There is currently a movement in Atlanta to legalize street food. As many of you know, there is a rich tradition of street food in many cultures around the world, including the United States. And the thing that’s especially lovely about the US is that we have such a rich and diverse population, so the possibilities for street food options are limitless.
I believe you’d find, if you were to do a historical survey of street food through the ages (and I’m sure it’s out there somewhere – I have no illusions that there’s no data on this subject), that the first street food vendors were cunning entrepreneurs who saw an unmet need and swooped in to fill it. In bustling cities, there are a lot of people, and people get hungry, and people need to eat, and people are often willing to pay someone to quench that hunger. I’m sure the first street food vendors had carts and braziers that they traveled about with, cooking meats and simple breads on the streets of ancient cities.
Today, street food has become somewhat of a cult following. People “in the know” will tell you about secret little hidden gems behind a certain building, or down an alley, where you can get the best falafel, or the best cheese-steak, or the best combination of the two you’ve ever tasted. Driving around northwest Atlanta not too long ago, I came across a dented dingy looking truck with a line of people standing out behind it – it was a taco truck, and it was obviously bucking the system, but it was also obviously quite popular with the locals.
All of this to say, there seems to be a need in Atlanta – a need to offer people quick, flavorful fare on the go. The Atlanta Streeet Food Coalition is working to fill that need in the city and surrounds.
Ironically, I recently became aware of a place in my neck of the woods that is circumventing the traditional street food format, while still offering street food-inspired fare in a casual and fun atmostphere. In downtown Roswell, nestled between antique shops and galleries, is a restaurant called Inc. Street Food. The idea behind this quirky little restaurant is to take the street food concept, and bring it indoors. The open kitchen is framed by an actual food truck, and the walls are sprayed with stylized “graffiti”.
I first saw the sign for the restaurant back in the spring. I drive through downtown Roswell daily on my way to work, and I’m always on the lookout for changes to storefronts, new restaurants, etc. The sign for Inc. is somewhat unassuming, and it took me a couple of passes to finally figure out what it said.
My husband and I had dinner reservations a month or so ago at our favorite little French restaurant. We were running a little early, so we decided to stop in to Inc. for drinks beforehand. I’d been curious about the place for a while, and I thought this would be good way to get a feel for it without having to commit.
First, I have to say that our bartender, who’s name was Juan Carlos (I think) was great. He was friendly without being overly so (he was cute, too, and that always helps – at least with the ladies), and he was super helpful. We each ordered a margarita off the drinks menu (excellent, by the way – on the rocks in mason jars with just a hint of salt on the rim) and had a chance to sit and chat and peruse the menu. I almost decided to cancel our reservation at the other restaurant after seeing the offerings at Inc., but I decided it would be better to just come back another time.
My mother and I did just that not too long ago. We took the children (an 8-month-old and an almost-5-year-old) one afternoon for an early dinner. We ordered a few things off the menu to try, and each had a frosty glass of Dos Equis Amber, which they always have on tap. We chose to order the Guacamole Tostadas, the Crispy Shrimp Tacos and the Cuban Sandwich. They don’t have a kids menu, per se, but my little boy enjoyed the Cuban and the shrimp from the tacos just fine.
I have to say that we really enjoyed the food. The tostadas were enormous (at least for an appetizer portion) and piled high with fresh guacamole and just a bit of pico de gallo.
The shrimp tacos were superb – the shrimp were not overcooked, crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside. They were dressed with a sweet and spicy carrot slaw that paired perfectly with the fried shrimp. The slaw was on the spicy side, which was great for my mother and me, but a little much for the munchkin.
The cuban sandwich was a bit non-traditional, but very tasty nonetheless. They make their own pickles, and they’re a little sweet, a little spicy and a lot tasty. The pork is more like a pulled pork (which is what I prefer) and they use a very thinly sliced ham (also to my liking).
Oh! And the black beans were SO GOOD. I’m picky about my black beans, and these were excellent. More like a soup than a side, but that’s just the way I like them.
Also, the little one really liked the yucca fries. Even the 8-month-old (they’re very tender and fluffy on the inside) chowed down on them.
I kinda liked ‘em to.
All in all, I think it’s a successful concept. The food is good, the atmosphere is fun, and you don’t have to worry about how hot it is outside, or if it’s raining or snowing or whatever. And even though it’s not actually street food in the strictest sense, it is certainly inspired by the street food movement. I think those early street food pioneers (the ones with their wagons and braziers) would be glad to see today’s entrepreneurial spirit manifest itself in this way. At least until such time that street food vendors can sell their foodstuffs legally in the Atlanta area.
If you’re in or around Roswell, GA, I’d recommend this restaurant. The staff seem to enjoy what they’re doing there, and the care taken with the food is obvious. And the price is reasonable, at least for the food. The margaritas are a bit pricey ($8+ for a basic margarita), but they’re certainly tasty.
The photos in this post came from Inc.’s Facebook page. I didn’t have my camera with me when I went, so I had to borrow these. I hope they don’t mind.