Amber Donahue and Chris Frisch were running a thriving sports therapy business, traveling across the United States with elite athletes, when the pandemic hit.
“Overnight, our jobs were obsolete,” Amber said. “So we started thinking about businesses we could do that were pandemic-proof.”
As they traveled for work, through cities like Austin, Texas; Portland and Bend, Oregon; and Nashville, Tennessee, they noticed these cities each had food truck parks. They liked that the concept had a small footprint: it’s simply making a setting to bring together food trucks and the people who love them. And Tucson, the foodie city where their eldest daughter was recently hired as a high school teacher, didn’t have a food truck park yet.
“We thought we could bring something to this town we loved vacationing in so much,” Amber said.
After nearly a year of development, their new food truck park, The Pit, opened last weekend at 7889 E. 22nd St. “The property used to be a haunted Scooby Doo gas station,” Amber said.
“Remember the gas stations you see in the middle of nowhere? That’s what we walked into,” she said. “We gutted the whole thing and kept it bare: we have coolers full of drinks, a few snacks and decorated it with kitschy awkward family photos, just made it a place that is clean and comfortable.”
The station itself is used as a central bar to complement the sizable outdoor space they cleared of debris and turned into seating. They also built a stage for live music on weekends and have plans in the works to install misters and build more shade for the summer. Many of their materials were sourced from community donations, from families and local businesses.
“We want this to be a place people can come in the evening,” Amber said.
The business partners decided on a rotating food truck schedule so people who live in the area can experience a variety of different vendors. Harris Hotstuff, a made-to-order barbecue truck, is only set up on the weekends, while you can get Hermanos Tacos and Lebanese food truck Homemade Mediterranean during the week.
“The woman who runs Homemade Mediterranean is the hardest working person I know,” Amber said.
Amber and Chris will soon be adding a Jamaican food truck, and are looking for a pizza truck and a truck that does Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Filipino noodle dishes.
Though the two divorced seven years ago, they are involved co-parents. Last year, they bought homes near each other, both in the Catalina Foothills School District. “Our success is based on building a legacy for our children, which is something we both agree with, always,” Amber said.
When I visited, every single thing I tried stood out as one of the best meals I’ve eaten all year. I was amazed at the curated selection of food trucks.
When I asked co-owner Chris about it, he said that the park has a special culture. Everyone is super kind and they help each other out. “We open up in the mornings, Homemade Mediterranean locks up at night. Cuppa GoGo helps clean the bathrooms. We all pitch in,” he said.
The result is a tight community of vendors, each with outstanding customer service and even more special food.
The Pit is currently home to six regular trucks, with three more coming soon, and seven visiting trucks. Here’s what you can get:
This Lebanese sandwich place, Homemade Mediterranean, is simply amazing. I will be going back to try every item on their curated menu. I ordered their koefte sandwich, which is a vibrantly spiced beef patty tucked into a pita that rivals Tucson’s best flour tortillas: thin and almost laminated in its flakiness, but with a slightly more bready texture. The condiments are also stars: slightly sweet, slightly umami pickle with parsley salsa and tomato.
They had an extra falafel lying around when I stopped by and they let me try that too: perfectly crunchy with a slightly softer inside, with a dusting of sesame seeds. In my humble opinion, Lebanese hummus is the best of the Mediterranean, and I can only imagine how yummy their falafel sandwich with hummus and tahini must be.
I also got a side of fries, which I habitually get alongside Mediterranean food. I need to research why the region has french fries down pat: somehow they get extra crunchy on the outside, with a custardy middle. Heavenly.
Homemade Mediterranean is open 12:30-9 pm Wednesday-Saturday and 12:30-6 pm Sunday.
Bemo’s Ol’ Joe’s
Stop by Bemo’s Ol’ Joe’s and you might find the now-closed Hog Pit co-owner, Les Baxter, sitting in a folding chair, welcoming you with a big smile. He’s teamed up with chef Donald Adkins to bring you a food-truck concept with a pared-down menu, but full-volume flavor. Donald insisted I try the tot-chos, which were over-the-top in exactly the best way.
Tot-chos consisted of five layers. The base, of course, are tater tots — fried, not baked. Tots’ signature riced texture and substantial crust will hold up to the hearty toppings: first a layer of melted cheese cheese, then a generous portion of melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork, doused in sauce and finished with a serving of slaw. While each ingredient is indulgent, they are in such a perfect ratio that each bite is in harmony. I loved this place.
On my way out of The Pit, I saw someone eating a chicken sandwich from Bemo’s. I asked her how she liked it. To my surprise, she puckered her face like she was about to come up with the worst insult she possibly could, and delivered one line: “I wish there was more sauce.”
Bemo’s Ol’ Joe’s is open 11 am to 5 pm Tuesday-Saturday.
Trust me when I’ve said, I’ve eaten a lot of carne asada.
Hermanos has the real deal: succulent, a little chewy but tender, with a little crisp on some of the edges. The flour tortillas are thin, stretchy and just substantial enough to deliver the meat, pico and a splash of bright green salsa to your eager taste buds.
The one-man operation also makes impressive-looking raspados, as I witness from the woman who ordered in front of me, then hopped back in her truck, raspado in hand. I was so jealous.
This place is cash only, so keep that in mind.
Hermanos Tacos is open 11:30 am to 8:30 pm Monday-Saturday.
Other food trucks on the regular roster:
- Cuppa GoGo — Coffee with syrups and sauces made from scratch, open 6 am to 2 pm daily
- Moncho’s Mex — Tacos, burros, quesadillas and more Mexican favorites, open 11 am to 7 pm Friday-Monday
- Harris Hotstuff — Made-to-order barbecue, open 10 am to 4 pm Saturday-Sunday
Coming soon: Jamaican, Italian and sushi!