More choices for Greenway gourmets

Food program jumps to 12 vendors starting Memorial Day weekend

By D.C. Denison
Globe Staff / April 13, 2011

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The open-air gourmets who enjoyed falafel sandwiches, fruit smoothies, and global fusion BBQ on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway last summer will have twice the culinary options this year.

The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, which manages the 1.3-mile string of parks that snakes through downtown Boston, yesterday unveiled a significant expansion of the program that will double the number of vendors, from 6 to 12.

“The food program is one of the most successful things we’ve done to make the Greenway more comfortable,’’ said Nancy Brennan, executive director of the nonprofit conservancy, “so we were eager to make it bigger, broader, and yummier.’’

This year’s Greenway food vendors include purveyors of barbecue, Indian street food, cupcakes, grilled cheese, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, and smoothies.

The food will be sold from four food trucks, one trailer, one mobile kiosk, one bike, and five carts, with all the vendors scheduled to be in place by Memorial Day weekend.

Food operations will be concentrated in eight locations on the Greenway, and most vendors will operate between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The Greenway, which opened in 2008, was originally designed to be a verdant crown atop the Big Dig, a project that included the expressway now buried beneath it. Yet the parks have struggled to attract people, and many of the cultural projects planned for the area have fallen through.

But last year’s pilot food program was a low-key success, attracting both nearby office workers and tourists. The conservancy said that 60,000 people visited the six vendors during the summer and fall of 2010. Two vendors, Clo ver Food Lab and Silk Road BBQ, have remained open since last year.

Vendors are charged a monthly rent, depending on the size of their operation and the location, and the pilot last summer generated $26,000 for the conservancy, which used the proceeds to fund public programs on the site.

Clover Food Lab, which serves vegetarian soups and sandwiches from a truck parked near South Station, is one of five vendors returning from last summer.

“It was much more successful than we expected,’’ Clover Food chief executive Ayr Muir said yesterday, “so we’re definitely going to keep it going.’’

Muir admitted that he was originally nervous about the Greenway location but said the truck has been attracting a line of regulars right through the winter. The truck’s most popular lunch, he said, is a chickpea fritter and french fries with rosemary.

For Philip Francis, one of two left-handed owners of Lefty’s Silver Cart, a trailer that will be situated on the Greenway near the corner of Congress Street and Atlantic Avenue, this summer will be his first in the park.

“We’ve been working the festival circuit, so we’re really looking forward to settling into one location,’’ he said.

Francis, who considers the Greenway to be “unexplored and underutilized as a food destination,’’ is hoping to generate everyday traffic by offering grilled sandwiches, salads, chilled soups, and smoothies created with a bicycle-powered blender.

Lefty’s will also loan picnic blankets to customers who want to eat on the Greenway’s lawns.

The conservancy’s Brennan said survey data collected last year indicated that nearby residents and visitors were enthusiastic about the new food options, but wanted more coffee service and a wider variety of foods, requests the conservancy is attempting to honor with the expanded number of vendors.

D.C. Denison can be reached at