Food Trucks Then and Now

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By Roaming Hunger

In 2008, a single, bright red painted flame would quite literally become the spark for an entire street food movement soon to be worth an estimated $1 billion.

With its deliciously crafted two-dollar Korean BBQ tacos, Kogi BBQ became an LA staple, the Godfather of food trucks, and the catalyst for a flock of 3,000 other food trucks that would take over streets around the country by 2013.  

Ask any Angeleno and they’ll tell you that it all started with Kogi – and to a certain degree they may be right. However, mobile street food is in no way a novelty idea.

Though the food is now labeled “gourmet” and the horse-drawn carts have been replaced with automatic four-wheel drives, the concept has remained the same: to bring unique street food to the masses.


The Ride Then and Now

Then: They may not look like much compared to the brightly wrapped, massive steel vehicles that we see on today’s streets; however, the chuckwagons (pictured on left) of the 1860s provided many a meal for American cowboys and cattle herders. Though they didn’t necessarily cook their food on the chuckwagon, it was used to store large quantities of dried food and cooking supplies for their long journeys across new frontiers. 

Now: From renovated school buses to newly built Mercedes sprinters, to the hundred percent electric Tuk Tuk scooters, 21st century food trucks are certainly not limited to the tarp-covered carriages of the past. Food trucks can be customized in a number of ways to reflect the flavor, feel and food of the truck. Inside, the trucks come equipped with full-service kitchens, and some food trucks have even installed state-of-the-art wood-fired ovens and smokers.


The Flavors Then and Now

In the 1900s, food carts began to crop up in densely populated urban areas. These carts cooked up what are now some of the tastiest American classics. A New Yorker on the go could choose from a number of delectable options: did they want a juicy hot dog drenched in relish and mustard? Or maybe they would opt for a lick of some sweet ice cream on a hot summer day? There is no denying that back then the recipes may have been simpler and the menus a bit more limited, but these traditional street food flavors have inspired some of the most amazing food truck dishes of all time.



The beauty of food truck entrepreneurs today is their recognition of America’s love affair with comfort foods. Lucky for us, they haven’t abandoned our favorite dishes in favor of a more “sophisticated” menu. No, they’ve simply added their own gourmet twists to reflect the diversifying palate of the modern foodie. Whether it’s topping a kobe-beef burger with foie gras, or stuffing a grilled cheese sandwich with braised short ribs, these beloved dishes just keep getting better and better. 


The Followers Then and Now

Believe it or not, mobile meals weren’t always for everyone. In fact, for a large part of the 20th century, soldiers at war and blue-collar workers made up the bulk of mobile food consumers. Now there are entire festivals dedicated to serving food truck food to any and all hungry citizens.


And Now:

The food truck followers of today are, well, just that – ‘followers,’ but instead of physically chasing down trucks, they tune in to Twitter to scout out the location of their next mobile meal. The presence of food trucks on social media has done wonders for the growth of the industry and remains one of the primary reasons for the success of the food truck movement in recent years. Through social media, food trucks can engage with fans, post their locations and Tweet about their changing menus. The emerging technologies of the past decade have been key in creating a large customer base that keeps foodies coming back again and again. Well that, and of course, the food. 


What Roaming Hunger says about their site (and why we love them): “We explained to our grandma like this, Roaming Hunger keeps track of street food. We list street food vendors and provide information and means for you to go eat from them. With Roaming Hunger, you will never go hungry.”

Basically, via their site, visitors are able to find the nearest street vendors, food carts and food trucks at any given time.  Check them out.  

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