Home > Food > What’s so Great About Food Trucks?

What’s so Great About Food Trucks?

It looks like Los Angeles isn’t alone in trying to figure out what to do with the rising popularity of food trucks, often referred to as lunch trucks, or gourmet food trucks. The long standing tradition of the taco truck – cheap, simple tacos often hawked in working-class neighborhoods – is being joined by everything from pizza to cupcakes to barbecue. These trucks have been featured on Food Network and Travel Channel shows, and showcase a wide variety of meals and desserts. Los Angeles and Orange

Food trucks at South Bay Din-din a go-go in Carson, CA

Counties seem to be ground zero for this trend, as they are home to hundreds of food trucks. St. Louis only recently followed suit with the popular gourmet pizza restaurant Pi operating it’s own truck, which went live earlier this year. Georgina Gustin of the St. Louis Post Dispatch summarizes the new mobile meal experience nicely:

The popularity of food trucks, though, has as much to do with the novelty of the experience and the spontaneous community that pops up when a food truck rolls into town and parks for a couple of hours. After many food truck drivers find their spot, the first thing they do is post their location on social media sites, often Facebook and Twitter, and within minutes customers start trickling out of office buildings for lunch or a snack.


In most cases, and especially that of trucks like the Sugar Babies Cupcakery, food trucks are not just selling a food product, they’re selling an experience. Sugar Babies sells miniature cupcakes, delicately decorated in pretty colors, from their bright pink truck. The girls inside wear pink and grey dresses which evoke a 60’s-era look and novelty feel. This type of theme makes the food truck experience seem more special and exciting to a host neighborhood. Anyone can walk to a bakery and get cupcakes, but the Sugar Babies image is something unique and fun, and consequently, marketable.

I’ve spotted a few of the more popular trucks around LA, but I was only recently able to eat from one at a “South Bay Din-din a go-go” food truck meet-up event in Carson.

A Typical Food Truck "Storefront"

With the newfound excitement over “gourmet” or non-traditional trucks, comes plenty of debate points. Is a mobile restaurant fair competition for traditional ones? Are they held to the same health standards? What about parking regulations?

Personally, I think that these newer Food Trucks are a fun way to bring people together around good food. There’s just something exciting about shouting your order into the tiny window of a truck, shelling out a few bucks, and then eating some delicious food outside with other people. This phenomenon is relatively new to St. Louis, as permits for street food vendors are hard to come by, so I may be prone to some newcomer excitement. I recently ate from the Mandoline Grill Truck, and I have to say that I highly recommend the tofu.

I can definitely see however, how my opinion on this whole issue might be very different if I was the owner of a traditional “brick-and-mortar” restaurant. Parking a taco truck in front of a Mexican restaurant or a pizza truck in front of a pizzeria just isn’t a very fair or ethical business practice. On the other hand, these newer trucks provide more dining options in a given area and contrive opportunities for spontaneous neighborhood gatherings.

At times I think, “why would I go out of my way for a Korean BBQ truck when there’s Korean BBQ that people rave about right down the street?” but when the acclaimed Kogi Truck visits Long Beach, my thoughts change to “why get the same Korean BBQ I can get any day when the Kogi Truck is in town?” So maybe I can’t really answer the question “what’s so great?” about these new trucks, but I do recommend that everyone check them out.

At the very least, it’s good to hear that food trucks will soon be subject to the same health codes that any other restaurant must follow. As for parking regulations and competition issues, we’ll have to wait and see what happens. For now, I’ll just enjoy the fun, community, and good food.


Sources: Bussiness Week, KPCC, stltoday (Post-Dispatch)

Categories: Food Tags: , , ,
  1. December 4, 2010 at 8:58 PM

    In Southern CA Gourmet Food Trucks have always been subject to the same health codes. In fact they are inspected many more times than a restaurant. Most restaurants are inspected 2 times a year. Gourmet Food Trucks are inspected the same 2 times minimum same rules plus more. Most due to being at special events like the Lon Beach Street Food Fest are inspected 5-20 times a year. Most events the trucks are inspected before they can open.

    Now I think your referring to the “Letter Grades” in LA City that is new but it only give the public an idea of how they rated in the inspection that already take place.


    • December 6, 2010 at 5:19 PM

      Thanks for the clarification – that makes a lot of sense.

  2. December 3, 2010 at 9:46 PM

    “Parking a taco truck in front of a Mexican restaurant or a pizza truck in front of a pizzeria just isn’t a very fair or ethical business practice.”

    That’s way they don’t. Most cities require a minimum of 200′ between the location a truck parks and where the restaurant is located. I 99% of the cases a taco truck isn’t going to park near a Taquería because they owners do have ethics.

    • December 3, 2010 at 10:07 PM

      I didn’t know about the 200′ rule. Interesting. It seems that this is an issue that concerns many people/lawmakers who aren’t on the side of food trucks. Check out the KPCC story I referenced – there’s some interesting debate.

      • December 3, 2010 at 10:22 PM

        Many of these politicians have been lobbied by local restaurant and merchant associations. Chicago is working on their own legislation right now. We’ll have to wait until the mayoral election before anything gets passed though.

  3. December 3, 2010 at 8:00 PM

    Mayor Slay seems to support STL’s cupcake and Pi Pizza trucks, and we know he’s behind the guy hawking Gus’ Pretzels in ST. Louis Hills, but I’m surious to see how this new scene unfolds in STL.

  4. Ben
    December 3, 2010 at 7:57 PM

    STL just passed a bunch of new rules cracking down on these sorts of things.

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