Winter in Tuscaloosa impacts local food truck

Sub-freezing weather at the University of Alabama brings challenges to the Local Roots food truck.
Employees find new ways to stay warm and change their menu to match the season.

By Laura Pilat
News Reporter

A layer of fog has become a frequent accessory to windows as Tuscaloosa had multiple days of
sub-freezing weather. The impact of this winter has left the Local Roots food truck with canceled
appearances due to inoperable weather.

While the heat of the grill doesn’t radiate as far, the smell of grandaddy fries takes over the small space. With the other section of the truck chilled for salad ingredients, the inside remains almost as cold as the temperature outside.

“When it gets to certain temperatures, people aren’t going to go wait and eat outside from a food truck,” said Dustin Spruill, owner of Local Roots. “This year has been the first time we have had to close multiple times due to the actual temperature instead of from rain.”

In order to battle the difficult weather, employees have found various techniques to stay warm.

“We listen to music in the truck, and I do a couple laps inside the food truck to keep my blood pumping and not turn into a Popsicle,” said Tara Swanson, cashier at Local Roots.

Local Roots was founded on the idea of getting back to your roots. It’s about eating clean, healthy and
locally. According to Swanson, everything they serve comes from inside a 50-mile radius of Tuscaloosa.

Since the ingredients are fresh, the menu continues to change with the seasons availability. Every week, the company adds variety and change in order to shake things up and keep it different.

The most recent additions to their menu include daily soups, three-cheese truffled mac and cheese, and collard greens. Along with those options, are the customary burgers, salads and tacos.

“Our burgers have become astronomically popular because they’re warm,” Swanson said. “I have less
salad orders compared to when I was working in October because people are choosing more of the hearty meals.”

Even though the weather may be colder than what is preferred for a food truck, customers still take the time to stop by.

“It depends how long the line is when it’s cold out, but I will totally wait if it’s only a few people,” said
Jaclyn Verdina, a customer of Local Roots. “It feels like I’m eating at home in California. Everything is fresh and the ingredients are prepared with passion. There’s nothing quite like Local Roots in Tuscaloosa, and that’s something that makes it so special.”

Along with seasonal changes to the menu, they’ve been expanding their brand through events, new
locations and catering. They plan on releasing a new announcement about plans for expansion in two to three weeks. With upcoming events and warmer temperatures, Swason is optimistic that winter problems are over.

“We’ve had to shut down a couple times due to the weather, but I think we’re out of the worst of it,” Swanson said.