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Feb 8, 2010 07:02 AM

What's the appeal of food trucks?

It's hard not to notice the popularity -- or more precisely, the frenzy -- over food trucks.

These are just some of the stories ...

My question is what exactly is the appeal of food trucks?

Wouldn't one presume that food made out of a full-scale kitchen (i.e. a restaurant) would be better than one made from the back of a truck?

And food trucks aren't really about convenience, at least not these. You actually have to follow these guys around on twitter and then when you locate them, the lines are usually at least 30 to an hour long in wait time.

Back in the day, we used to affectionely call food trucks "roach coaches" ...

But I guess times are different nowadays.

So how did food trucks go from gauche to haute?

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    1. If you have ever tasted a Frank Dog from "Lets Be Frank" or a Carne asada taco or Churro tots from Border Grill's truck, you would not ask this question

      1. I really don't seek out food truck vendors because I think it will be an incredible experience for me, but rather I do because it's convenient, I'm hungry and I like to support the little guys.

        I'm in suburbia, so the food truck vendors mostly carry breakfast items, hot dogs, burgers and tacos, schnitzel, roast chickens, fried chicken or seafood like the city streets.

        1. I think a lot of your basic questions are wrong. Let's see ...

          "Wouldn't one presume that food made out of a full-scale kitchen (i.e. a restaurant) would be better than one made from the back of a truck?" -- No. Using the same logic, the food that comes out of a big hotel kitchen would be better than that at your neighborhood bistro. There are lots of really good restaurants that have tiny, limited, kitchens. What makes food good is not where it's prepared or the equipment that's used, it's the quality of the ingredients and the degree of attention that's given to conceiving and executing the dish.

          "Back in the day, we used to affectionely call food trucks "roach coaches" ..." My recollection is that the traditional "roach coach" wasn't preparing food to order. It had premade sandwiches, breakfast pastries and snacks, and maybe some hot dogs in a water bath, but again, the only similarity between a "roach coach" and one of these modern mobile food vendors is that they're mobile.

          "My question is what exactly is the appeal of food trucks?"

          One thing that's made these upscale food trucks popular with both the owners and the patrons is the fact that there's a much more personal connection between the person preparing the food and the patron. Often the person who hands you the food is the person who made it, who is probably the chef/owner, and you can give him feedback on the spot. The appeal to chef/owners is being independent and creative and innovative without the hassle (and financial risk) of running a full-scale restaurant. I'm guessing the profit margins are pretty high: they're charging similar prices to what they'd charge in a bricks-and-mortar place, but with much less overhead and fewer hours. I don't know why people wait for long periods of time -- I don't wait that long for anything. But there's certainly an appeal to getting high-quality food without having to go into a restaurant, sit down, order, leave a tip, etc. Furthermore, while most people wouldn't go into a restaurant and just order a $2 dessert, you don't feel silly/uncomfortable/wasting time making a small purchase from a mobile vendor.

          Those are just a few reasons.

          1. I'm not exactly an ardent follower of food trucks, but there is a taco truck that I pass several times a week that has very well made tacos at a good price, and that is why I buy a quick merienda from that truck from time to time.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MMRuth

              We have taco trucks around here, and most of them serve a great taco, burrito, etc...., better in their unique way than many restaurant varieties (though I do love a good restaurant taco, they just aren't quite the same dish) They serve meat on two small, soft masa tortillas, and topped with chopped cilantro and onions, sometimes a little cooked salsa, with a lemon or lime to squeeze over top. So far I cannot find any taco at a sit-down restaurant that hits the spot (^__^)