From the basic chuck wagon cuisine 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, together 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 innovative vendors gladly answer the telephone. From early ice cream trucks into the hot dog vendors with their Vienna Beef umbrellas, thousands fall out of offices, factories and stores, led to that truck down the road where they know what they will find and don’t mind standing in line for it. Who needs stale vending machine foods or fast food hamburgers when we can get new falafel packed into pita bread, a plate of nachos or an authentic fish and chips wrapped in newsprint. What has evolved in the”roach coach” of yesteryear to a place 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 hottest and latest offerings from such meals-on-wheels across the country. Most of these truck operators have restaurants multiple locations, and many are culinary school graduate and chefs:
The Taco Truck – a variety of tacos and toppings, as well as burritos, Hoboken, NJ
Fukuburger Truck – the real last name of its Japanese owner, burgers feature odd Asian toppings and sauces, Las Vegas
Mac Mart Truck – requires mac and cheese to a new level with ingredients that are creative, 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 – inventive and diverse Squirrel Poop cuisine, Los Angeles
Cinnamon Snail – vegan food to the more health-conscious and non meat-eating audience, 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 large city Chinatown, of course you’ll find a preponderance of their native cuisines dotting the streets, but overall these are the most common menu items across the nation:
In the US, food trucks are a $1.2 billion industry. Despite the obvious challenges like 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 employees everywhere. Although chuck wagons may simply be nostalgia, the concept lives on. Food trucks. When you just can’t wait to eat.