Most Wichitans know Steven Santana as part of the family who runs and owns the popular Little Saigon Vietnamese restaurant at 1015 N. Broadway.
Santana still works there, leading the restaurant’s kitchen, but over the past year, he’s also been working on a side project with a few partners. Last year, they purchased a whole block in Delano — on Handley Street between Texas and Burton — and they have big plans for it, both in the short and long term.
First on their list: using the parking lot and giant vacant field on their property for a new food truck park they’re calling Delano Food Truck Court. It will open on Friday with an installment of the rally formerly known as Night at the Fountains when it was put on at the Wichita WaterWalk. This year, it’s relocating to the new Delano spot.
The long-term plan, though, is to turn the 17,000-square-foot church building at 220 S. Handley into a food hall and commercial kitchen space. The building, which sits on the corner of Handley and Burton, is being used on Sundays by Hope Christian Church, but Santana and his partners see it as a space they can re-purpose and invite food vendors to sell their items from booths or kiosks. Food halls are a trend in bigger cities: A good example of one is the Mother Road Market in Tulsa.
The church also has a big kitchen in the basement, and the partners hope to renovate it and rent it out as commercial kitchen space.
“We want to provide an opportunity for the smaller guys to have a consistent space,” Santana said.
Santana, 34, recently formed a property management company and said that he and his partners liked the lot on Handley because of its proximity to the hopping Delano district. The lot is a few blocks from The Monarch, a hopping bar on West Douglas, and is within walking distance of the new Riverfront Stadium where the Wichita Wind Surge play.
The games pull thousands of people to the area, Santana said, and he’s noticed that restaurants along West Douglas like TJ’s Burger House are always busy.
“I love seeing that,” he said. “I love seeing them do well. I’ve been working down there for about a month now, and I’ve really fallen in love with the area. I think there could be more food options.”
Santana is hoping to charge food trucks a fee to use the park in the lot and eventually in the field, he said and he plans to put out some benches and other seating where people can hang out and relax. He pictures game-day gatherings with live music.
The Delano Food Truck Court is the second such operation to pop up in Wichita this year. Willie Finn opened The Truck Stop Food Truck Park at 6315 E. Kellogg last month and now has trucks stationed there daily.
What about the WaterWalk?
The organizers of Wichita’s two long-running food truck rallies at the Wichita WaterWalk, 515 S. Main, say they won’t be using that area extensively this year.
Lisa and Eddi Palacios, the owners of three Wichita food trucks including Funky Monkey Munchies, started their monthly Night at the Fountain food truck rally back in 2015. Since then, they’ve gathered trucks at the WaterWalk one Friday night a month during warm-weather months.
But for a long list of reasons, the regular WaterWalk rallies won’t work out this year. One is that a longtime WaterWalk employee, who for years has secured the event license for the rallies and gathered all the required paperwork for the participating trucks, has left that job, and the time-consuming task of getting all of that together would now fall on the trucks themselves.
That’s the main reason that the owners of The Flying Stove, who launched the monthly Sunday-afternoon Food Trucks at the Fountain rallies in 2013, have decided not to put on those rallies this year. Jeff Schauf, the Flying Stove co-owner who put the events together, said he’s considering putting on one or two big rallies but won’t do it monthly this year.
Lisa Palacios, though, met with Santana this week and has made an arrangement to move her monthly Friday-night rally to the Delano Food Truck Park, which is on private property and doesn’t require all the extra paperwork.
She’s changed the name to A Night at the Delano Food Truck Court, and the first installment will happen from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday. She plans to continue the rallies there on the third Friday night of each month through the warm-weather season.
Friday’s will feature 10 to 15 trucks, she said, including Cousin Hectors, Ken N Barbiez Rollin Diner, Smokin Diner, Brown Box Bakery, Brazita Bites, U-Hungry Truck and more.
Food truck owners who want to talk to Santana about using the Delano Food Truck Court should call him at 316-806-5362.
This story was originally published April 13, 2022 10:48 AM.