Trendiest meals come from wheels

Betsy LeClair, of the Village of DeSoto, places an order with Eamon Monagham at the Ednas’ Provisions and Vittles food truck parked in front of Ednas’ on the Green in the Cattail Recreation Area.

Some restaurant owners can see more mobility, increased profits and happier customers — all without ever having to leave their vehicles.

More food trucks are popping up across the country, and many owners have seen additional business benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Villages is no exception to this trend. Ednas’ Provisions and Vittles, Rita’s Cocina Mexicana and Mystic Ice Cream are the crux of mobile dining offerings in the area. Ednas’ Provisions and Vittles opened in Aug. 2, 2019, offering Southern-inspired food from married owners Jordan McDonough and Jonathan “J.T.” Tubby, who decided to open up a food truck because they have had good experiences dining out at food trucks in different cities. “We really thought it would be a fun and awesome next move for us,” McDonough said. Business has been going great for the food truck since opening at Ednas’ on the Green, outside of the Cattail Recreation Area.

“Our team has just knocked our socks off lately,” McDonough said. “They have just been so awesome and rolled with the punches and risen to the occasion, and the guests have met us halfway and showed us that they are here for us and they are going to support us. And it’s been a really awesome relationship between Ednas’ and the community.”

Rita’s Cocina Mexicana also opened on Aug. 2, 2019, at Ednas’ on the Green.

Jimena Torres and her family, who own this food truck, wanted to open an eatery and felt a truck would have more mobility to be part of events.

“I thought of a food truck because of the practicality of it,” Torres said.

The community has been welcoming to them since they opened, she said.

Mystic Ice Cream, which has a storefront location in Fruitland Park, also jumped on the food truck trend, opening one at Edna’s on July 15.

Darrell and Lisa Day, Mystic Ice Cream’s owners, wanted to add a food truck to reach out to more people in The Villages, Leesburg, Lady Lake, Fruitland Park and other surrounding communities.

“It’s been going great,” Darrell said. “We are in fact meeting our goal, which is to introduce new people to our ice cream. I think, financially, it’s been a nice boost for our business to add another venue.”

McDonough also is glad to see another food truck at Ednas’.

“A rising tide lifts all boats, and we’re so excited that other people are trying out the food truck atmosphere,” she said.

Florida has the third largest number of mobile food establishments in the country. In 2018, there were 502 in the state, compared to only 243 in 2013, according to the United States Census Bureau. In 2013, there were 3,281 food trucks in the country, a number which rose to 5,970 — or about 45% — by 2018, according to the bureau.

Food trucks also have performed better during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The establishments were able to continue operations while allowing for social distancing. They had more flexibility since all seating is outdoors, unlike restaurants that were ordered to close for some time and halt indoor dining operations earlier in the year.

The Days have seen the advantage of having a food truck for Mystic Ice Cream during the pandemic, and so have the owners of Rita’s Cocina Mexicana, who said business during the pandemic remained close to the same levels as before COVID-19, Torres said.

McDonough saw the advantage for Ednas’ Provisions and Vittles, too.

“Having that open-air atmosphere and coupling that with really good hygienic practices has put our guests at ease,” she said. “I also think that it is a huge advantage at the guest standpoint that they can see the kitchen from where they are standing when they are ordering at our window and they can see what is going on, how the guys are approaching that level of cleanliness and that level of safety.”

Staff writer Summer Jarro can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5404, or summer.jarro@thevillagesmedia.com.