Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The wide and wonderful world of food trucks

Want lunch? Don't have time to sit down and wait? Try a food truck. Rolling through the streets of Washington, you can now find crepes, lobster rolls, Korean tacos, cupcakes, and a long list of other culinary options. It was news to me that this phenomenon was so widespread when my colleagues rushed off to Adams Morgan one evening after work to get in line for $15 lobster rolls.

Today, the Washington Post's Food and Dining section highlights the food trucks trend, with a pull-out list of several mobile food vendors, including their Twitter handles so the hungry can find them:

Here's the longer feature, focusing on three of said trucks, Solar Crepes, Fry Captain, which sells fries and milkshakes, and Eat Wonky, featuring something called poutine, described as a Canadian dishes of fries smothered in gravy and cheese:

If this trend moves south, looks like my friend Hot Dog Mike in Little Rock might find himself with some competition.

But there's actually more to the story. My family recently engaged in a rather opinionated discussion over whether food trucks should be legal or not. The business types argued that they're stealing business from sit-down restaurants and that they're likely evading paying the appropriate taxes. The rest of us said, So? What's wrong with a little healthy competition? Small businesses struggle to survive, and this is a cheaper, faster way of getting your product out there without all the overhead. Down with government regulations on our culinary choices, said the libertarians! When it comes to increasing lunch choices, the only attitude is a laissez faire attitude.

D.C.'s Democratic Mayoral nominee, D.C. Council Chairman Vince Gray (who is essentially the mayor-to-be, considering he has no opponent), has threatened to use his new power to rein in the situation, however. "They need to play by the rules," he says, and they certainly shouldn't park in front of restaurants selling the exact same kinds of things.

The Post's All We Can Eat blog references one suggested resolution to the problem: a "food truck ghetto," a designated spot for mobile food vendors to set up shop:

The 2010 Curbside Cookoff, sponsored by the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, will feature 20 of the hottest food trucks. It's 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Oct. 7-8 at CityCenter DC, 11th Street and New York Ave., NW. The list of participating vendors is here:


  1. There was a food truck in Silver Spring that we used to go to in high burritos ever.

    But, it seems that they should be subject to the same taxes as a take out establishment. Skirting taxes entirely is anti competitive, but they shouldn't have to pay restaurant/luxury taxes because they aren't a restaurant in the same sense.

    (I'm using generalizations because I have no idea what the DC restaurant tax structure is like.)

  2. Once you regulate it, it's no longer hip.