September 23, 2012

Food Trucks in the City

I recently attended a unique dinner event with the Chicago Dietetic Association hosted not at a sit-down restaurant per usual, but instead featuring food truck cuisine in an outdoor venue.  On this lovely late-summer evening, 100 members arrived on the campus to find options from famous food trucks in the city of Chicago:  Falafel Brothers, Beyond Borders, and Gigi’s Bake Shop.  I couldn’t help but wonder – is the food truck phenomenon here to stay?

 Food trucks have gained popularity in the past several years; flourishing even in the questionable economic condition.  Chicago hosts food truck festivals in several neighborhoods during the summer where people come to check out their favorite mobile-cuisines.  However, food trucks are not a new invention; they have been around for more than a hundred years.  Early models include “Chuck Wagons” or mobile kitchens catering to laborers.  Today’s laborers certainly are not the railroad workers of the old days.  Instead, food trucks have been hugely popular with urban office workers.  These traveling restaurants on wheels have exploded in popularity in big cities with the metropolitan lunch crowd due to their quick service, affordable prices and variety of offerings.  Los Angeles boasts the largest selection of food trucks in the nation, but cities across the US including Portland, Austin, New York and Boston have embraced the food truck culture.

 Chicago is finally starting to open their roads and parking lots to food trucks.  This past summer, the Chicago City Council approved a food truck ordinance. These new food truck laws will allow food trucks to cook and assemble food on their trucks instead of having to prepare and package them beforehand. Previously their operating hours were between 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., but now food trucks will be able to operate from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m seven days a week. They will be able to legally park in the same location for two consecutive hours. The drawbacks for this new ordinance are a 200-foot buffer zone, truck owners are required to use a GPS tracking system, and $1,000 fines will be applied for parking violations. The 200-feet rule is to protect all brick and mortar retail food establishments, but in some parts of downtown Chicago meeting that requirement may pose an extra challenge for these vendors.

Hungry for more on food trucks and where to find them? Check out the Food Truck Freak at! 

Co-writer: Brooke Schantz , CDA Program Committee Chair

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