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Food Truck Thursday revs up for opening night at South Mall

People at a food truck.
Adobe Stock
Three people outside a food truck.

SALISBURY TWP., Pa. — The sixth annual Food Truck Thursday will kick off for the summer at South Mall.

The free event, from 4 to 8 p.m., will happen every Thursday through Sept. 14.

  • The sixth annual Food Truck Thursday kicks off for the summer at South Mall
  • The free event is from 4 to 8 p.m. every Thursday starting May 18
  • The list of food trucks participating includes Bodega Bistro Food Truck, La Frikitona, Ktown Pub Food Truck and Good Chives

The lineup will change weekly. There are currently 30 approved vendors offering full meals, snacks, desserts and more.

South Mall Operation Manager Michael Haspe said a full list of vendors will not be released to the public, since trucks are subject to change.

"Each year, we approve a few new trucks," Haspe said. "Specifically, those with unique and creative menu offerings." 

So far, food trucks confirmed include Cousins Maine Lobster, Ktown Pub Food Truck, Bodega Bistro Food Truck and La Frikitona, which serves Puerto Rican cuisine.

Good Chives, a Philadelphia food truck, will also be at the kick-off event.

Nick and Erika Loukas are a married couple who run Slide On By, a hamburger food truck that travels throughout the Lehigh Valley for food truck events.

They started the business in 2021, after Nick Loukas was laid off from his job in pharmaceuticals because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I always wanted to own my own business," he said.

That was the year they first participated in Food Truck Thursday. They started it as a pop-up shop with a tent, and invested in an actual truck the following year.

"I wish I did this 10 years ago, but it's been an amazing ride so far."
Nick Loukas, co-owner of Slide On By Food Truck

"We tried it very low money, out-of-pocket in the beginning," he said. "It just really blew up from there.

"I wish I did this 10 years ago, but it's been an amazing ride so far."

This year will be their third season participating in Food Truck Thursday.

"South Mall is one of our busier events," he said.

In general, there are 20 to 25 trucks at the mall on Thursday evenings.

On busy days, the business serves 100 tickets, which indicates 200 meals being prepared. He estimates up to 1,000 people attend the event in total.

"It's a really cool event because it's a tailgate," he said. People bring chairs and tables so they can hang out while eating.

He and his wife enjoy supporting other food trucks, as well. At the end of a hot summer night, they will treat themselves to ice cream from Mon & Mel’s Sweet Scoops.

Haspe said his favorite part of the event is "learning the vendors' stories. It's always a joy meeting people who are passionate and appreciate good food."

Brett M. Marino, an operator at PPL Electric Utilities, has attended Food Truck Thursdays at South Mall since they first started.

As a kid, he'd go to the original Take a Taco restaurant in Whitehall Township. When it closed down, he'd go to its tent at Allentown Fairgrounds once a year.

Now, he gets to go to the food truck every week during the summer.

He said the event can get pretty crowded. He recommends going at 5 p.m. to avoid waiting in line.

Occasionally, Marino said, he'll switch it up with a cheeseburger or a fish taco. He likes the variety, which can include barbecue or Greek food. And he enjoys the live music.

His favorite part of the tradition, though, is all the familiar faces. "I'm a regular there. As soon as I get up to the window, they say, 'Hi Brett' and am I getting the usual? It's nice that they recognize me."

He also said it's a great way to support the local mall.

"The last time I was inside there, half the stores were empty," Marino said. "If this draws customers, that would be a good thing."

Food truck owners interested in participating can reach out to mhaspe@shopsouthmall.com for more information.

Currently, mall management is warning those interested in attending of online scams claiming to sell vendor spaces or tickets.

There are no admission fees for Food Truck Thursday and vendor fees are paid in-person to the South Mall management office.

The Lehigh Valley Mall will also soon have its own food truck event. Jennifer Smith, owner of The Unique Boutique, is helping run it.

She said there will be a food truck day from noon to 5 p.m. on the second Saturday of every month from June to October.

So far, Ktown Pub Food Truck and Momma's Belly Buster are confirmed. But Smith hopes to have 10 trucks in total.

She said she thinks food trucks are popular because they help expand people's taste buds.

"It gives something different in the area."