OMAHA, NE — Foodies know that a city's food scene is judged not just by restaurants, but also by food trucks.
Omaha's growing food reputation is reflected in the burst of food trucks over the past several years.
With temperatures warming up and people getting vaccinated, the Omaha food truck season is springing into high gear.
This past Saturday saw one of the first big food truck events of the year. It's called a food truck rodeo, a gathering of several trucks in one spot for people to come and sample different kinds of food.
This event was held at Trucks & Taps, a local bar that, during the week, has a couple of resident food trucks serving up grub. On Saturday, nine food trucks were part of the rodeo organized by the Omaha Food Truck Association.
Mike Christina owns Street Side Foods, one of the trucks at the event. He describes his food as "classic American food with an Italian twist". He had one of the first food trucks in Omaha, and says he has seen the number of food trucks grow from just two when he started 12 years ago to more than 30 now. While he usually has his truck parked somewhere on its own, he says he also likes being part of a truck rodeo.
"The rodeo, well, they're fun," he said. "You can see we get all kinds of trucks here, we got all kinds of variety, the atmosphere is good. It's just a fun place to be."
Patrons seem to agree. The rodeo wasn't supposed to get started until noon, but by 11:30 a.m. the place was jammed.
Zac Harczog came with some friends who are members of a Subaru car club for an early lunch.
"You get so used to going to sit-in restaurants," he said. "Sometimes it's good to get out of the house and have some open-air fun."
Harczog said he got hooked on food trucks visiting one of America's most famous food cities, Portland, Oregon. But he says he feels Omaha now rivals Portland in the food truck scene. He thinks the trucks in Omaha provide a wider variety of cuisines.
Beth Green of the Omaha Food Truck Association says the industry is starting to recover from the pandemic, and it is helping that trucks can now go back into neighborhoods to sell food. The association helps food truck owners with their businesses and lobbies for them in Lincoln.
We have started a bill in the legislature to allow 'one state, one permit'," she said. "Currently we have several different permits and every city has their own".
More rodeos are planned through the spring and summer, and there are several other food truck gatherings throughout the city starting up again. Social media is the best way to keep track of where individual food trucks and rodeo events are located.
Click here for a list of food trucks in Omaha.
Click here for Yelp's 10 Best Food Trucks in Omaha