Eat & Play

Chef and restaurateur Brian Hardesty already was mulling over the idea of a St. Louis food truck destination when a group of landowners appeared on his doorstep with a similar idea. “They had a plot on Gravois Road in Affton and wanted to do pop-up food truck gatherings there,” he says. “We held two of the pop-ups, and they were a big success—more than 3,000 people showed up for each. By the second event, we were so happy with the concept that we decided to put a permanent food truck park on the site.”

Hardesty began working with Seneca Commercial Real Estate to stir up plans for an outdoor complex called 9 Mile Garden. It’s expected to open later this summer with a rotating selection of mobile cuisines, live entertainment on a permanent stage, specialty brews and Blueprint coffees. There will be an all-draft beer canteen and gathering space for groups as well. The name 9 Mile Garden was inspired by the park’s location 9 miles from downtown. It’s meant to recall a time years ago when farmers drove into St. Louis and lined up to sell produce from their trucks.

Brian Hardesty

Vendors who already have signed on include Doggie Mac’s, Balkan Treat Box, Blues Fired Pizza, Scoops & More, Super Smokers and Hardesty’s own Guerrilla Street Food. He says that in all, about 30 purveyors will participate, and they will rotate daily to provide a tasty variety for lunch and dinner. Each truck owner signs a contract and pays a membership fee to participate in the park’s nine-month season. “I thought it might be difficult to wrangle people into the rotating schedule, but they have been great,” Hardesty says. “Everyone wants to work together to make this successful. We also plan to partner with other businesses on ideas like farmers’ markets and art shows.”

He says the possibilities for food-related fun are nearly endless. “This is the first project of its kind in Missouri,” Hardesty notes. “We have had tons of interest from local musical acts, and we’ll be able to show movies and live-stream sporting events and performances. People also can rent the park for private gatherings and fundraisers. We are working closely with the community to be sensitive about noise and traffic concerns.” To help diners plan their visits, there will be an online calendar and social media announcements each week. Leashed dogs will be welcome.

Bryan Scott, owner of Doggie Mac’s, says he is gearing up for the May opening with some new food offerings. “We serve custom hot dogs, nachos and mac and cheese, and I’m developing new sandwiches, sausages and dogs,” he says. “The park will have something to appeal to everyone, and it’ll be a popular entertainment spot as well. I was an enthusiastic local food truck patron before I became an owner, but now I’m even more excited for the St. Louis scene because of 9 Mile Garden. I think it will prove what great food and fun times we can offer.”

Photos courtesy of 9 Mile Garden