Food Trucks: A History
Food trucks have been around for decades. Actually, if you consider the chuck wagon, created in 1866, mobile eateries have been around for well over a century.
Of course, the first diner, established in 1872, was actually a food truck. Creator Walter Scott parked his horse-drawn freight wagon in front of the Providence Journal offices and sold hard-boiled eggs and sandwiches to its workers. Over the years, grease trucks, roach coaches and mobile kitchens have been frequented by many, but it wasn’t until recently, when former Le Bernardin chef Roy Choi started the asian fusion truck Kogi Korean BBQ in Los Angeles, that these perennial meals-on-wheels got any respect. Now, acclaimed food trucks, many of which you can track on Twitter, are sought out as fervently as five-star restaurants. People like that you can enjoy a high-quality meal at low-level street prices. MainStreet lets you know which ones to include on your next worldwide food truck tour. Many of these food trucks are in New York City and Los Angeles so if you have suggestions of food trucks near you, let us know.
LOCATION: Marfa, Texas
KNOWN FOR: Marfalafel ($5.50, $6.50 with hummus)
Krista Steinhauer sells Mediterranean-influenced street food out of this converted 1974 Ford delivery truck that has been featured by Food and Wine magazine, CNN, Forbes and even National Geographic. The signature marfalafel features a large flour tortilla filled with falafel balls, fresh romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, tahini, yogurt and harissa sauce. The truck, which parks in the same location daily, has an accompanying dining cart for cold days that is actually a converted school bus.
Photo Credit: ideowl
Calexico Carne Asada
LOCATION: New York
KNOWN FOR: Carne Asada Burrito ($8)
Started by three brothers, Jesse, Brian and Dave Vendley, this Mexican food cart was named New York’s best back in 2008 and in 2010, the subsequent restaurant of the same name won Time Out New York’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Mexican Restaurant. The cart, which features a mix of cheap eats and more creative high-end fare, is frequented by many celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson who want in on the good eats.
Photo Credit: thegirlsny
Kogi Korean BBQ
LOCATION: Los Angeles, but travels throughout California
KNOWN FOR: Pork Tacos ($2), Kimchi Quesadillas ($5) and Short Rib Sliders
Launched in 2008, Choi and Co. started using food bloggers to tell patrons where their trucks would be parked and their Korean-Mexican fusion became all the rage. Kogi Korean Barbecue now has four trucks, more than 50,000 followers on Twitter and plenty of patrons willing to wait 45 minutes just to grab a bite. Choi was recently named Food and Wine magazine’s “Best New Chef” in 2010 and his fleet was given a Bon Appétit award in 2009. An accompanying Kogi restaurant, Chego, just opened in Los Angeles in April.
Photo Credit: arnold inuyaki
KNOWN FOR: Indian-spiced Donuts ($5)
Launched in 2007 by professional chefs Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson, the Chef Shack has an eclectic menu that includes beef tongue tacos, watermelon gazpacho, tempura-fried soft-shell crab sandwiches, fried green tomatoes, goats' milk ice cream and bison burgers. Named as one of Forbes’ Elite Street Eats, the Chef Shack’s ingredients are purchased at local family farms within Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Photo Credit: carla januska
LOCATION: Los Angeles
KNOWN FOR: Bacon Jam ($12)
Started in 2007 by Josh Henderson, Skillet serves high-end “diner” entrees from refurbished Airstream Trailers. The menu includes Tomato Basil Soup, Trailer-Made Thai Style Red Curry and Kobe Beef Burgers featuring the aforementioned bacon jam. (Cooks render bacon with onions and spices for six hours before pureeing and chilling it into jam, which you can actually order online.) The truck is so popular, it’s been featured by Time, Details, USA Today and NBC.
Photo Credit: arnold inuyaki
The Dessert Truck
LOCATION: New York City
KNOWN FOR: Chocolate Bread Pudding ($6)
This New York dessert truck recently expanded to a brick-and-mortar bakery in lower Manhattan, but its award-winning trucks are still available for private events. Started by a Jerome Chang, Susana Garcia and Vincent Jaoura, who met while working as pastry chefs for the world-renowned restaurant Le Cirque, The Dessert Truck is famous for its chocolate bread pudding, which bested Bobbie Flay’s version on a 2008 episode of Throwdown.
Photo Credit: jasonlaw
LOCATION: Southern California
KNOWN FOR: Ice Cream Sandwiches ($4)
This converted postal van serves all-natural handmade ice creams of classic and seasonal varieties packed between two homemade cookies of your choice. Coolhaus sandwiches come in an edible wrapper printed on with edible ink, making for a truly unique product that has been featured by Vogue, Daily Candy, The Los Angeles Times and Fox News. The truck debuted at the 2009 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival with the help of co-founders Natasha Case and Freya Estreller.
Photo Credit: jislander
Green TruckLOCATION: Los Angeles
KNOWN FOR: Mother Trucker Birthday (their signature vegan burger, $6)
Featuring healthy and organic food, the Green Truck runs on vegetable oil previously used by other food companies in the Los Angeles area. The food trucks, which also house a successful organic catering business that has been http://greentruckonthego.com/ endorsesd by HBO, MTV, AOL and Yahoo (among other major corporations), also have solar-powered kitchens.
Photo Credit: Darwin Bell
LOCATION: Washington, D.C.
KNOWN FOR: Frozen Yogurt (cone with no toppings: $2; small: $5; big: $7; each topping: $.50)
In 2007, Nicolas Jammet, Jonathan Neman and Nathaniel Ru launched Sweetgreen, a healthy eatery that features salads, yogurt and seasonal selections. Sweetflow Mobile takes the healthy eats to the streets and gives patrons an alternative to traditionally heavy street food. The yogurt is fat-free, all-natural and full of live, active cultures. In the wintertime, the mobile kitchen serves a twist on oatmeal, which is blended with quinoa, topped with fruit and flambéed upon request.
Photo Credit: lcvoters
The Buttermilk Truck
LOCATION: Los Angeles
KNOWN FOR: Pancake Bites ($4)
Pastry chef Gigi Pascaul started this food truck so patrons could have breakfast all day long. The truck’s popular pancakes, waffles and doughnuts are actually made to order and all of the pastries and biscuits are made from scratch daily. Named a Zagat Food Truck of the Week in November 2009, the Buttermilk Truck also has a custom-made breakfast sandwich that comes with rosemary garlic hash browns.
Photo Credit: ricardodiaz