Souper Freak

Souper Freak is one of several food trucks participating in the Gathering, Baltimore's first food truck rally. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun / July 7, 2011)

Baltimore's food truck romance goes into overdrive Friday night in a Harbor East parking lot.

The Gathering, Baltimore's first food truck rally, will converge at 421 Central Ave., the semipermanent home of Damien Bohager's new Silver Platter food truck. Baltimore's fleet of nine food trucks will all be together in one place.

Among them: One that sells burgers, one that sells grilled cheese and another that sells waffle cones stuffed with creamy macaroni and cheese and topped with bacon "bling."

Guests will also have somewhere to sit down to eat. Bohager, who owned a memorable nightclub in the neighborhood before it was called Harbor East, is providing tables and chairs along with a small stage for live music.

"My hope is that this can turn into a monthly thing," Bohager said. "There's a demand for it. And it will really help the food trucks financially."

The newly formed Baltimore Food Truck Association had been considering a rally for the fall, but Bohager persuaded his fellow food truckers to speed things up. He pulled the Gathering together in a few weeks.

"I thought we should capitalize on the good press and the mayor's embrace of food trucks," Bohager said. "Let's work off that momentum."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who has become the unofficial patron of the food truck fleet, will be speaking at the event.

Even as the food truck culture has sputtered or run into bureaucratic roadblocks in some cities, Baltimore's has flourished this year, fueled in part by City Hall's creation in June of food truck parking zones and the lifting of parking restrictions downtown.

The progress of Baltimore's food trucks has had its share of back-and-forth, and it seemed to come to a standstill in May, when new licensing policies caught operators by surprise. The confusion prompted Rawlings-Blake to declare a grace period for food truck owners to comply with the new policies and then to back away from them entirely.

The city's food truck policies are under review — the era of open access might not last past the end of the year. For now, the food trucks are making the most of their unfettered access to city streets.

Confirmed for the rally are: Kooper's Chowhound Burger Wagon, Creperie Breizh, Miss Shirley's, Iced Gems, Souper Freak, GrrChe, Dangerously Delicious Pies and Gypsy Queen.

The Gathering will give people who do not come into daily or weekly contact with the food trucks a chance to sample them all in one place.

For food-truck regulars, it's a dream come true.

"I thought we'd be lucky if we get 300 people," said Bohager on the eve of the benefit for the There Goes My Hero Foundation, which provides aid for leukemia patients and their families.

That was before publicity for the event took off.

"Now I'm thinking it will be more like 1,000 people," he said.

richard.gorelick@baltsun.com

If you go

The Gathering is 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday at 421 Central Ave. For more information, go to baltimoresun.com/findlocal.


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