Eugene’s food carts and trucks are sprinkled down West 11th, dotted around downtown and parked at Whiteaker breweries — their transitory nature means they’re not always easy to find. Once again, technology is here to save the day: The Street Food Eugene app for iPhone and Android debuted last month, making it a cinch to pin down your favorite food cart, check out new carts or find nearby carts.
“This app could be a pivotal tipping point in the Eugene mobile food scene,” says KC Brooks, owner of Sammitch. As of press time, the app has been downloaded about 800 times.
“It’s free, easy to use and, as far as apps go, I think it’s a really useful one,” says Dave Wagenheim, owner of Viva! Vegetarian Grill.
Wagenheim says he wanted an app that serves the Eugene community while keeping things simple — just the basics of location and hours. The idea came to him during last year’s Eugene Street Food Roundup, when a bevy of food carts and food trucks congregated near Territorial Vineyards on 3rd Avenue to show Eugene what they had to offer.
“Last April, we had about 10 carts and food trucks come together, and that experience started showing me there’s a need for community and information,” Wagenheim says. “The public wants to support food carts, but we need to bridge that gap of how to find them.”
Wagenheim browsed an assortment of food cart apps from around the country, but didn’t find the perfect fit for Eugene until he saw a simple app from Canada. Most of the cities registered to this app weren’t in the U.S., but Wagenheim “saw no reason why it couldn’t be used here, too.”
He contacted the developer and before long, the Street Food Eugene app was born. Food cart owners register their cart and update their location as necessary. Wagenheim says the app serves a similar function to the street food roundups in that it shows the community that food carts are a viable part of the dining scene.
“On your way to work you may only pass one or two carts, but with an app like this, it really shows you that we have a scene here,” he says.
Wagenheim adds that Springfield food carts and food cart diners are welcome to use the app as well, and he’s hoping word of the app will spread throughout town — although it’s already gotten some traction.
“I was at jury duty last week, and the woman at the counter recognized me as a food cart owner,” Wagenheim says. “She said, ‘Did you know that there’s a food cart app out there?’ So it’s nice to see that people are excited about it.”
Download the free app for iPhone at appstore/StreetFoodEugene and for Android at http://wkly.ws/1xf