HERMISTON — Customers walked up to his popular food truck, but they seem ready to do cartwheels instead, according to Patrick Hunt, owner of Southern Twain BBQ.

Hunt said he is as happy as his customers — thrilled to be dishing out smokehouse nachos, hickory sausages, sweet tea and other delicacies once more.

Hunt oversees the Hermiston Food Pod, 240 S.W. Third St., across the street from where he also runs his business. The pod was closed at the start of October for improvements that would make it more attractive for additional restaurants.

At the pod’s soft opening Jan. 18, there were only two food trucks. Hunt, however, said there will be more. In a couple of weeks, food trucks will be “trickling in,” he said. In the coming months, according to Hunt, the lot will fill with eight trucks.

Vendors already are lining up, he said. Mexican food, Asian food, hamburgers and more will all be available.

Clint Spencer, Hermiston planning director, is among the city employees who have been working on this project. Spencer said the city created eight individual water, sewage and electrical connections to handle trucks.

“It took longer to do the work than we thought it would, running through the contractor,” Spencer said.

The contractor, according to Spencer, did not have time on his calendar to do the work and have it ready any earlier than its January opening.

Hunt said a shortage of food inspectors has delayed the other vendors. Additional food trucks would be operating now if they could have received clearance, he said.

“The way this works is that (vendors) turn in their packet, they review it, it goes to the fire department, everybody reviews it to make sure we’re safe,” Hunt said.

Hunt applauded his neighboring food truck for completing all the necessary paperwork to open alongside his. Dolores Amaya, owner of El Salvadoreno No. 2, is a veteran of the food truck business. She said she started her trucks in 2010. In addition to the truck she uses in Hermiston, she operates another in Boardman.

Amaya offers food from her native El Salvador. Pupusas, the national food of her country, is a popular item at her restaurant, she said. Also, she sells tacos, tortas, burritos and more. She said business is good in Boardman and she feels optimistic about her location in Hermiston.

“I’m so happy to be here,” she said.

By April, barring inclement weather, Hunt said he expects to see the remaining vendors pass requirements and move into spots in the pod. Then, additional improvements will be made, he said. Among those improvements, according to Hunt, will be a new 5- to 6-foot fence around the property. He said he also wants to bring in live music and have local bands perform.

Hunt said he hopes to see a public restroom added to the pod, though Spencer said restrooms are not planned. The portable toilet on the property should suffice, Spencer said, and there are restrooms across the street in the park.

Even without a regular bathroom, Spencer said the food pod is about serving the residents of Hermiston.

“There’s so much interest in food trucks in town, and there aren’t a lot of good places to put them,” he said. “The city saw this as a way to step up and help create, from a survey standpoint, something that is really important to citizens who have wanted a permanent spot for food trucks.”

Hunt said the food pod will be a family location, where a person can “bring your kids and your grandparents, all at the same time.” He expressed happiness about the pod and its future.

Hunt said “I want this to be Hermiston’s go-to spot.”

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