Starland Yard went up in a matter of months, but it’s a project many years in the making.
Food trucks! Pizza from Kyle Jacovino! Giant Jenga! Lawn games! Starland Yard is an adult playground fueled by artisanal street food and frozen craft cocktails. (Ever try a frozen negroni? A fro-groni, if you will?) Packaged in repurposed shipping containers painted by local mural artists, it appeals to the zeitgeist of the Starland District and all of its attendant factional affairs.
Partners Guy Davidson and Nico Ormond dreamed up the food truck park slash communal backyard after a trip Davidson took to Oklahoma City where he visited Bleu Garten, a similar space. “I saw the concept and it was just like, lightbulb,” Davidson said. A developer by day, Davidson already owned the property at Whitaker and 40th and had just found the perfect way to put it to use.
That was five years ago. It was a concept long in the making, but the park itself came together in a matter of months. Shipping containers started showing up on the empty lot in November of last year, raising curiosity and anticipation in the neighborhood. Davidson and Ormond knew they wanted to venture into the restaurant industry as owner/operators but finding the right managing partner with industry cred took some time. They found it in Pila Sunderland of Alleycat Lounge.
Sunderland and John Benhase, Culinary and Operations Consultant, are the masterminds behind the systems that make the food truck park tick. They were charged with creating a payment system that had to work for the trucks, the bar, Pizzeria Vittoria Napoletana (Kyle Jacovino’s pizza shop, and the only brick-and-mortar restaurant in the space) and the patrons. Guests check in upon arrival and start a tab. Anything purchased in the space — drinks, food from the food trucks — can be charged to the tab and paid in cash or credit upon exiting.
The system lends a funhouse, amusement park atmosphere to the place. On weekends, a restless (but swiftly moving) line forms. Guests get wristbanded then bust through the gates like kids on a field trip. It’s a little more subdued than that, but you get the picture. “The scenario for a lot of families is usually one where Daddy’s got the wallet, and there’s a line for Truck A and Truck B and Truck C. Dad’s doing nothing but standing in lines,” Ormond said. “My seven-year-old is like ‘dessert, dessert, dessert.’”
The space opened up a world of opportunity for Savannah’s food trucks. “To a truck, they’re all doing more business there than they can do anywhere else,” Davidson noted. Acting as incubators for up-and-coming chefs, food trucks provide a way for people without much start-up capital to get their talent in front of a hungry audience. And the audience at Starland Yard showed up with empty bellies and much enthusiasm.