INDIANAPOLIS — A Hoosier traveler and foodie is cooking up an outdoor dining concept inspired by some of her favorite cities: a food truck park.
"It's quick. It's affordable. And it's, honestly... it's going to be good because that's all they do (is cook)," Bo Turner, the founder of The Truckstop Food Truck Park, told WRTV.
Bigger cities like Austin and Portland are known for their many neighborhood clusters of food truck parks. Food trucks have rapidly grown in such popularity over the last few years that the park concept is picking up in cities across the country.
Food truck parks ultimately are fashioned as outdoor eating destinations. In this place, several food trucks that offer a wide variety of cuisines are situated around picnic tables or other seating options.
Food truck parks are a beautiful problem solver to the burning daily question in every partnership: "What do you want for dinner?"
If one of you wants tacos and the other wants pizza, a food truck park makes it possible to go to the same place and eat two completely different meals in each other's company.
The evolution of food trucks has made such outdoor concepts an even more enticing endeavor, as eaters can find even find pasta and lobster food trucks now. It's no longer just hot dog carts dominatingthe street food scene in cities.
Turner is in the final phases of opening her first Truckstop location in Terre Haute, which would be the southern Indiana city's first. It's slated to open at 12 Points in late summer or early fall.
The 26-year-old is also the potential owner of Indy's first-ever organized food truck park. Pending a location with running water and electricity access, The Truckstop aims for a 2023 opening in Indianapolis.
It was during her time in the Pacific Northwest that Turner asked herself, "Why does this not exist in Indianapolis?"
Now, she's making it happen.
A solo traveler's food truck park adventures
Turner is a proud adoptee from China who grew up in Terre Haute since she was 1. She earned a full-ride scholarship to her hometown college of Indiana State University, which afforded her the opportunity to use the money she would've had to spend on tuition and room and board on traveling.
"I had a lot of great opportunities to be able to travel and explore and just experience a lot of diverse cultures — internationally and domestically — which really sparked my love for travel and food," Turner said.
Two of Turner's favorite trips have been to Athens, Greece, and Thailand, where she traveled alone.
As an avid solo traveler who enjoys the benefits of traveling alone, she makes it a point to tell other people, women especially, they can do it too.
"All of my favorite trips are solo trips," Turner said. "It just gets you out of your comfort zone and I've experienced things I never would have done if I was with friends or on a group trip."
Enjoying the vast array of cuisines in Europe and Asia has made Turner quite the "food snob," as she's self-proclaimed. Many dishes you can find over there you can't get in Indiana, and if you can, it's never quite the same.
When she traveled to Portland last fall, however, she said she rejoiced in her newfound joy of buying food from specialty food trucks. Food trucks she found in packed pockets around the city.
"A lot of the food trucks specialize in one dish. So it might be like, a Bánh mì or something. But that's all they make. And they're so good at it. It's not such a large menu; it's stuff that I can try. It's very approachable, and everything's $10 to $15. I'm not being intimidated by going into a restaurant and sitting down and not knowing what to get," Turner said.
With the continuously packed Garage Food Hall at Bottleworks and The Amp at 16 Tech — which each offer a variance of cuisines in a more communal way — Turner says it's evident a place such as The Truckstop is something Indy residents would enjoy.
Aside from the diverse eating options organized food truck parks can foster, Turner points out that they provide the opportunity to bring pets along, there's no need to tip for service, and it can serve as a connected community space with no frills.
"It's a different vibe," Turner says of food truck parks compared to restaurants or bars.
Plus, food truck parks can also provide more stability for food truck owners.
"The big goal of it is to help bring out those diverse cuisines in Indy. So people that are really great home chefs or are really good at what they do food-wise, but opening up a brick and mortar restaurant just isn't something they're wanting to do — it's really expensive, really risky — opening up a food truck is a lot more feasible and cost-efficient. And you are able to have that independence," Turner said.
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What's the vision for The Truckstop in Indy?
Turner is looking to locate The Truckstop Indy near Broad Ripple or Fountain Square. She wants The Truckstop to be a walkable neighborhood destination.
"The Truckstop also is based on certain values of having a component of sustainability and being green and environmentally friendly as much as possible," Turner said.
With health codes in mind, she's asking leaders how she can effectively make The Truckstop a bring-your-own-utensils spot and how she can incorporate solar power instead of electricity.
The entrepreneur has a vision for what she wants out of an outdoor eating destination but is open to the input of community members, even asking for it in some instances. Turner says she's "learning about others' needs and talking with other food truck owners."
She's envisioning a casual hangout space with 5 to 10 permanent food trucks, each serving something different from the other, picnic tables, and string lights for nighttime dining.
Down the line, Turner hopes she can open multiple Truckstop locations in neighborhoods across Indy.
Those interested in learning more about The Truckstop can visit thetruckstopfood.com. You can apply to be added to the vendor list, offer your thoughts, and follow Turner's journey.
WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.