- to late 1800s.
“(He) made a living by (it),” Mitchell said. “So we did it as a nostalgic throwback to Bert and his meat cart. Actually Bert and a very young Ralph (his son) are pictured in the The Deli Cart’s logo.”
Offerings from The Deli Cart are some of the customer favorites from the market – like deli sandwiches and hot dogs, Mitchell said.
The owner has gone out to places such as UPS behind South Aiken High School and the Aiken Driving Club.
Other area food trucks include The Yellow Wagon, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream trailer and Jennifer’s Catering/Papa Russ BBQ. The latter two attend only public events.
A food vehicle does not need a permit by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control if it only serves pre-packaged foods and drinks and “non-potentially hazardous foods requiring minimal preparation.”
Food trucks or trailers serving items such as grilled food, ice cream or other foods such as those must have a permit and be checked by DHEC, according to the department’s website.
For more information about Coach T’s, visit www.coachtsdiner.com/ or call 803-226-0106.
For more information about The Willcox’s food truck, visit www.thewillcox.com/truck/ or call 803-648-1898.
For more information on The Deli Cart, visit its Facebook page or call Mitchell at 603-496-3917.
Stephanie Turner has a hand on all areas of production for the Aiken Standard, where she reports, edits and designs pages. She graduated in July 2012 with a journalism degree from Valdosta State University and lives with her family in Evans, Ga.