Food Trucks: The Real Movable Feasts

From the basic chuck wagon fare of stews, beans and biscuits, we have come a long way and expect far more than the old cellophane wrapped sandwich of the 50s and 60s, along with stale coffee. Ethnic cuisines and made to order hot foods are now commonplace for harried on-the-run office workers, and we’re wiling to pay top dollar for the convenience.

In the 50s, mobile canteens serviced U.S. Army troops on bases and maneuvers, but they were little more than regulation chow. Americans have come to expect far more and creative vendors gladly answer the call. From early ice cream trucks to the hot dog vendors with their Vienna Beef umbrellas, thousands tumble out of offices, factories and stores, headed to that truck down the street where they know what they’ll find and don’t mind standing in line for it. Who needs stale vending machine foods or fast food burgers when we can get fresh falafel packed into pita bread, a plate of nachos or an authentic fish and chips wrapped in newsprint. What has evolved from the “roach coach” of the past to a venue that launched the career of many executive chefs, food trucks now even cater at special events, college campuses,conferences and weddings.

Let’s examine the most popular and latest offerings from these meals-on-wheels across the country. Most of these truck operators also have restaurants multiple locations, and many are culinary school graduate and chefs:

The Grilled Cheeserie – from basic to designer grilled cheese sandwiches, Nashville

The Taco Truck – a variety of tacos and toppings, as well as burritos, Hoboken, NJ

Fukuburger Truck – the actual last name of its Japanese owner, burgers feature unusual Asian toppings and sauces, Las Vegas

Mac Mart Truck – takes mac and cheese to a new level with creative ingredients, Philadelphia

Luke’s Lobster – lobster, crab and shrimp rolls for about $17 (clearly not for those on a budget) New York City

The Cow and Curd – cheese curds, batter dipped and deep fried, with dipping sauces, Philadelphia

Kogi BBQ – creative and diverse Korean cuisine, Los Angeles

Ms. Cheezious – more designer grilled cheese sandwiches, one of America’s favorite comfort foods, Miami

Cinnamon Snail – vegan food for the more health-conscious and non meat-eating crowd, with not a snail in sight (go figure) NYC

Oink and Moo BBQ – award-winning pork and beef BBQ with all the trimmings, NJ

If you venture into ethnic neighborhoods, such as a big city Chinatown, obviously you’ll find a preponderance of their native cuisines dotting the streets, but overall these are the most common menu items across the country:

Barbecue
Hamburgers
Hot dogs
Coffee and coffee drinks
Smoothies / healthy drinks and juices
“Grown-up” grilled cheese sandwiches
Sliders
Cupcakes and desserts
Street tacos and burritos
Sushi
Lobster rolls
Mediterranean menus / Gyros
Crepes with special toppings
Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches
Pizza
Ice cream and soft serve
Shaved ice / Italian ice
Indian food
Hawaiian food
Chicken wings

In the US, food trucks are a $1.2 billion industry. Despite the obvious challenges such as lack of hot running water, strict regulations, licenses and health laws, food trucks serve an important role in our society and provide a vital service to thousands of workers everywhere. Although chuck wagons may simply be nostalgia, the concept lives on. Food trucks. When you just can’t wait to eat.

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