It used to be that street food meant a greasy hot dog from a stand on a busy corner. Things have changed, now it's some of the hippest and most interesting food around; served from recycled and re-fitted vans, ambulances and trucks.
From London to New York to Portland, exotic snack trucks are popping up and bringing with them some civic issues.
Photo: B. Alter
Some Food Truck Facts
Food trucks first came into vogue in 2008. The busiest day is Monday, 75% take only cash and a standard refurbishment of an old truck or van costs about $40,000. Zagat's food guide now includes a section on them in their reviews.
A Brief Tour of the Truck Scene
There is a bustling scene in London, so much so that they have their own organization, eat st. "driving British street food forward." Some of the more intriguing: Eggonomics which serves healthy twists on standard egg-fare such as omelettes stuffed with feta cheese and strawberries, camembert and cherry jam. Or Salad Club that serves meaty wraps and salads that change with the seasons and the weather.
New Yorker's love their street food: pretzels have long been standard fare on the smartest streets. But with the new proliferation of food trucks, the police have started to clamp down. The law prohibits the sale of merchandise from metered parking spots, which is where food trucks set up and lately the police have begun to ticket regularly, particularly in the Midtown area. This has left many sad seekers of lunch who had become used to their food truck community.
Toronto tried to regulate their food carts by stipulating the size and shape of the carts and limiting the number of legal ones and making it prohibitively expensive for the chosen few. No creativity or customization allowed. It backfired badly and now they have relaxed the laws somewhat. This month an event called Food Truck Eats will be held, with 15 different chefs participating. With names like The Giuseppe Taco, The Buddha Belly and The Kim Jong Illin' the pickings sound pretty good.
Portland is the poster child for food trucks, like so many other things. The city has decided that turning a blind, or indulgent, eye to them is the best policy. A report from their planning department sums it up best. It found that food carts had "significant community benefits" precisely because they foster social interactions on the sidewalks, bringing life to neighbourhoods. The carts are now hailed as a point of civic pride.