Can’t Find A Food Truck? Franklinton Creates A Spot

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The food truck Ajumama serves several different kinds of authentic Korean street food. Ajumama is one of the many food trucks found at the Dinin' Hall in Franklinton.(Photo: Thomas Bradley / WOSU)
The food truck Ajumama serves several different kinds of authentic Korean street food. Ajumama is one of the many food trucks found at the Dinin' Hall in Franklinton.(Photo: Thomas Bradley / WOSU)

Columbus now has an estimated one-hundred food trucks or carts scattered around town. And while parking lot diners love the food, finding a food truck on any given day and finding a place to eat can be a problem. But now, following the lead of other cities, Columbus has at least one hub for mobile eateries.

Dinin’ Hall is a mobile truck food hub in Franklinton. Food trucks park in a lot next to an old warehouse-turned artist colony on West Rich Street. Diners can get their food and go or they can sit in a part of the building converted into a café.  It’s a little hard to find but little red signs that look like bulls-eyes show the way.

Artists Make Room

Owner and founder Eliza Ho found the spot because her husband , architect Tim Lai has a design studio in the brick building in which toilets and sinks once were manufactured.

Ho, her husband and two children often enjoyed eating at local food trucks but found the experience awkward.

“It’s quite chaotic in terms of the transaction, in terms of waiting and then with two kids around and they run around and you try and keep an eye on them trying to keep them safe. So we feel like there might be something we can do from a designer standpoint to improve the situation.”

Stable Location

The result?  A stable location, with off-street parking and an enclosed eating area.

“We came up with the idea to partner with different food vendors trucks and carts and then we designed the interior space to provide an interior cafe situation. Customers they can still buy their food from the vendors and then they can bring the food inside to enjoy the food and sit down.”

At Dinin’ Hall two food trucks rotate in and out each week. It’s open from 11 am to 2 pm . On this day, Laura Lee owner of a food truck called Ajumama prepares  Korean fare. The 31-year old has a degree in hospitality management from Kent State and a Culinary Arts degree from the Arts Institute of Phoenix. Open for only a couple of weeks, Lee says Dinin’ Hall will help Ajumama to develop a following.

“It allows us to say we’re going to be at this location for this day. You can come down and see us. There’s parking. There’s a place to sit down whether it’s raining or not. I really love the idea of food pods all over Columbus and I really want to be a big supporter of them because it’s good for us.”

While Lee’s truck is a natural outgrowth of her education and culinary interests, a food cart operated by vendor Julie Clark has a very different origin and goal.

Clark is a lawyer and the head of DOMA International an organization designed to help victims of human trafficking. As part of the effort to give the survivors jobs and teach them job skills Clark started ‘freedom ala carte’.

“We do slow roasted meats, a lot of crisp and green veggies. We do as much local as we can. We have a partnership with Local Matters. Some gardening has been happening with the ladies as well. So it’s just been a really fun launch for our food cart this year.”

After placing their order, diners can move inside to the 1300 square foot Dinin’ Hall where the food is brought to them. Poised to launch his own food truck specializing in mini burgers, Brian Thornton ate lunch and checked out the facility.

“I love it. I absolutely love it. I think it’s in a wonderful neighborhood. I think it’ll draw people from downtown and give up a place to set our food trucks up.”

Competition For Brick and Mortar Restaurants

At Dinin’ Hall, food truck operators pay a negotiable fee and percentage of their sales to Eliza Ho. While the food trucks could steal some customers from nearby brick and mortar restaurants with higher operating costs, Franklinton restaurant owners appear to welcome the competition.

Michael Pappas, owns Tommy’s Diner on West Broad Street.

“This area needs more everything. Not just restaurants but anything to get more attraction to this part of the city to get more people to come to this part of the city, I’m all for.”

But Florintine Restaurant manager Peter Penzone remains somewhat skeptical that Dinin’ Hall will start the ball rolling on Franklinton redevelopment.

“Yes and no. It’s trickling in. But I’ve been hearing those things for years.”

A second food truck hub recently opened in the parking lot of the Zauber Brewery Company at 1300 Norton Avenue near Grandview.

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