Dinnertime with the friends is often painfully frustrating.
One is a vegetarian, another won’t eat anything without meat. A third is doing the Keto thing and a fourth is on Weight Watchers.
Then there is the “I don’t care/I can’t decide” friend.
The South Carolina Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival is the answer.
The fifth annual festival is from noon-5 p.m. April 27 at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds. There will be about 25 food trucks offering everything from lobster rolls, to infused Popsicles, to cupcakes, barbecue, deep fried rib tips, turkey legs, and pickles.
There will also be craft beer, music, lawn games and other activities.
There are two reasons this is one of the area’s most popular events each year: A lot of different food and a lot of different beer.
Janet Prensky, with Food Truck Festivals of America, shares her Top 5 reasons you don’t want to miss this festival.
1. South Carolina food truck and craft beer industries have exploded. The festival is your chance to fully experience all that the South Carolina food truck industry has to offer. (In other words, there is a lot of different food.) This festival points to the growth in the region with a waiting list of 150 food trucks to be a part of this festival. The vast array of food trucks offers everything from pickles to pizza, from lobster rolls to turkey wings, from tropical drinks served in a pineapple to booze-infused ice pops. This is your chance to see 25 trucks and 60 beers in one place.
2. You can travel around the world in five hours. You will be able to travel the culinary world without leaving Columbia. (Again, a lot of different food). You can find Hawaiian Poke bowls, Caribbean curried goat and oxtails, Asian/Creole style Jerk Panini, Filipino Pork Adobo and even hand-rolled barbecue pork egg rolls.
3. There are good old fashioned standbys, too. If your taste buds are not so adventurous or if you come with finicky kids (or friends), no problem. The South Carolina Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival is ready with macaroni and cheese, chicken wings, barbecue, burgers and pizza. The festival runs the gamut with something for everyone.
4. Save room for dessert. Everything from funnel cakes to milkshakes, brownies and ice cream. And for those who like a bit of a kick with their dessert, check out the truck SnoBar Southeast — there you’ll find infused ice pops in popular cocktail flavors such as margarita, mojito, grasshopper and cosmopolitan.
5. Enjoy the vibe. It’s a day to hang out. Play some lawn games like cornhole and Frisbee, listen to music. Bring the kids over to the face painter. Eat, drink and eat some more. A food truck festival is to be savored. Spend the day. Drink some and eat more.
Navigating the festival
If past years are any indication, there will be a lot of folks at the festival wanting to try the various food and beers. Prensky offers these 10 tips for navigating the festival and making it an enjoyable as well as tasty experience:
1. Bring your patience. Remember, it’s not fast food, it’s custom-made food. When you order a burger, they are grilling it fresh. It is not partially cooked and just heated up. It’s made from scratch. So, there will be some waiting at a food truck festival.
2. Break up your group. If you come with friends and/or family don’t all stand together in line at one truck. Break your group up and each of you go to a different food truck. Order enough for your group from a particular truck, then rendezvous back at your blanket/seating area and feast.
Speaking of which ...
3. Set up a home base. Bring a blanket or lawn chairs and stake out a spot.
4. Come comfortable. Wear comfortable shoes and elastic waistband pants. Because, a lot of different food.
5. Graze from many trucks. Each truck is asked to bring a small, medium and large item. Choose the smaller item so you can graze from many trucks. Then grab a bigger item and take it home for dinner. For example: At the barbecue truck, order a pulled pork slider for lunch and then take a rack of ribs home for dinner.
6. Plan your budget. Food truck menu items range in price from $3 to $5 for a smaller item to $10+ for a larger item. Budget accordingly.
7. Buy tickets in advance. Save money by purchasing packages online. Entrance fees are $5 online at www.foodtruckfestivalsofamerica.com but if you wait, it’s $10 at the door. So don’t wait.
8. Check out the VIP and VIB packages online. The VIP packages offer the opportunity to come early at 11 a.m. and avoid the lines. The festival only sells a few hundred of these tickets so lines are few and you get the first shot at all the trucks. These packages include free, unlimited water and a free dessert and FTFA koozie. The VIB package also includes early admission (11 a.m.), unlimited water, free dessert, and three craft beers.
9. Pre-plan. Find a list of of participating trucks and brewers online and get a sense of who is going to be there so you can create a game plan for the festival.
10. Bring the right bills. The festival takes cash or credit card, as do most of the trucks. Buy beer tickets at the festival and then exchange each ticket for a craft beer at the beer tent. This helps avoid wet money exchanging hands. Each beer is $7 and there will be hard cider as well.
Food truck lineup
▪ Lowcountry Lobster, Bluffton: Fresh and made to order lobster rolls.
▪ Size Matters BBQ & Seafood, Columbia: Original barbecue, nachos, hand-rolled barbecue pork egg rolls, crab cake burgers, homemade gumbo, shrimp, and grits.
▪ The Feathered Fin, Charlotte: Seafood and poultry with an Asian/Creole Flare.
▪ Cuzzo’s Cuisine, Charlotte: Lobster mac & cheese.
▪ SnoBar Southeast, Charleston: Infused Popsicles.
▪ Smoke It Up Food Truck, Blythewood: Barbecue.
▪ Sweet Pink Treats, Marion: Cupcakes, cookies, brownies, milkshakes, ice cream, and candy. Includes gluten free and diabetic options.
▪ Gekko Sushi Hibachi Truck, Atlanta: Hibachi sushi bowls.
▪ Eric’s Que, Columbia: Barbecue.
▪ Lola’s Lumpia Food Truck, Charleston: Filipino cuisine.
▪ West Indian Kitchen, Jacksonville, N.C.: Virgin Island and Caribbean cuisine.
▪ Brain Freeze, Cayce: Funnel cakes, deep fried Oreos, deep fried cheesecake, and cotton candy.
▪ Madrigal’s Tacos & Latin Cuisine, Charleston: Latin cuisine
▪ Jones Zee Concessions, Columbia: Burgers, Philly cheese steak, sausage, and hot dogs.
▪ Taste Like Chicken, Columbia: Deep fried rib tips, fried turkey wings, flavored gizzards, fries and sweet potato fries, and fried flavored mushrooms.
▪ Turkeylicious, Charlotte: Huge turkey legs.
▪ Crave Cupcake Boutique, Beaufort: Cupcakes and cinnamon rolls.
▪ Pearls Wingz & Things, Columbia: Wings
▪ Holy Rolly Charleston, Charleston: Ice cream.
▪ Pops Pickles, Rock Hill: Pickles.
▪ Scott Bennys, Columbia: Barbecue and pineapple.
▪ Sno Hut, Greenville: Shaved ice.
▪ Pizza for Pyros, Lugoff: Wood-fired pizzas.
▪ Tropical Paradise, Sumter: Funnel cakes and lemonade.
▪ Macarollin, Rochester, N.Y.: Gourmet mac & cheese.
If you go
Columbia Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival
When: Noon-5 p.m. April 27
Where: South Carolina State Fairgrounds, 1200 Rosewood Drive
Cost: $5 in advance; $10 at the gate
For more information: Go to www.foodtruckfestivalsofamerica.com to verify the attending food trucks and craft beer vendors (these lists are subject to change and will be updated on the website). There are limited VIP and VIB packages available online, which offer earlier admission.