Food trucks in McHenry, Lake counties ready to usher in summer fun

Food truck favorites will attend events such as Woodstock Food Truck Festival, Richardson Adventure Farm’s Tulip Festival

Two local food truck owners are wiping down the trucks and gearing up for a spring, summer and fall season already booked with festivals, baseball games and more.

“We’ve been rolling since the first of March,” said Kelsey Madro, owner of Fork N Fry food truck. “It’s kind of dependent on the weather, of course, but we’ve been like four to five days a week since March 1 and we’re booked until November. It’s kind of crazy.”

Alongside outdoor dining, food trucks have become a popular, COVID-19-safe way for people to enjoy great food without having to dine indoors and for events to offer food without resorting to buffet-style service.

Madro started Fork N Fry – a truck specializing in gourmet French fries – in the summer of 2019, meaning she wasn’t even able to enjoy one full food truck season before shutting down at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic the following March, she said.

Initially, she was forced to look for innovative ways to spread the word about her food amid statewide restrictions hitting the restaurant industry.

But then, as things began to open up in the summer of 2020, Madro said the business took off.

“The following that we’ve obtained over the past year has been outstanding,” she said. “I can’t believe I’ve made it this far. ... A lot of businesses have become mobile because of this pandemic and everyone is learning from each other. It’s just really awesome to see.”

A more veteran food trucker, Kim Doran of Pixie Dawgs, said she saw a lot of food trucks popping up last year and warned that her industry is not all fun and games.

“With a food truck, you have to take your kitchen from the kitchen, put it into a truck, take it to a location, do all of your cooking and all of your preparing of food and then clean it up and take it back to a kitchen,” Doran said. “It’s more daunting than people realize.”

Pixie Dawgs started out as one small hot dog trailer back in 2015 and has grown to encompass three trailers and a state-of-the-art food truck, which operate independently of one another at events across the McHenry County area, Doran said. Doran and her husband and co-owner, Bill Doran, also run a catering service.

Doran said she too has been getting her truck and trailers ready for what is sure to be a jam-packed season.

“We’re very busy,” she said, listing off events like horse shows and high school proms that opted for a food truck over a sit-down dinner.

The Pixie Dawgs specialty is, of course, Chicago-style hot dogs, but it serves up a variety of other foods such as burgers, tacos and barbecue favorites, Doran said. Their main food truck is known for “Texas fusion” dishes like brisket macaroni and cheese, she said.

Fork N Fry, on the other hand, offers countless varieties of poutine – a French-Canadian dish of cheese curds and gravy on top of fries – as well as other kinds of gourmet loaded French fries, Madro said. She offers vegan options and all of her food is gluten-free which she said was important to her as someone with celiac disease.

The truck can often be found at many local breweries. Madro said she visits Sew Hop’d in Huntley, Scorched Earth in Algonquin and the Crystal Lake Brewing Company – to name a few.

This year, Pixie Dawgs will be the primary food provider at Richardson Adventure Farm in Spring Grove, which is set to begin the Richardson Tulip Festival any day now, Doran said. Madro said Fork N Fry will also be making appearances at the farm this year.

Richardson Adventure Farm planted five acres of tulips for a total of 300,000 bulbs in 30 different varieties, according to its website. The tulip festival will begin once the bulbs open and is the perfect way to celebrate spring, Doran said.

Fork N Fry also does “neighborhood pop-ups” upon request where it sets up outside of someone’s house or in parks for a few hours in the evenings, Madro said.

“Normally we sell out because nobody wants to leave their neighborhood, and everyone’s just stoked on something new and different,” she said. “Those are really fun for us because we get to go to all these different neighborhoods and see a whole group of different people.”

Local foodies should mark their calendar for the Woodstock Food Truck Festival planned for June 5 in the historic Woodstock Square, Doran said.

The event is being planned by the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce as a way to stimulate business activity in the broader downtown area while also giving people an excuse to hang out and have fun safely, chamber president Danielle Gulli said.

The Chamber is hoping to get all of the necessary liquor licenses so nearby businesses can sell alcoholic beverages to be enjoyed by festival-goers out on the square, Gulli said.

The 14 trucks currently scheduled to attend are Churros y Chocolates, Cookies w/Flavor, Fork N Fry, Joe & Dough, Brothers BBQ, Kissed by Fire BBQ, Kona Ice of McHenry County, Mario’s Cart, LLC, My Funnel Truck, Pixie Dawgs, Tropical Chill, Your Sister’s Tomato, Yum Dum and MJ’s Coffee Bar.

They have plenty of room for other food trucks interested in participating, Gulli said.

The event also will feature live acoustic music performed by Gerald and Camille and Makenzie O’Brien, according to the event page on Facebook.

Kelli Duncan

Kelli Duncan is a reporter for the Northwest Herald covering county government as well as the communities of Huntley, Lake in the Hills, Marengo and Harvard. She has previously covered local politics, immigration and feature stories.