Baltimore's fleet of food trucks have been invited to participate in the Grand Prix of Baltimore, but only a few have committed so far -- Chubby's BBQ, Four Brothers and the Cajunator.
The food trucks, along with other Maryland cuisine, will be available in the fan area at Camden and Eutaw streets in front of Oriole Park -- it's referred to as DHL Speed Zone Central on the Grand Prix map. There was a local presence at last year's inaugural event, too. Restaurants like Bluegrass, Ryleigh's and Jimmy's Famous Seafood were part of the scene at the Budweiser Block Party on Conway Street, across from the Hyatt Regency.
But as far as dining goes, the most important changes at this year's Grand Prix will be taking place outside of the venue. Race On LLC has been working with city planners and the local restaurant industry to make it easier for both race attendees and Baltimore residents to get to their favorite restaurants.
Among the changes reported on by Kevin Rector (Read the story: Grand Prix of Baltimore aims to avoid problems of 2011 race) are an earlier end time -- the races will stop at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Special attention has been given to Federal Hill and others neighborhoods that lie south of the event. Key Highway will remain open throughout the event this year, and all cross streets in Federal Hill will remain open, according to Tim Mayer, general manager of the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRP.
The biggest thing we're trying to communicate is that downtown Baltimore is open for business," Mayer said. "There really should be no reason that people can't come down."
Like last year, Visit Baltimore is encouraging restaurants to offer restaurant-week style Grand Prix Fixe Menus to attract race attendees, who will be more likely to looking for dinner with the earlier quitting time, organizers say. "Last year, they just wanted to go back to the hotel and sleep," Mayer said.
While some restaurants saw a boost from the Grand Prix, many did not. Business was off last year in east side neighborhoods like Canton, Fells Point and Little Italy. Not only did race attendees not make their way over but Baltimore residents gave the event a very wide berth, much wider, it turned out, than was necessary.
While streets were easily navigable over the weekend, they were severely gridlocked on the Thursday before the event, which fed into the keep-away mentality.
"We saw at last year's race, Sailabration and the Fourth of July that Baltimore can handle crowds," Mayer said. "We've taken all the lessons from those events. We're making sure people can get to their favorite restaurants."