Tara Langdale from Blazin’s Blaine’s food truck is a Walterboro native who plans to work for the entirety of the trial. (Photos by Caroline Barry)
WALTERBORO – City officials knew Walterboro didn’t have nearly enough dining accommodations for the waves of people expected to pour in for the Murdaugh trial.
The prominent Lowcountry lawyer Alex Murdaugh is on trial for the double murder of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul. The trial has drawn national attention, hundreds of visitors and mobs of media.
The solution for filling all those bellies? Food trucks.
The trucks serve a variety of Southern comfort foods such as barbecue and mac and cheese. New spins on classics, like a barbecue parfait – a stacked cup of pulled pork, baked beans and coleslaw – also are on the menu.
Only three of the city’s five restaurants serve lunch.
And those three restaurants wouldn’t have the capacity to handle the volume of people coming out of the courthouse during lunch breaks, said Scott Grooms, Walterboro’s director of tourism and downtown development.
“Now, 120 people plus are getting out at 1:10, and they’ve got to be back in by 1:30 or 2:30 or whenever it’s going to be,” Grooms said. “(Walterboro) can’t do that.”
To tackle the problem, Grooms sent out a call on Facebook for food truck owners across the state to come and help.
Food truck owners had to get a business license from the city.
The application process only took five minutes, according to “Ms. Mikki,” the owner of Mamma Mikki’s food truck. She said she was one of the first ones to respond to Walterboro’s post.
Those who have eaten at the trucks appreciated Mamma Mikki’s presence, with one passerby saying that she served “the best burger I’ve had in a long time.”
The trucks are rotated in and out to allow many vendors to take part.
Half of the trucks are from Walterboro. The others come from nearby towns like Bluffton, Estill and Moncks Corner.
“If you are local to the city of Walterboro, you can stay here for the duration of the trial,” said Tara Langdale, who is working at Blazin’s Blaine’s. “They’re trying to circulate the other spots for people that are from out of town.”
It’s not just visitors in the city that have been benefiting from the trucks.
“We get a lot of business from the schools and businesses,” Mikki said. “Now they get lunch, too!”
The food trucks also have pulled in out-of-town visitors who came for the trucks themselves – not the trial.
“We’ve been keeping up with the trial,” said Charlie Eustace of Summerville, who hit the trucks on Wednesday. “And it was mentioned the food trucks were coming, so we thought we’d come down.”
The trucks are parked in a lot behind the Walterboro Wildlife Center in the center of town. The center is serving as the press overflow facility for journalists without courtroom access.
On Wednesday, five trucks moved people at a brisk pace through the lines during the lunch break.
One of the center’s employees, Cecily Russell, said that while she prefers to bring her own lunch from home, hosting the food trucks and the journalists has been entertaining.
“I’ve enjoyed them – everybody,” Russell said.
Reporters Abby Foncannon and Taylor Beltz contribute reporting.
The food trucks accept cash and card payments.
Journalists can walk a few feet to the food trucks from the media overflow room at the Walterboro Wildlife Center in the city’s center.
Journalists and visitors can eat outside at picnic tables set up around the food trucks.
Some food truck owners also operate restaurants in and around Walterboro.
ABOUT THE JOURNALISTS
Hinson is a senior multimedia journalism major at the University of South Carolina. She has worked as a writer, assistant editor and managing editor for the student-run Garnet & Black Magazine. The self-proclaimed “Mouth of the South” focuses on unique and underrepresented perspectives in the American South. In her free time, she enjoys flipping through cookbooks.
Walker is a junior journalism major at the University of South Carolina and a Columbia native. She has covered downtown development and is a copy editor for The Daily Gamecock. When she’s not on the job, she enjoys poetry, shoe shopping and hanging out with her dog Oscar.
Rainey is a junior journalism major at the University of South Carolina. He enjoys covering local sports, food, culture and entertainment. After graduation, he plans on attending law school and practicing media law. In his free time, he co-hosts and produces a sports podcast, watches too much soccer and reads.