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Charcoal Alley: Jacksonville’s Food Truck Court

Wcharcoal alley food truck jacksonville tyler tx 1ritten and Photographed by Barbara King

By sheer grit and determination, Jacksonville native Emily Griffin has built a flourishing dream literally out of ashes.

charcoal-alley-jacksonvile-tx-food-trucks-1Charcoal Alley, in downtown Jacksonville, East Texas’s first mobile food truck park takes center stage where Griffin’s original photography studio once stood and is proudly becoming the area’s premier destination to eat, mingle, and relax.
Griffin recalls the day she got the call in April 2013, “that my studio was up in flames and there was nothing we could do to restore it,” she recalls. “I was determined to make something positive out of it – to take the rubble and recreate it into a space that is welcoming and fun.”

The Saturday afternoon that I visited, the Alley was packed with folks eating, meeting, and relaxing. There are 18-foot umbrellas for shade and inclement weather, and plenty of comfortable wrought iron tables and picnic benches to spread out all your delicacies.

charcoal-alley-jacksonvile-tx-food-trucks-7The food trucks line the outside perimeter, with chalk board menus heralding a wide variety of tasty treats. This day’s food truck lineup includes Cheyenne’s Lunch Box, Rock “N” C, Sports Grill, The Mocha Moose, and Culinary Improv. The trucks come from places like Henderson, Tyler, Palestine, and Fort Worth to feed the flocks of people coming to see what it’s all about.

The Jacksonville Fire Station is directly across the street, and the firemen take the opportunity to visit the Alley a few times a week. Ryan Chaffin, a 12-year veteran of the Department said, “We love the variety of foods and freshness and the convenience of the location.” Chaffin and his fellow firemen chose a cheeseburger with fries, but say they have tried everything from sandwiches to crawfish from the food trucks.

charcoal-alley-jacksonvile-tx-food-trucks-2I found the atmosphere at the park to be funky and laid-back. The clientele is a mix of everything from families with babies and strollers, leather-clad bikers, and dogs galore. “It is definitely a family-friendly space,” said Griffin. “We pride ourselves on keeping the area clean, including two large bathrooms, and an outside sink to clean your hands after your crawfish experience.”

The umbrellas are much needed during the day, but at night, the LED lights under them turn the space into a magical venue for live music and much more food. “We have had Jacksonville’s local restaurant Sadler’s do a full bar, and we plan on much more live music events coming up,” Griffin added.

charcoal-alley-jacksonvile-tx-food-trucks-11It’s pretty much a non-stop crowd for early morning coffee and cinnamon rolls until the food is gone, which “could last anywhere from breakfast til after 7 at night,” explained Griffin. The trucks rotate, and offerings can be anything from catfish to turkey sandwiches with tomato and feta salad.

charcoal-alley-jacksonvile-tx-food-trucks-3This Saturday, folks are lining up for sandwiches from Cheyenne’s Lunch Box, including her famous chicken salad, pimento cheese, ham and cheese, and green herb turkey. Salads included a spectacular tomato and feta or cornbread, and a sampler of three heaping portions of salad and seasoned crackers. Owner Cheyenne Lindsey, said “We’ve only been doing the mobile food truck for a little bit, but we sell out of food almost every day. People are loving the Food Truck park experience.”

Next to the Lunch Box sits the Mocha Moose, a crowd favorite, featuring hot and cold drinks and New Orleans famous shaved ice. Smoothies, frozen mochas, frozen caramel, and lots of coffee choices, as well as waffle cones, and brownie sundaes are always on the menu.

Across the way on this Saturday sits the Culinary Improv which boasts reubens, grilled cheese, black bean and Angus burgers (the Fireman’s favorite), and pulled pork sandwiches.

charcoal-alley-jacksonvile-tx-food-trucks-10Crawfish are definitely in season right now, and folks were piling up on crawfish, potatoes, and corn from the Rock “N” C Sports Grill. This food truck also serves catfish, brisket sandwiches, loaded potatoes, and crawfish etouffee.

James Worley, from Jacksonville, enjoying a huge mound of crawfish said, “This Food Truck park is a great new idea for Jacksonville, and we like to come and show our support for the community. The food selection is great and there’s always something new.”

charcoal-alley-jacksonvile-tx-food-trucks-6Other food trucks participate and the line-up changes. They all have funky, fun names like “Cajun Café,” “GooRoos Pizza,” and “Ye Old Saucy Dog,” and so it’s a good idea to check www.facebook.com/charcoalalleyfoodtrucks to see which trucks are in the Alley and what’s available menu-wise. Special events and happenings, such as movie nights, chalk drawing contests, and more, are listed there too.

Emily Griffin is gratified that the community is embracing her dream that came from the ashes. “I am so thrilled that we have rebuilt this one of a kind experience in downtown Jacksonville, my hometown,” she said.

Come hungry and plan to stay for awhile at Charcoal Alley, located at 217 South Main Street in downtown Jacksonville. Charcoal Alley can be reached at (903)721-2766.

Cash and debit cards are accepted at the food trucks on-site.

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Around East Texas

Festival of Fruit: 34th Annual Tomato Fest Saturday, June 9th

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34th Annual Tomato Fest Saturday, June 9th

Welcome to Jacksonville – home of the best tasting fruit – tomatoes!

Local farmers are busy getting ready for the upcoming 34th Annual Tomato Fest in Jacksonville, Texas by planting acres of the best tastin’ tomatoes. Join the celebration Saturday, June 9th in downtown Jacksonville for a BIG day of activities that will be happening all day long. Over 200+ vendors and all kinds of festival food, including the famous fried green tomatoes, Farmers Market, $500 Got Talent Contest, Car Show, Motorcycle Show, Tennis Tournament, Soccer Tournament, Softball Tournament, Entertainment, Kidz Zone, and so much more will cover 5 blocks downtown. Tomato events include Salsa Contest, Tomato Eating and Peeling Contest, Tomato Archery, Tomato Shoot, Best Home Grown Tomato Contest, Tomato Packing Contest and tour the Tomato Shed. Saturday evening, Chili’s Street Dance will take place featuring Brian Chance Band and Lady Chazz and the Tramps. 

Activities kick off on Saturday, June 2nd with a 5k run sponsored by All Smiles. Monday, June 4th and Tuesday, June 5th is Family First Clinic’s corporate challenge Dodgeball Tournament. On Wednesday, June 6th, a Gospel Concert sponsored by Whataburger featuring, The Group, will perform at Central Baptist Church. New this year on Thursday, June 8th  is the Farm to Table dinner event that will take place at Castle on the Lake on beautiful Lake Jacksonville and will be catered by Rob Gowin, Sadler’s Kitchen & Catering. A 4 Man Scramble takes place at the Cherokee Ranch Golf Club on Friday, June 8th. The final Tomato Fest week celebration ends at Lake Jacksonville with a Ski Show on Sunday, June 10th.

Taste for yourself the best tomatoes and fun festival packed with lots to do for everyone.  For additional information, contact Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce at (903)586-2217, or go to  JacksonvilleTexas.com/Tomato-Fest or Facebook.com/JacksonvilleChamber.

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Fitness

East Texans Learn to “Live Healthy”

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This Month at Integrative Health Matters:

Integrative Health Matters offers a healthy alternative to losing weight. The public has opportunities to visit Integrative Health Matters at any of these classes:

  • Every Wednesday (12:15-1:15pm) – Mindful Movements; (5:15-6:15pm) – “Just Breathe” Meditation
  • June 1st (10-11am) – Functional Food Friday: Eating Healthy on a Budget
  • June 12th (6-7:30pm) – Kitchen Talk: Mediterranean Diet Lifestyle
  • June 15th (10-11am) – Functional Food Friday: Meal Prepping
  • June 22nd (10-11am) – Functional Food Friday: Acid, Alkaline & Food Combining
  • June 26th (6-7:30pm) – Kitchen Talk: Plant Based Eating
  • June 29th (10-11am) – Functional Food Friday: Bone Broth

Cooking classes offered twice monthly are in-depth health and cooking presentations. These “Kitchen Talks” invite the public into the IHM instructional kitchen to learn to cook tasty and nutritious meals and create a healthy home environment.

Integrative Health Matters is located at 419 WSW Loop 323 #400 in Tyler, next to La Madeleine. For information about Integrative Health Matters, contact (903)595-8077 or visit ihm.life.

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Around East Texas

Rose City Farmers Market Downtown This Weekend

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By Barbara Greenbauer

Everything is blooming, growing, and flourishing in East Texas and it’s time to head back to the market!

Your Saturday mornings can be stupendous with by stopping downtown at the new Rose City Farmers Market location. Opening April 7th and running through the first weekend in November, the market is a neat, unique experience for the whole family.

Located just a block from the Square – in the Unclaimed Furniture parking lot in Tyler (236 S. Broadway),  the market is the place to be bright and early Saturday mornings from 8am-12 noon. Your senses will go wild with the atmosphere of the Rose City Farmers Market.

As part of the Food and Farm Coalition, their goal is to work toward a sustainable food system that meets the needs of both producers and consumers.

The market brings all that’s fresh straight to you: fruits, vegetables, and herbs all grown within 75 miles of Tyler. That includes pasture-raised beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and turkey, free-range/non GMO eggs, and goat cheeses.

Jessica Bullock, Director of the Farmers Market, says “We are excited about the opportunity to connect people with locally grown food in a great community gathering place Downtown.”

The move to downtown makes the market “easily accessible to everyone, which is extremely important to our mission,” explained Jessica. All items sold at market are 100% produced or grown by the vendors. “Everything you’ll see at the market has been grown, baked, or made by the vendors themselves, which may be a surprise to some,” said Jessica.

Eating seasonally is what the market is all about, and when you eat food grown locally, it’s is always harvested at the peak of its season. Local food is also not stored in shipping containers, so it doesn’t spoil or lose health benefits on its way.

Buying food at its peak season also benefits our local farmers because it costs less for producers to harvest and transport and those savings get passed down to you…it’s a huge win/win for everybody!

With the Market opening in April 7th and running through November 17th, every week will be a brand new adventure as the seasons change and different produce are featured. In April, a trip to the market will fill your senses with treasures from East Texas fields like arugula, carrots, kohlrabi, radishes, beets, turnips, strawberries, new potatoes, mustard greens, kale, lettuce, cilantro, onions, swiss chard and parsley.

The market is all about community, so you’ll find something for everyone from fresh bread to flowers, coffee, jams and jellies, and baked goods. Vendors also showcase Texas olive oil, handcrafted art, and Texas fruit wines.

And that’s not all you’ll get to see at the Market. Local musicians will be showcased every Saturday, plus a new exciting addition of rotating food trucks. “We are proud to serve as a venue to some of Tyler’s most talented musicians,” said Jessica. Bring a lawn chair and enjoy the perfect blend of food and music and great weather.

Vendors or members must meet certain goals including being located within 75 miles of the market, providing safe and fair working conditions for all farm workers, organic or natural methods, humanely raised animal products, beef and other grass-eating animals are grass fed, and dairy is rGHB-free. Find out more about becoming a member/vendor at foodcoalition.org.

The market depends on volunteers to set up and break down, help with displays, banners, and lots of behind the scenes work. What a great way to give back to the community! People interested in helping can contact rosecityfarmersmarket@gmail.com.

“We are thrilled to be part of the Downtown scene and to be able to partner with the great small businesses that are part of this growing culture,” said Jessica. “The new location is a perfect fit for the Market and the thriving downtown community.” “We would like to thank Bill & Cecilia Bush of Unclaimed Furniture for the space and the support.”

Bring the family and spend Saturday mornings at the Rose City Farmers Market, located at 302 S. Broadway in Downtown Tyler.

Visit them on Facebook at rosecityfamersmarket.com and foodcoalition.org.

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