It is easy to understand the need to eat on the run. In recent years, however, the rise in the variety and the quality of food trucks in the U.S. reflects changes consumer eating habits as well as the food industry itself. There are a couple of reasons for this paradigm. In this article, we examine the reasons for the current phenomenon as well as to present our list of the top food trucks in the country. Read on!
Most culinary school-educated chefs who rise to the top ranks in multi-star restaurants want to break out and open their own dining establishment. As most new dining ventures fail within the first two years, financing a new restaurant can be hard to come by. Also, many industries were adversely affected by the 2008 economic downturn forcing a sector of the population to look to themselves for employment. A food truck makes an ideal start-up for would-be culinary entrepreneurs. It is relatively low-cost (as compared to a brick and mortar) to purchase and maintain. Best of all, ‘down the road’ should owners decide to open a brick and mortar, they have already culled a loyal following, thereby increasing their chances for business success.
An added perk is mobility. Being locked into a lease in a section of town impacted by say, a long-term construction project preventing pedestrians in the area, will soon shutter most local establishments. With a food truck, however, if foot traffic wanes or proves seasonal, owners can just move their business to a new location, such as a stadium, outside a college lecture hall, a new neighborhood, or one of many tourist attractions. Aside from foot traffic, how do people find these businesses? Advertising is simpler and cheaper as well. No other industry takes full advantage of social media like food truck owners. They utilize this inexpensive marketing tool to get the word out to followers about their location, times, menu, promotions, etc., thereby creating a buzz and often, lunch lines around the block. In addition, food truck owners are not even locked into a certain cuisine, they can change their menus on the fly to comply with whatever their trade demands. This makes food trucks an ideal solution for those who dream of owning their own business, as well as the flexibility not offered brick and mortars to quickly adapt to changing consumer tastes. In a later article, we’ll discuss how to get into the food truck business, the expenses, requirements, et. al. Until then, here is our list of the top ten food trucks currently serving up taste sensations nationwide.
In Brazil the word for barbecue is Churrascaria, and that is that you’ll get in this carnivore’s delight. (Vegans, scroll down, you’ll have your day, too.) Strangely, this steakhouse on wheels began as a butcher shop! Now it offers a full menu featuring Brazilian pork sausage, pork ribs, filet mignon wrapped in crisp bacon, and cue-based meals starring succulent leg of lamb. This trendy yet very affordable meals on wheels venue is popular for lunch and dinner.
Yep. Get ready for a mobile Korean-Mexican fusion experience. From the land that brought you kimchi and gochujang sauce expect these in tandem with rice, chopped raw veggies, fried egg, cheese, sour cream and crushed sesame seeds in a fried taco shell or rolled into a burrito. Just add a squeeze of lime and rejoice!
Food trucks are known for introducing far-flung cuisines and adapting them to local tastes. The Bing Mi truck’s focus is jianbing, a peasant dish from Northern China that elevates breakfast or lunch on the go. The most popular menu items features scrambled eggs, black bean paste, chili sauce, pickled veggies, along with green onion and crispy noodles all rolled into a crepe. Yes, a crepe that combines the tastes of sweet and sour, spicy, crunchy and chewy all in one deeply satisfying bite.
A 4th season win on the Food Network’s acclaimed “Great Food Truck Race” jump started this local favorite known for its authentic Hawaiian cuisine. Popular with natives as well as tourists, Aloha Plate is best known for their braised beef Loco Moco, Huli Huli Chicken Tacos, Venison Chili Moco, and Pork Adobo. Owners/brothers Adam and Lanai Tabura do not have culinary degrees, rather they rely on their mom’s recipes, including those that feature Hawaii’s signature protein, Spam.
One might think the food truck industry in Michigan is centered around college towns like Ann Arbor. Not so! Since 2011 El Guapo Fresh Mexican Grill (hungry yet?) has offered authentic tacos, burritos, and more as well as specialties like their pork belly taco and shrimp burrito. Best of all, and the reason this gem makes our list, is the price: nothing costs more than $9. Eat hearty in the Motor City!
Only in a town full of food trucks could we find a deserving vegan restaurant on wheels. Still not certain why it is so named, but the fare is anything but ordinary. Vegan sandwiches are the order of the day and include their Red Curry Tofu on a grilled pretzel bun with pickled jalapenos, carrots, curried cashews, arugula, and Sriracha mayo. Their burger is crafted from sage-smoked seitan with baked ziti, marinated kale, smoked chili coconut bacon (yes!), and roasted garlic aioli. Many of their foods are cooked sous vide. They’ll gladly adapt their menu items for the gluten intolerant, however be warned that there are also over 30 doughnuts and pastries daily. The only wonder is where they keep all their ingredients!
A New Jersey staple since 2012 this cue joint burst on the scene and, in lieu of opening risky additional brick and mortars, quickly dispatched food trucks throughout the state. What’s the fare? Sliders, chili, tacos, ribs, and quesadillas with beef brisket or pulled pork as the protein. And locals as far as Philly (land of the cheesesteak) cannot get or say enough good things about Oink and Moo’ goods!
When the world beats a path to your door, your truck can stay put. Long a Cape Elizabeth staple, the Bite Into Maine food truck offers every known variation of lobster roll including Maine (with mayo), Connecticut (hold the mayo), curry, wasabi, chipotle, and their house version on a bed of coleslaw. Every roll is made using locally sourced lobster and tastes even fresher than you can imagine! P. S.: Their scratch-made desserts from local fruit are worth the trip alone!
The Waffle Bus came out of somewhere to become a top contender on numerous lists and was featured on The Food Network, Cooking Channel, and Zagat. Waffles. Sweet or savory, it is what they do. For an upscale treat, try their Strawberry Irish Cream Brulee. Looking for dinner? The Waffle Bus’ twist on fried chicken and waffles includes spicy mayo or ancho chile honey!
Not your mama’s Mac and Cheese! Classically trained chef/owner Derrick Turton serves up unique combinations of this childhood staple using ingredients such as crab meat, beef, salmon, and pizza! This food truck’s constantly innovative menu rates top billing and it’s over 50,000 social media followers agree!
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