Florida man creates food truck park on a river of memories

BRITAIN MISENCIK, Pensacola News Journal

MILTON, Fla. (AP) — As lifelong Miltonian Steven Harrill remembers, his teenage summers were spent in Russell Harber Landing along the Blackwater River.

As a child, he remembers wading through water; as a teenager, sneaking through the woods around him. Now an adult, he runs a food truck there.

“When I was a kid I used to come here, it was more of a party place,” he admitted.

Although the peaceful property has been a hidden oasis, he seeks to put his childhood hangout on the map alongside his wife, Tasha Harrill, by creating the Blackwater Outpost Food Truck Park.

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The area is currently home to a slew of lodges, boat ramps, and picnic tables that teem with families, hammock loungers, and kayakers almost every weekend or holiday. Steven Harrill will throw a wave at his friends behind the wheel of his pontoon as he heads towards their meeting place, a sandbar nicknamed “Ski Beach”.

Although they make room for a variety of trucks to set up on the grounds, Tasha Harrill said it was important to them to maintain the integrity of the natural space.

Steven and Tasha Harrell point to picnic tables near their Blackwater Outpost food truck location along the Blackwater River on Russell Harbor Road in Milton.

“We’ve started clearing the land and we want to open in the spring,” Tasha Harrill said. “We want you to feel like you’re sitting on the river, not on a concrete slab.”

She said the project started with the purchase of 19 acres of land. They looked and imagined a place where the next generation of teenagers, like their high school aged cheerleader daughter, could hang out with their friends, but now in safer conditions than the place had there. years old.

Although the property is currently still deeply tree-lined, the couple can already visualize the fully developed park: the chords of live bands floating through the air and the slapping of a cornhole bag scoring on a board.

The two said they believe the park will bring something new and exciting to the area.

“Milton kind of stood still,” Steven Harrill said. “We love the downtown nostalgia but want it to continue.”

His wife added: “We also just wanted to leave something for the kids.”

They are still in the process of obtaining all the necessary permits, and although the two have many projects, the project also requires a lot of money and they finance it themselves. So they start small, and the first phase is a food truck named after the park, Blackwater Outpost.

After a hot day on the water, a ham and cheese sandwich doesn’t look as mouth-watering as a juicy, grilled burger.

As Tasha Harrill unwrapped her deep-packed sandwich in a container of ice while cruising down the river, she recalled wishing there was something to eat nearby instead.

Now, the food truck is committed to serving the needs of river rats and beachgoers alike, with the truck parked in the cul-de-sac for in-person orders or advance golf cart deliveries in one of the pavilions nearby. along Russell Harber Road.

The sandwiches are all affectionately named after local places. The “Ski Beach” burger is loaded with Colby Jack cheese, bacon, river sauce and topped with a hard fried egg.

Other notable bites include the hot and spicy ‘Sunburnt’ burger, topped with a fire buffalo sauce, bacon, Colby Jack cheese, jalapenos and ranch, and ‘The Pucker Point’ burger with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut topped with pickles and mustard.

The menu also offers a variety of wraps, such as the “Floating in the BBQ”, a barbecue chicken, bacon, cheese wrap with lettuce and tomato.

Most items on the menu are under $10.

The menu was a series of trial and error created while cooking for friends. Most of the items tested made it to the actual menu, but there are a few that the two had to give up due to the time it took to prepare. Still, some may be making a comeback, like the spiral-fried “tornado potato” or the s’more-inspired campfire puffs.

The truck also tours various neighborhoods and events in Milton and surrounding communities, where the food has already been well received.

“I didn’t realize how much I would love to be in a food truck until I rode one,” Tasha Harrill said. “We had 70 people in an hour and a half last night.”

Even working closely, her husband said the two worked well together and complemented each other in their different roles.

“She’s the software, I’m the hardware,” he teased.

The clean, freshly polished jet black truck that now bears the Blackwater Outpost logo is a far cry from the original design the two started using an MKT-90 field kitchen trailer.

Steven and Tasha Harrill first opened their Blackwater Outpost food truck in an MKT-90 field kitchen trailer originally used to feed military troops in Afghanistan.

Both of navy fathers, the Harrills were immediately taken with the unit’s history, learning that it was originally used to feed 1,000 soldiers a day in Afghanistan. He even still has his certification to be recovered by military helicopter.

“Who else has a food truck that can be transported by helicopter?” asked Tasha Harrill.

Some people will be confused by its rough exterior, while others will take one look and know exactly what it was used for.

“I haven’t seen one of these things since I’ve been on the service,” Steven Harrill said, customers will tell.

When they started using it, they realized it was a bit difficult to transport and maintain.

However, they still retained the unit and hope to install it in a fixed position on the property in the future.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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