The line weaves through the crowd, stretching down the road from where Cherry on Top is parked. Despite its length, people join in at the end, adding to the waiting time. The scent of fried Oreos mixes with those of pizza and hotdogs from various vendors down the block.
A summery Sunday welcomes the seventh year of the Greensboro Food Truck Festival. Guests crowd around the array of trucks. A block of downtown Greensboro becomes packed with foot traffic rather than cars, as people pick up doughnuts, tacos and turkey legs for their own sidewalk picnics.
Cherry on Top rests its wheels on Greene Street, dishing out funnel cakes like a factory, except with less robotics and more powdered sugar. The menu fuses the carnival go-to with various iconic desserts such as apple cobbler, or another bestseller: the sundae. The warm sugary fried dough gets amped up with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, chocolate or caramel sauce and, fittingly, finished with a cherry on top.
“We’re not just your average funnel cake,” Lovie Zeko says.
Zeko sits out back, watching happy festival-goers leave with paper plates full of the business’ sweets. She and her family own and operate Zeko’s 2 Go, a family-named Italian and Greek food truck, and the dessert business, both based in Greensboro. She explains how she enjoys the flexibility of owning a food truck, and how it allows her family time together, and a chance to be more creative.
“Once we went mobile,” she says, “we didn’t wanna go back to brick and mortar.”
Fresh Catch Seafood Shack operates out of High Point-based Fresh Catch Seafood Market and Carryout. Owner Shauntai Leach mentions that while the truck is new as of 2018, her family has been in the seafood business for more than a decade, and the venture has already allowed more culinary flexibility.
“I’m able to drive to the business,” she says.
Leach steps out of the passenger side of the truck for a moment, looking out at the pack of people waiting for, or already enjoying, soft-shell crab and shrimp tacos.
The truck, decorated in a paintjob that mimics wooden panels, hooks people into a line that crosses the street. A man hops up onto the curb to jump on at the end of it.
They serve the flounder over crinkle fries, in a red and white checkered paper tray. The flounder falls apart under the slightest tug of a plastic fork and tastes light, the breading adding a crispy element — the perfect vehicle for a sweet and tangy cocktail sauce, or coleslaw, or any other seafood-appropriate condiment.
A savory turkey scent makes the warm day feel even hotter, yet Greensboro-based Hickory Tree Turkey Barbeque stays in demand for hours. Owner Mike Neal grew up with eastern-NC style barbecue, but found his culinary niche in turkey, rather than pork.
“We like to keep those Southern flavors we’re used to,” Neal says, “but clean it up a little bit.”
Though the menu features turkey tenders, legs and sandwiches, the bestseller remains a dish nicknamed “crack-n-cheese.” For inspiration, Neal thought back to his great grandmother, who used every part of the bird she could in her cooking.
“It has everything we do well,” he says.
The mac-and-cheese comes in a small plastic container. Turkey cracklings and a signature barbeque sauce top the classic side-dish. The deep red of the sauce sticks out against the light oranges and yellows of the cheese, which stretches into strings when the pasta gets pulled apart. The sweetness and slight heat of the sauce matches the smokiness of the turkey and the sharpness of the melted cheese. The flavors mingle like friends in deep conversation.
And as the temperature relents as the sun goes down and the customers lazily enjoy their food, the street curb transforms into a makeshift back porch, an early sign of summer on its way.