Food Truck Hub Opening in Lawrence

Fork to Fender is capitalizing on the area’s demand for food trucks and bringing Lawrence its very own hub with a little bit of something for everyone.

Story by Riley Mortensen

When it comes to food trucks, Kansas City just can’t seem to get enough of the four-wheeled factories of deliciousness. Now Lawrence is getting ready for its very own food truck headquarters as the masterminds behind Wilma’s, Torched Goodness and others bring you Fork to Fender on 23rd Street in mid-October.

Not only will Fork to Fender provide guests with multiple trucks at the same hub, but the new concept will also include a restaurant component where guests can come inside to sit and enjoy their goodies as well as other offerings like baked goods, freshly made family-style ready to go meals, adult beverages and products from local farmers.

“It’s about building a sense of community here and having a place that’s focused on local, whether it’s the local food trucks or it’s local chefs coming in for pop-up brunches or dinners or local products from the vendors,” says Julia Ireland, co-owner of Torched Goodness, a gourmet crème brulee truck she runs with her husband.

The duo behind Torched Goodness is just one part of the all-star cast at Fork to Fender. Other trucks committed include Drasko’s, the Purple Carrot, La Parrilla To-Go and Wilma’s.

“Each truck has a very different menu so there’s really something for everybody whether you’re vegan, whether you’re a meat eater, whether you’re going for dessert,” Ireland says, adding that Fork to Fender will also have guest chefs, guest trucks, pop-up events, game day specials and more.

The goal is to keep it fresh and interesting, says Wilma’s owner and chef Brett Atkinson. The KC native was supposed to be part of a food truck park opening in Lawrence last year and when those plans fell through, he dreamt up his own.

With a little help from Kickstarter, Fork to Fender went from plans on paper to a real-life adventure with nothing but support from the community. Atkinson says he often hears people profess their excitement for the new addition to Lawrence and has even had to turn away guests while Fork to Fender’s building is under renovations.

He formerly worked in construction management with a six-figure salary. Atkinson had been dabbling in the idea of a food truck, but when the economy tanked in 2007 and the Fork to Fender creator lost his job, he decided to give his life-long passion for cooking a try.

“I’m so much happier now making people happy than I ever would have been wearing a suit and tie,” Atkinson says.

Ireland worked in luxury real estate in Phoenix bringing home a sizable salary as well, but after 16 years she needed a change. Her husband, Eric, a trained Le Cordon Bleu chef, had always hoped to open his own restaurant and he brought home the surprise of a lifetime, Ireland recalls.

“He came home one day with a food truck,” she says. “He pulled up and we heard a horrible noise and the thing was smoking and the radiator had burst all over the place, smoke billowing everywhere literally as he parked it in front of our house. I was like, ‘God, what did he do?’”

But after gutting the truck down to the slats of the floors and building it back out again, Ireland says she began to see the potential and left her real estate job. Success followed the truck for four years in Phoenix until the couple decided to relocate to Lawrence in 2014, where they’ve been operating ever since.

Ireland and Atkinson find themselves creating something new again, but this time with more minds and more resources. Fork to Fender is currently in the last phase of renovations with plans to open around Oct. 15.

For more information, follow Fork to Fender on Facebook.