Published March 12, 2018
Ten years ago, Matt, Shawn and Tony Lang established the Lang Restaurant Group to execute restaurant concepts like Steel City Samiches Bar & Grille in Indiana, PA and Pig Iron Public House in Cranberry. This spring, the three brothers will take their restaurant industry knowledge on the road when they open Pittsburgh Food Truck Park along the Allegheny River in Millvale’s Riverfront Park.
“It’s a steady way to approach food trucks, rather than customers stumbling on them at events or chasing down their favorite truck,” says Matt Lang, who co-owns the food truck park — Pittsburgh’s first — with Shawn and Tony.
The park will feature a daily rotation of mobile food vendors, a beer garden showcasing Pennsylvania brews and a bar highlighting local spirits from Wigle Whiskey, Boyd & Blair Vodka and Maggie’s Farm Rum.
It’s set to open on Friday, April 6, for what the trio calls its “construction series” — a soft opening on weekends through April. Extended weekend hours, plus hours on Thursdays, will begin in May. By summer’s end, Lang says, the goal is to open the park four to five days a week with an average of five trucks for each lunch and dinner shift.
The trucks will come from all over Pittsburgh, and they hope the customers will, too. One goal is to attract new people to the Millvale food and drink scene. “We’re from Millvale,” says Lang. “We want to benefit the Millvale community as much as possible.”
He envisions the park as a “large, outdoor hangout space” where people can gather before a night out at destinations like Grist House Craft Brewery and Strange Roots Experimental Ales (formerly Draai Laag Brewing), just blocks away.
But, he adds, everyone is welcome. “This is intended to be a family-friendly experience from start to finish.”
Expect more than food: Live music and outdoor games are among the park’s family-friendly activities, and the owners anticipate partnering with community groups for yoga and biking events, music festivals and more.
“We want to come across as more approachable than the average brewery or bar,” says Lang who adds that the park will also be dog-friendly.
Lang thinks the park will come to represent an “overall taste of Pittsburgh” for locals and out-of-towners alike. Ultimately, he hopes, when people have guests, “The first thought will be to take them to the food park.”
Being top-of-mind is a boon to the food vendors, too, according to Shawn Lang.
“We’ve been to other food truck parks across the country,” he says, “and the truck owners have told us that they do twice as much business in a consistent space than when they’re on their own.”
Vendors are thinking the same way: T. Adam Woods believes a consistent location will provide a predictable income stream for Brisketburgh, the truck he’s owned and operated since October 2017. Along with brisket, his truck serves buttery biscuits and sides, including sesame green beans and mac and cheese made from scratch.
Beyond income, Woods thinks the park will help food truck owners build on their sense of camaraderie.
“One of the surprises of starting this business,” says Woods, “is what a strong community exists among food truck owners and how welcoming and helpful that has been.”
Benjamin Dougherty says his food truck has a devoted following, but he believes having a central, permanent location will make the park a popular destination.
“The people want it,” says Dougherty, who opened the Pittsburgh Po’Boy truck in the spring of 2016, after a stint at the Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip District. “A lot of other cities have these, and I’m asked all the time: ‘When Pittsburgh?'”
Dougherty’s offerings include a range of Cajun and Creole food, including po’boys and gumbo.
Besides Brisketburgh and Pittsburgh Po’Boy, featured vendors on opening weekend will include Pittsburgh Pierogi Truck, Mac & Gold (a rotating menu of homemade mac and cheese recipes) and Cousins Maine Lobster (luscious lobster rolls and more). Local bands including Sweaty Already String Band and Nameless in August will perform.
“I’m pumped for the new food park,” says Dougherty. “Beer, food trucks and music? It’s a no-brainer.”
Photos courtesy of Benjamin Dougherty.