On Georgia Street, between 4th and 5th Avenues, and just east of the Gary SouthShore RailCats Minor League Baseball stadium, there’s an empty parcel of land that’s about to get a taste of BBQ ribs, brisket and “all things eggs, cheese and bacon.” That’s because, on Wednesday, October 7, 2020, the “5th Avenue Food Stop” will be open for business.
Cracked, a popular Chicago-based restaurant, will debut its fully accessorized food truck to serve an array of breakfast and lunch fare, including egg sandwiches, potato sides and fresh coffee to Gary residents. Alongside the food truck will be “Blacktop BBQ,” a new venture open for lunch and dinner that offers BBQ rib tips, smoked brisket, slow cooked pulled pork and jerk chicken. The Blacktop BBQ menu also features signature dishes like the “Big Yonnie,” loaded fries smothered in chopped beef brisket, BBQ sauce, island coleslaw and chipotle white cheddar cheese sauce.
Loaded fries not your thing? There’s something for everyone — from collard greens and steamed cabbage to BBQ baked beans and macaroni and cheese — all reasonably priced, with locally sourced ingredients that are prepared onsite.
So, who has the audacity to open a food truck in the middle of a global pandemic? Two Chicago brothers, originally from Gary, and who saw a need for their old hometown to have a high-quality, healthy, on-the-go eating experience — and one that offers a safe, social distancing alternative to eating indoors.
It started with a field trip to the U.S. Steel millworks. Scott and Paul Yonover wanted to visit their roots — their parents were born and raised in Gary and are graduates of Horace Mann High School — and show Paul’s teenage sons the mill, where Scott and his father had both worked years ago. As they were leaving — hungry — they realized there weren’t a lot of options for workers at the various local steelworks and other factories.
“We all thought, ‘They could really use a food truck here,’” said Paul Yonover. “Food trucks are thriving in urban areas and college campuses where people need and want quality food, but are short on time.” After meeting with and receiving enthusiasm from both local residents and Gary business leaders, it became clear that there is an urgent need for a sophisticated food operator to fill the void for Gary’s large, hardworking community. Stubbornly unable to let go of the idea of bringing the first food truck to their beloved hometown, the two brothers set out to make it happen — and they weren’t going to let a global pandemic or their lack of restaurant experience (Scott is a lawyer and Paul is a doctor) get in the way.
Enlisting local executive chef Tim Bellamy and Chicago-based food truck and restaurant operator Daniel Krause — who, combined have more than 40 years of extensive operations experience — the foursome formed a new venture, “Four Guys and a Truck.”
Thanks to the unwavering support of the Prince Administration and strategic help from Eric Reaves and Gary’s Economic Development Team, a partnership has been forged between “Four Guys and a Truck” and the City of Gary — to create the “5th Avenue Food Stop,” an open outdoor eating concept with an array of offerings, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner – and all times in between. With the food truck and multiple food tents, with options for sit-down dining or quick to-go items, the “5th Avenue Food Stop” will have the atmosphere of a popular street food festival — not just a place to grab a bite to eat, but an experience to be enjoyed. After the initial rollout of the Food Stop, the group has plans to expand on successful menu concepts and create new offerings, such as a brick oven pizza truck, a taco truck and a hot dog stand.
“We see the “5th Avenue Food Stop” as a destination not just for Gary citizens but for surrounding towns,” said Scott Yonover. “This concept is unique to the area but it has been quite successful in towns like Austin, Texas and we are very confident this will fill an unmet need for the people of Gary. We anticipate that the success of the Food Stop will have many downstream benefits, both direct and indirect, to the local economy and for the City of Gary.”
The team is using Gary’s ArtHouse Social Kitchen, which is providing storage and space for the 5th Avenue Food Stop food prep.
The bright yellow truck is currently making the rounds throughout downtown Gary this week, but will be parked at 5th Ave. and Georgia St. for the official opening day, Wed., Oct. 7. Hours for the 5th Avenue Food Stop will be 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturdays, and 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Sundays.