Eat All About It: Port bets food pod will put Osprey Pointe on map

The Port of Pasco’s newest food truck outlet launched this week surrounded by a sea of crushed concrete in a parking lot.

The Food Pointe opened with two newcomers to the food truck business amid the remains of the foundation of a building that once stood in the 900 block of East Ainsworth Street. It’s between the port’s offices and the Columbia River.

There’s method in the parking lot madness, said Gary Ballew, the port’s director of economic development and marketing.

The location caters to an east Pasco clientele: port tenants, passersby and most notably, the truckers driving along Highway 397, aka Ainsworth.

The oversized parking lot gives the big rigs room to park and turn around. The strategy paid off Monday when the location debuted. One of the first visitors was a driver with a wrecker hauling several cars.

The port spent about $15,000 to ready the site for its experiment in bringing lunch to workers in east Pasco. Ballew said the port wants to draw more attention to Osprey Pointe and, by extension, market it to potential development. It regularly holds events like “date night at the pointe” and an eclipse viewing party.

Despite its picturesque location on a levee-free stretch of the Columbia, success remains elusive. Business has shown little interest in building at Osprey Pointe.

The Food Pointe is a step toward bringing amenities to a neighborhood that offers few lunch options for the 300 to 400 employees who work for the 100 port tenants in the area. Ballew said he personally brings lunch to work or drives to Court Street if he has time.

Food trucks, he said, could be a bridge to bringing permanent restaurants in the area.

The port collaborated with Marilou Shea, the godmother of the Tri-City food truck industry, to recruit vendors to the location, or “pod”. Shea, who runs the food truck academy and hospitality program at Columbia Basin College, is coordinating a rotating cast of food trucks.

“It’s not Food Truck Friday,” she said, referring to the summertime food truck gathering in downtown Pasco. “It’s a completely different demographic.”

She is keeping the number of vendors low to help participants be profitable.

If there is enough business, The Food Pointe will operate during the winter.

To that end, the port will install a structure to shelter diners. It’s a structure Tri-City travelers love to hate — the “luggage tent” that once housed the baggage claim area while the port modernized the Tri-Cities Airport.

Residents might have been embarrassed to collect luggage from a tent, but Shea said the structure will provide a comfortable spot to eat out of the elements.

Shea recruited Swampy’s BBQ Sauce & Eatery and Rex’s Top Shelf to do the honors in the first week. Food truck vendors interested in being added to the schedule can contact her at Marilous509@outlook.com.

Swampy’s and Rex’s are newcomers to the local food struck scene.

Rex’s Top Shelf

Unfortunately, a pickle jar catastrophe kept owner Rex Richmond from operating Monday. Richmond explained that a large jar of pickles crashed inside the truck as he turned into the site.

The jar shattered, sending briny water into an outlet and shorting the electrical system.

After stashing the food he had prepared for the day food in working refrigerators, he came back to lend moral support and gamely ordered lunch from his would-be competitor, which he pronounced excellent.

Richmond is a restaurant industry vet who spent 17 years at Meadow Spring County Club. Contemplating a cross-state move, he left his job and sold his house.

When he realized he’d rather work for himself, he purchased the truck. He launched Rex’s in August and was a staple at downtown Pasco’s Food Truck Friday until it ended in September.

Richmond signed up for The Food Pointe to support Shea. More importantly, he’s betting it will be good for business.

“There’s people down here.”

Swampy’s BBQ Sauce & Eatery

Ron Swanby co-owns Swampy’s with his wife, Christina. Swampy’s is a local catering business with a line of BBQ sauces. Now it’s a food truck too.

Swanby called it a natural extension of his business. He’d taught operations courses for would-be food truck operators at the Pasco Specialty Kitchen and wanted to become an operator himself.

When he gave up his haircutting business last year, he needed something to replace the income. He purchased the truck in Portland and equipped it to serve as a standalone truck and to augment catering work.

For his first day, he served Smokin’s Cubans and BBQ chicken quarters.

The Food Point will operate from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays at 904 Ainsworth Ave.

Paint Nite at P.F. Chang’s

P.F. Chang’s at Columbia Center Mall hosts Paint Nite from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 20. The event is a fund raiser for the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research. Tickets are $45, which includes painting supplies and a signature cocktail. Appetizers and drinks will be available for purchase. Visit bit.ly/PFChangsPaintNite for details.

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Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell