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Slow start to rollout of Boston food trucks

By Sara Brown and Cara Bayles
Globe Correspondents / July 14, 2011

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Food truck aficionados, hold your appetites: at least nine of 15 new food trucks were not at their locations yesterday, the day the city of Boston said its new food truck initiative would roll out.

On Tuesday, Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced that “food trucks are ready to serve ‘wicked good food’ on Boston’s streets with 15 new permanent locations in several neighborhoods.’’ The announcement said the food trucks would rotate among locations in the Back Bay, South End, Fenway-Kenmore, and other neighborhoods starting yesterday.

But nine of the vendors were not at their locations yesterday, according to a survey of the locations and interviews with the truck operators. Some blamed truck repairs and delays in getting licenses; others pointed to unforeseen problems.

Edith Murnane, the city’s director of food initiatives, called yesterday a “soft launch’’ for the new program when she was asked for her reaction yesterday.

The city prepared new sites for food trucks to occupy, she said, but each of the vendors had to go through the process of getting permits and licenses. She said a handful of food trucks hit the streets on launch day.

“There’s got to be a little room for flexibility, for things that happen in every small business’s endeavors,’’ she said.

There is no deadline for the trucks to start serving customers. The city did ensure that the food trucks “could and would inhabit the space’’ by writing that stipulation into the companies’ agreements with the city, Murnane said.

“You can’t rent the space and not be there,’’ she said.

Some residents, via Twitter, reported seeing a Clover Fast Food truck yesterday afternoon at one of the new sites, on Commonwealth Avenue by the BU Bridge. Bon Me, which already serves its Vietnamese-inspired fare at Government Center Plaza, headed over to Boston University to serve dinner, Murnane said.

Pennypackers, a local food truck, has been parked in the Marine Industrial Park in South Boston since Monday, according to the company.

Diane DeMarco, owner of the Cupcakory food truck, said she is waiting for a new GPS unit to be shipped and installed, with “fingers crossed’’ this will happen by next week. Somerville’s Kickass Cupcakes said on its Facebook page that the launch of its truck was “delayed due to rollout issues beyond our control.’’

Frank Yang, general manager for the Savory Food Truck, said his company would start serving Asian cuisine outside Boston Medical Center next week.

“We needed time to prepare,’’ Yang said. “We just got our license yesterday. We had to get a menu and get the truck ready, and we were waiting for our insurance to go through.’’

David Stein of Brother Trucker’s Go Fish! Truck, said an “interdepartmental communication breakdown’’ delayed his city permit. He said the permitting process has taken him months, but added that Murnane “has been terrific in shepherding a complicated process, involving six to seven individual city departments.’’

Starting next week, Go Fish! will be serving Monday through Thursday on Huntington Avenue and weekends at the Charlestown Navy Yard.

Redbones, Somerville’s renowned barbeque restaurant, was also forecasting a launch next week.

Roxy’s Grilled Cheese announced on Twitter yesterday that “we will not be in the new spots until at least next week.’’

An employee of Newton-based Lincoln Street Coffee said it has not yet launched its new food truck, and Mobile Home, which dishes up comfort food, said on Facebook that it would start vending this Monday.

Patrick Gilmartin, one of the owners of Staff Meal food truck, said he hopes his truck will be in business by Aug. 5, after he makes equipment upgrades.