Dearborn, during the holy month of Ramadan, becomes prime real estate for food truck operators due to its abundance of festivals. But there’s a growing movement within the city to establish more dedicated spaces where mobile vendors can flourish year-round.
Mohamed Beydoun, owner of the Trucks Park at 5431 Schaefer Rd., is taking this time during the holy month to test the waters of launching a food truck park by inviting operators to share his space — free of charge — every night except Sundays from 8 p.m to 3:30 a.m. starting March 28. If it goes over well, he is considering using his property as a permanent food truck park.
The Dearborn native previously spent more than a decade operating food trucks in Chicago. When he returned to Southeast Michigan during the pandemic, he says he felt like the region was missing out on an opportunity to create community among vendors.
“In Chicago, I parked next to like 10, 15 trucks every day and I’d have a variety of food every day — like every day I’d do something different. So when I moved here with my trucks, I tried thinking maybe there are comparable locations, like downtown or stuff like that but due to COVID and just like the way the city is set up there’s nothing comparable,” Beydoun tells Eater.
The Trucks Park is the home base where he parks his three trucks: Mediterranean Express, Taco Truck 313 featuring Halal Mexican food, and Windy City Wings. The space consists of a parking lot where his fleet is parked when not in use and a storefront, which serves as a commissary kitchen and dining room. Because his team is frequently out hitting local festivals, special events, and catering gigs, the Trucks Park sits largely empty during the week. He tells Eater that he wants to attract a batch of other operators who are looking to do business in a fixed location, giving diners a variety of halal eating choices in one spot with indoor seating. He’s also begun to have conversations with other longtime owners to establish the Michigan Halal Food Truck Association to serve as a resource for others getting into the industry.
Meanwhile, Dearborn officials are also reconsidering the city’s relationship with food trucks. In partnership with the West Dearborn Downtown Development Authority, the city has launched Ramadan Nights in West Downtown Dearborn, a food truck rally taking place from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, from Thursday, March 23 through Friday, April 21, at West Village Drive between Mason and Monroe Streets. Additionally, elected officials in Dearborn are following in the footsteps of Detroit and other municipalities to update its existing food truck ordinance to clarify the rules and regulations for operating, according to a statement provided to Eater by the Dearborn Economic Development Department.
“Dearborn is excited to activate its business districts towards the benefit of its vibrant food scene, which includes food trucks,” says a statement issued to Eater on Thursday from the Dearborn Economic Development Department. “Based on demand in the community during Ramadan, we have facilitated a festival model to create a common, concentrated location where food trucks can operate safely and successfully.
Currently, a city license is required to operate a food truck in Dearborn. Applicants are required to pay $100, abide by county and state licensing requirements, and may not set up in residential areas, unless they are granted approval from the City Clerk, according to the city’s website.
Food truckers in metro Detroit currently have limited options for such a setting including the many side streets of Southwest Detroit, Detroit Fleat in Ferndale, and seasonally at Cadillac Square downtown. But for the most part, the region’s food truck scene is pretty scattered.
Interest in outdoor food truck dining options has proliferated over the years, with the annual Ramadan Suhoor Festival, which launched in Dearborn 2018, helping to drive interest. Festival founder Hassan Chami says the development of other Ramadan festivals and interest to develop dedicated truck parks are a testament to the success of his event. In its fourth year, the outdoor festival continues to grow, with more than 60 food vendors on hand this year serving some 10,000 visitors a night.