The foodie scene in Melbourne appears to be undergoing a real shift: fine dining restaurants are opening casual eateries, diners are skipping their degustation sets for well-made, hearty burgers with the lot, and the words ‘food truck’ has become something of a siren call, attracting diners to brave the city’s unpredictable weather for a meal on the curbside.
The Souvlaki Cart is the new food truck on the block, current parked at the Barkly Square shopping centre in North Carlton. As the tell-all name suggests, the truck’s main draw card are its lamb, chicken and haloumi souvlakis, made fresh to order from a caravan. Also on the menu are hot chips, and mezedes plates piled with a selection of lamb, chicken, haloumi, dolmades and served with pita and a generous dollop of tzatziki. At the end of the day, Souvlaki Cart is about unfussy Greek food.
The team behind the wheels this new food venture are Shaun and Ellen McGuinness (nee Korkou). While both come from teaching backgrounds, their passion for Greek food was almost palpable as they took turns dishing out mezedes plates and souvlakis on a Sunday afternoon.
“Everything I know about cooking I learnt from my mother and my yiayia. Just the other week my mum was teaching me how to make dolmades!” Ellen admits. “Growing up in a Greek-Cypriot household, family parties are always centred on Greek food and with the food truck I wanted to stick with food I was familiar with.”
Ellen’s passion for food have stemmed from her parents, who used to own a cafe in Melbourne. But the former teacher decided against a bricks-and-mortar eatery for the wheeled variety instead. Without the need for kitchen hands or wait staff, it was far more affordable than opening the more conventional type of cafe.
Even without the hassle of setting up a full-sized cafe, the couple had to undertake a some manual labour to make sure the Souvlaki Cart’s 1977 retro caravan is up to scratch for council inspections.
“The process was a bit challenging, we had to ship the truck from Tasmania, and find tradies qualified and experienced enough to work on it,” Ellen says. “But it was all worth it.”
So far council bylaws have prevented most food trucks to venture away from the Darebin and Moreland council areas, which allow food trucks to operate within reasonable distance from both restaurants and residential homes. But increasing popularity of the mobile eateries has encouraged the City of Yarra and the City of Melbourne to reconsider their laws. Meanwhile, food trucks are free to roam at public events such as outdoor music festivals.
Being constantly on the move hasn’t prevented food trucks from attracting hungry hoards. Most trucks, including Souvlaki Cart, rely on Facebook and Twitter to tell their faithful followers where they are.
When asked if the Souvlaki Cart will be joining the ranks of roving food trucks in the northern parts of Melbourne, Ellen replied, “If our followers want us to take that direction, that’s what we might do. But at this stage we’re taking it as it comes and we’re putting through applications to set up at festivals later on in the year.”
The Souvlaki Cart will be trading at lunchtime in North Carlton’s Barkly Square shopping centre very Wednesday and Sunday until the end of August. Follow the truck on Twitter and on their Facebook page.