Photo of Deb and Doreen Arbogast by Shrimp & Grisettes

Food Truck Boom

Ballantyne neighborhoods turn to cuisine on wheels

By Nan Bauroth

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, Christine Poncia served as her HOA’s social director and wanted to cheer up her neighbors. Her idea was to bring food trucks into her development. The concept was such a hit that Poncia now lines up food truck appearances for more than 2,000 Ballantyne residents in her own neighborhood and two surrounding neighborhoods.

“I’ve become known as the Food Truck Lady,” she says with a laugh. She admits that, when she first started contacting food trucks, she had little knowledge about them.

“I wanted to support local, family-owned businesses while giving our residents something to enjoy since our lives were so drastically altered,” she says. “I simply started Googling and Facebooking local trucks and began scheduling.”

Photo of Chase Arnold of Maria’s Mac and Cheese and Fried Chicken Tenders by Shrimp & Grisettes

She discovered a world of culinary possibilities in no time, from Himalayan Asian fusion to dessert waffles on a stick and wood-fired pizzas baked right inside a truck.

Residents were ordering takeout because restaurants were shut down for indoor dining. Many parents were working from home, and with their children learning from there too, everyone was getting cabin fever.

“In the spirit of being a good neighbor, I posted these visits on Nextdoor so folks in the area could visit the trucks,” she says. “People would ‘grab and go.’ It was a win-win for everyone.”

Mac and Cheese in Memoriam

The pandemic also proved a blessing in disguise for food truck owners such as Chase Arnold of Maria’s Mac and Cheese and Fried Chicken Tenders. Arnold grew up in Ballantyne and graduated from Charlotte Catholic High School. After receiving his college degree and doing postgraduate work, he returned to Charlotte to work Uptown.

“When my mother passed away in April 2019, I took a couple of weeks off to grieve,” he recalls. “My plan was to start a new in-person sales job in February 2020, and then COVID hit, so then I was unemployed. I thought about life and what I wanted to do. I’d always liked to cook.”