It is impossible to deny that the food truck revolution is the hottest thing in the food world today. You can find them on the streets of nearly every American city, dishing out a seemingly infinite variety of cuisines from tacos to lobster to banh mi. The low overhead and creative freedom that this business model provides is increasingly drawing very talented chefs to leave the kitchen and take their culinary shows on the road. Why are food trucks so popular right now? How can you take advantage of this growing movement in order to eat really well on the cheap?
The rise of the mighty Food Truck
Photo by Jeffrey Zeldman
Food trucks comprise an over 1 billion dollar industry. During the recession, many chefs lost their jobs since fewer people went out to eat. Food trucks offered a low-risk, low-overhead way to run their own kitchen. The fact that these trucks can provide quality food at much lower prices makes them more appealing to budget-conscious consumers.
The rise of social media has contributed to the interactive nature of food trucks. Twitter and Facebook allow popular trucks to keep in touch with fans and announce their menus and locations daily.
Five-Star Cuisine on a Budget
Photo by Tannaz
Trapped inside the confines of a cramped truck, most food trucks are forced to specialize, which often means they offer only a few perfectly crafted menu items made with excellent (often locally sourced) ingredients. The industry now attracts a huge variety of different cuisines and concepts reflecting the incredible diversity of America: Guerilla Street Food in St. Louis is gourmet Filipino food, while Where Ya At Matt in Seattle offers authentic Cajun cuisine to Northwest diners.
Fusion is in Fashion
Photo by Tammy Gordon
Fusion food is also common, like the popular Kogi food truck in Los Angeles that specializes in Korean-Mexican food (think kimchi tacos). Fine dining is also making its way into the scene. The People’s Pig in Portland specializes in house-made porchetta, while Fukuburger in Las Vegas serves gourmet burgers with a Japanese twist. Celeb chef Jose Andres even operates a food truck in DC, Pepe Food Truck, that offers up Spanish tapas and sandwiches. Compared to a brick and mortar restaurant, which requires investors, managers and a steady income stream to cover things like rent and décor, food trucks have an incredible degree of freedom. This allows the new-American chefs to experiment and innovate on a level you won’t find in most restaurants today.
Where to Find Them
Photo by Mr.TinDC
When you buy a meal from a street truck you are not paying for waiters, ambiance or even seating, you are just paying for the food itself — prices are significantly lower than they might otherwise be. If you are interested in Room5g our the food truck scene in your city, a simple Google search will give you a good idea of what’s available. Most food trucks cluster in certain locations during lunchtime, and many cities now have food truck festivals where trucks congregate all at once, allowing you to sample to your heart’s content. Once you’ve found a truck you love you can then track them online — the hunt is part of the adventure.