SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Renovations at E.K. Atwood Park have brought some tasty additions.
Two of the three food truck owners who have reserved spots at the park off Beach Access No. 5 are up and running, and a third was expected to join them this past weekend.
It’s the first time the park has designated space for food vendors, and county officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony in February to celebrate nearly $3.8 million in upgrades at the site.
Cameron County Parks Director Joe Vega said the county could have added a brick-and-mortar concessions area to the park, but it would have increased construction costs and decreased space within the pavilion. While foot traffic was slow Tuesday, he was optimistic crowds would grow as summer approaches.
“It’s going to be great to have a variety of food trucks (here) to provide a variety of cuisines,” he said. “Once it’s the summer and this area is getting busy, I truly think it’s going to be successful.”
Mark Weems, 52, has been operating the Burger Shack food truck for about one year. Its specialties are half-pound hamburgers, but the menu boasts 31 items including fish, chicken, tacos and side dishes.
While food trucks aren’t as widespread locally as they are in bigger cities like Austin and San Antonio, he said reception from the public has been positive.
“We’re excited to be out here for the summer,” he said. “It’s a beautiful park, and the county’s been really good to work with.”
Weems opened the Burger Shack with his daughter, 22- year-old Nadine Weems. She got her start in the food industry by working three years at McDonald’s, gleaning marketing know-how along the way, but she said their food truck’s burgers are made-to-order.
Their neighbors to the left are owners of the Kona Ice, serving a variety of shaved ice flavors and snacks.
Noe Cabriales Jr., 31, opened Kona Ice of SE Cameron County nearly one year ago with his wife, Ashley, 29. The couple worked as a delivery driver and dental assistant until they opened their shaved ice business last April.
“It’s an adventure,” he said. “We talk to a lot of people, meet a lot of people and put smiles on a lot of people’s faces.”
Their most popular treat is the mango shaved ice cup with chile and chamoy. Sugar-free options are available upon request.
Cabriales added that they frequently partner with schools and community organizations for fundraisers, and they donated about $8,000 last year.
Arnie Creinin’s SPI Town, which specializes in Chicago-style hot dogs, was expected to round out the trio of vendors. The food truck is being outfitted with new equipment to increase output.
Creinin said with two years in operation, his is the first South Padre Island food truck. His specialty is the Chicago hot dog that comes loaded with relish, onions, tomatoes, hot peppers, mustard and celery salt.