Yogurt truck finds welcome streets in Evanston

Tanner Maxwell

Culture, The Yogurt Society, a Chicago-based food truck selling frozen yogurt and cupcakes, made its first appearance in Evanston on Monday.

The truck will set up shop in Evanston once a week. The truck stopped by Sheridan Avenue and Foster Street from 10 a.m. to noon and Sherman Avenue and Church Street from noon to 3 p.m. this week.

Culture founder Michael Farah said Evanston is the perfect place to sell yogurt.

“I feel like Evanston is a great community,” he said. “It has a mix of businesses, residents and students at Northwestern.”

Farah said the advantage of using a truck to sell his original-recipe yogurt is that he can change his location at any time.

Evanston resident Beverly Heimann, 49, was all smiles when she approached the Culture truck on Sherman Avenue. She said it was her first time buying from a food truck.

She said she first became interested in the concept after she watched Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race.” But Heimann was not there for the yogurt.

“I had a hankering for a cupcake,” she said. “I wanted to indulge.”

Heimann bought several cupcakes, but she said the yogurt would be just as good as Culture’s competitors.

The number of gourmet food trucks is increasing in the Chicagoland area, said Alex Levine, founder of the website Food Truck Freak, which provides reviews and locations of local food trucks. Last winter there were only around a dozen trucks, but now more than 40 operate regularly, she said.

Levine said the summer weather helped, but with winter approaching, some food trucks have to find creative ways to stay in business. For example, some mobile restaurants will offer catering services.

To keep Culture thriving, Farah said he will either try to get the business involved with local events or move business to Florida during the winter months.

Another challenge of a mobile business is spreading the word, Farah said. Currently, he uses Twitter to let nearly 7,000 followers know where the Culture truck is located at all times. Farah said he has had success at the University of Illinois at Chicago campus and in other neighborhoods.

“We want to get involved with Northwestern students and organizations and develop a large customer base,” he said.

For other food trucks with larger and more traditional menus, their success can be even greater outside Chicago.

Levine said Evanston laws make it easier for food trucks to cook while on the go. Currently, a Chicago ordinance prohibits food trucks from cooking on location and allows them to sell only pre-packaged foods. The HummingBird food truck, which sells gourmet street food, has been very successful in Evanston because of the city’s lax laws on preparing food while driving, she said.

Levine said Chicago is the only major city which restricts food trucks. As a result, some food truck enthusiasts and owners are pushing to change the legislation.

“We’re losing trucks to Milwaukee,” she said. “The longer it takes for legislation to pass, the city loses more money.”

Since Culture’s equipment and practices are approved by the city, Farah said he does not have as many problems with food preparation compared to other mobile restaurants. However, they’re still trying to make themselves known in the area.

Farah said the first day went pretty well, considering not too many people in the area know about Culture.

“We have a product people go crazy for,” he said. “The challenge is just to get the word out there.”

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