The 2019-2021 COVID crisis challenged area businesses like never before. But some crafty cooks opted to put the “pan” in pandemic and open food trucks. These relatively recent additions to our city’s cruising cuisine scene prove that movers and shakers — whether using salt, pepper, barbecue or Cajun seasoning — can prevail.
Billy Hinson’s Old School BBQ
Take one look at Billy Hinson’s food “truck” and you’ll know exactly why he named it Old School BBQ. His converted school bus was purchased fully intact and took him almost 9 months to renovate into his barbecue slingin’ sidekick.
Open since July of 2020, Billy Hinson’s Old School BBQ serves up brisket, rib tips, chicken wings and of course, pulled pork. Hinson, who goes by Bill, actually first got the idea for a food truck while he was working at Joe Machens Toyota with George Nickols, the owner of Lilly’s Cantina food truck. “I started with an $18 20-inch Weber grill,” Hinson says. Eventually he moved on to a ceramic grill and realized he couldn’t eat all of the barbecue he was making, so he brought it into work. “It just went from there,” he says. “Nothing was really planned until George Nickols asked, ‘What are you going to do when you leave here?’ I said maybe open a barbecue food truck or something. And after 25 years at my job, I decided it was time for a change and bought a trailer.”
After a couple of years, the trailer became too hard to operate out of and since fully-equipped food trucks can get pricey, Hinson says another buddy of his suggested a school bus. At first, Hinson’s business was named Pork Belly and Burnt Ends, but when he transitioned to the school bus he renamed it to Old School so that it would match. “Everything just fit,” he says. “The bus, the name, and I want to take responsibility for the food, so that’s why my name is in there, too.”
You can find Billy Hinson’s Old School BBQ throughout Columbia, from Cooper’s Landing to Calloway Bank and Lemone Industrial Boulevard.
To see the weekly schedule, check their Facebook
Wrap It Up!
When owners Aletha and Larry Norvell first opened Wrap It Up in March of 2020, they had no idea they’d be shut down just two days later as the stay-at-home order went into effect. Thankfully, they were able to reopen last June and have been serving up healthier food truck options since.
Manager Jennifer Graen says she, along with the Norvells, were friends with the owners of The Big Cheeze and had a partnership with them before seeing a void they could fill. “We saw this niche of healthier food options that were missing from the food truck industry,” Graen says. “We decided to go for it and start our own food truck focused on those kinds of options.”
Try the Mahalo, in either a wrap or rice bowl, with grilled chicken, ham, Swiss cheese, red peppers, lettuce, rice and grilled pineapple, or the Hula Chick with shredded chicken, BBQ sauce, provolone and pineapple coleslaw on a sweet Hawaiian king bun.
After COVID hit, they adjusted their menu slightly to include items such as The Porker, a pork tenderloin sandwich, and the Philly wrap, so there’s something for everyone. “We wanted our menu to be flexible,” she says.
This year, Wrap It Up is rapidly gaining a fervent following — or a rapt audience, you might say, serving events and local businesses such as Quaker, Caterpillar and Midway.
Find their schedule on their Facebook page @wrapitupmo
Zydeco’s Cajun Kitchen
Lynn and Randy Perkins come by their Cajun cred courtesy of Chef Paul Prudhomme of New Orleans, who offered to train them. “We were in video production, working on logos for Paul,” Lynn says. “At that time, we were talking about retirement and spoke with Paul about the food truck industry and making Cajun food. He helped and trained us and got us started — we are extremely grateful to him.”
Randy is from the mid-Missouri area so they decided to bring their recipes and NOLA spirit to the Midwest, and opened Zydeco’s in 2018. “We’re a mom and pop business,” Lynn says, “We started it thinking we would do it occasionally, but it’s just blown up. It’s been a wonderful second career.”
For a taste of Nawlins knowhow, try any of their rotating menu offerings, including po’ boys, Cajun potato salad or crawfish and shrimp pie. Zydeco’s travels across central Missouri, from Centralia to Macon and in-between. In Columbia, find them at the Truman VA Hospital, Veterans United, Cooper’s Landing and other local businesses and events.
Find their weekly schedule on their website at zydecos.co and be sure to see which dishes from their rotating menu are being served that week.
The Patty Wagon
As a student of the culinary program at the Columbia Area Career Center, Jason Elder learned the ins and outs of food prep and cooking. He and his mother, Teri, first opened The Patty Wagon in July of 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Jason did research on different food trucks out there and there are so many that serve tacos, but not many that just do burgers,” Teri says. Jason decided to focus specifically on smash burgers, and he and his mom settled on the name The Patty Wagon. After that, it was “no holds barred,” as the expression goes. Mother and son had lots of fun naming their burgers after well-known prisons, such as Alcatraz and San Quentin, Teri says.
As a family operation, Teri’s other son Jake helps operate the food truck and her daughter-in-law, Trishay, is in charge of scheduling and marketing. They’re able to prepare a lot of their food through the CoMo Cooks Shared Kitchen program, using the Business Loop location as their commissary kitchen. “It’s a great program,” Teri says. No one in the Elder family minds serving time — as in the time they spend serving their customers!
A few of their burgers include the Joliet, with blue cheese crumbles, lettuce, tomato and a blue cheese sauce, and the Riker’s Island with mushrooms, Swiss cheese, caramelized onions and a garlic aioli sauce. Each of their burgers is available in beef, turkey or a vegan portabella mushroom option.
Visit the-pattywagon.com or Facebook @thepattywagoncomo for their weekly schedule.