AK: Food trucks forging way into Anchorage downtown dining scene

Jim Adkison, Mackenzie Moen, and Gene Pavia navigate the right confines of the food truck "Tasty Traveler." (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)
Jim Adkison, Mackenzie Moen, and Gene Pavia navigate the tight confines of the food truck “Tasty Traveler.” (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)

Lunchtime options in downtown Anchorage have long been dominated by traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants, but now, hungry downtown diners will have some new options near the Park Strip, at a space that has been converted into a food truck forum for the newly-minted K Street Eats.

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Blythe Campbell: “I’m gonna have the chimichurri steak tacos, please.”

Jim Adkison: “Awesome, and what kind of salsa would you like to do with that?”

Handwritten menus and coolers full of drinks decorate the outside of "Tasty Traveler." (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)
Handwritten menus and coolers full of drinks decorate the outside of “Tasty Traveler.” (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)

Blythe is one of the first customers on the inaugural day of K Street Eats, and she’s chosen tacos from the food truck “Tasty Traveler.” The truck is a member of the mobile junction, angling to be a new lunchtime hangout in downtown Anchorage.

The space was a makeshift overflow parking lot, but has since been covered with a large canopy tent, picnic tables – and, of course, food trucks adorned with colorful, hand-written signs with the day’s menu.

“Today we’ve got some cupcakes, some hot sauces – a hot sauce truck that has all sorts of stuff – some tacos, some pour-over coffee, some waffles, that’s what I’m having today for lunch by the way,” Darrin Huycke, the owner, operator and organizer of K Street Eats, said.

Seven food trucks took part in the opening day of K Street Eats. (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)
Seven food trucks took part in the opening day of K Street Eats. (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)

The space can accommodate up to 15 food trucks and carts, and Darrin says the vendor line up will change daily.

He has been organizing food truck carnivals in Anchorage for about four years, and he says business is booming:

“Some of these trucks are actually trucks that were at the beginning,” he said. “That blue one right there used to be Urban Bamboo, that white and blue one right there used to be Tears from Heaven – it was a cupcake truck, you know.”

“It’s just kind of weird to see that go down in the four years, but there’s been 50 businesses I’ve had on record, so far, and I already know of at least 25 more that are opening this year.”

And he says most of those new ones are opening specifically to come to K Street Eats.

I venture back over to the “Tasty Traveler,” where Blythe Campbell is waiting for her tacos. She works downtown for the NANA Regional Corporation, and is excited for the new lunch options, especially as Anchorage warms up.

Jim Adkison serves the some of the first customers of the day at "Tasty Traveler." (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)
Jim Adkison serves the some of the first customers of the day at “Tasty Traveler.” (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)

“Now that it’s a little springier, you know, we get out and sometimes we’ll walk to New Sagaya or we’ll walk downtown, but most of the time you just get in your car, and so this is really fun to have the food trucks so close by,” she said.

Blythe gets her food and walks back to her office to eat, but I get a glimpse of her chimichurri steak tacos – and they look delicious, so I order a couple of my own.

Jim Adkison, his co-owner, Gene Pavia, and sous chef, Mackenzie Moen, are maneuvering the tight confines of the truck in the narrow walkway lined with sinks, counters, cutting boards, and cook-tops.

“You definitely gotta know the people around you and make sure they’re okay with you leaning on them, or touching you, or you bumping them out of the way,” Jim said. “So, it’s definitely very personal.”

Jim walks me through the makings of his chimichurri taco:

Mackenzie Moen assembles an order of the food truck's tacos. (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)
Mackenzie Moen assembles an order of the food truck’s tacos. (Photo by Josh Edge/APRN)

“We grill the steak to order, it’s gonna be served on top of a little guacamole, sweet cabbage slaw, and then we slice the steak, layer it on top of that with Pico de Gallo, cotija cheese, and a little more of the chimichurri,” he said, as Mackenzie assembles the dish.

Once the tacos are all put together, I head outside to chow down on my meal, complete with homemade chips and salsa.

I sit down at a picnic table with Ryan Diehl. He’s a fellow taco truck customer and works for the Alaska Railroad downtown. He opted for the Tasty Traveler’s Thai-rito, which is a Thai-influenced pulled pork burrito with a carrot, cucumber, cabbage and peanut slaw, topped with a curry sauce.

“It’s very refreshing, kind of a nice curry blend in the meat,” Ryan said. “It’s excellent.”

But, would he order it again?

“I’ve gotta try one of everything first, but, yeah, I would have it again,” he said.

That’s good news for Jim Adkison – Tasty Traveler’s owner.

Prior to his days in the mobile kitchen, Jim spent his time cooking at successful downtown staples like Orso’s, Glacier Brewhouse and Sacks Café, but he says food trucks offer a perk seldom found in traditional kitchens:

“You get to meet your customers that are coming to the food truck, where in a restaurant you’re hidden behind walls, and this way you can really just talk to people and tell them about what you’re preparing and just get more of a social interaction,” Jim said.

It’s a concept I certainly appreciate, as I complete my gastronomic quest with one final social interaction – to buy myself a chocolate bacon cupcake.