ASBURY, Iowa — For residents of the Forest Hills Estates neighborhood, the most popular place to grab a bite to eat Thursday night was right down the street.
Amanda Kennedy, who lives near the center of the neighborhood, started inviting local restaurants with food trucks or trailers to park at her house last year, in hopes of giving her neighbors a new dining option.
The events were so popular that Kennedy decided to invite the local vendors back to the neighborhood this year. Thursday evening marked the first food-truck night of the year, with Town Clock Inn serving pizzas. Town Clock staff prepared around 100 frozen pizzas and 50 hot pizzas for neighbors, who scheduled pickup times in advance.
“All these neighbors giving their patronage and support truly is what makes it successful for those businesses,” Kennedy said. “It makes me feel really good seeing it.”
This year, Kennedy currently has 15 food-truck dates scheduled from April to September. She said she posted the schedule on the private Forest Hills Estates neighborhood Facebook page and passed out flyers to each of the 250 homes in her neighborhood.
Future food-truck days include burritos and margaritas from Adobos Mexican Grill, coffee from Bob and Lou’s and ice cream from Vesperman Farms.
Amy Jones, who lives down the street from Kennedy and picked up a pizza on Thursday, said she and her family are looking forward to the Adobos truck and a gelato cart that are scheduled for later this summer.
Last year, when Jones first saw a food truck parked outside of Kennedy’s house, she thought Kennedy might be hosting a party.
“We casually walked by, and when we realized it was for everybody, we made it into a regular family night,” she said.
Kennedy said the idea for regular food-truck events came about after she saw That 1 Place advertising its mobile coffee truck last year. She booked the truck to do something nice for her neighbors.
Her neighbors loved the coffee truck so much that they started suggesting different trucks Kennedy should book. Food trucks soon became a staple outside the Kennedy home, appearing every other week last summer.
The food-truck dates proved to be beneficial for both Kennedy’s neighbors and local businesses. During a summer greatly impacted by COVID-19, the restaurant industry struggled as people avoided eating out and capacity limits were placed on dining areas.
“Some of these places sent me Christmas cards last year,” Kennedy said. “They said, ‘You don’t know what this means to help us out this year.’”
Irene Nelson, co-owner of Town Clock, said Kennedy contacted her last year through Facebook about bringing out its food truck, which the restaurant debuted last fall. Its appearance in Forest Hills Estates was so successful last year that Nelson said the restaurant was happy to return.
“It’s exciting to have something during the week that we can offer that’s completely different,” she said. “We’re doing something for this new way of life.”
Forest Hills Estates residents Tom and Carole Junginger said they relished the opportunity to support local businesses, especially through COVID-19. The couple never missed one of Kennedy’s food-truck days last year.
“We love to go out to eat, but we haven’t been able to all year,” Tom Junginger said.
The couple also enjoy the opportunity to see their neighbors as the pandemic continues.
“(Kennedy) is a bright spot in the neighborhood,” Carole Junginger said about her neighbor’s efforts. “Everybody just shows up and they love it.”
Even with things beginning to open back up, Kennedy said having the food trucks come to her house gives her neighbors a chance to try new eateries.
Jones added that she and her family don’t often travel to downtown Dubuque, so being able to still support local businesses while being close to home is a great feeling.
“We feel like we’re part of the community by going to local places and being close to our neighbors, so we were excited about this,” she said.
The food trucks also provided Kennedy a way to see her neighbors during the pandemic. After getting food for her own family, she said she often sat out on her porch to greet everyone that stopped by her driveway.
“It’s a little bit of a new way of dining out,” Kennedy said. “I have four kids, so to be able to walk out in my driveway and get food, I said, ‘This is amazing.’”