Is the age of the food truck finally coming to an end?
Financial woes and limited permits are keeping food-truck numbers flat—here are five trucks we never want to see roll away
Tue May 13 2014
Photograph: Lizz Kuehl
According to a report in Crain's New York, not only is the rent too damn high, but the cost of running a food truck is, too. It takes a lot of taco sales (or waffle sales, slushie sales, etc.) to keep a food business running, whether it's on wheels or not, and just getting the permit can be prohibitively expensive. Despite the ever-increasing popularity of food trucks with the general public, the city still only allows 3,000 two-year permits for street-food vendors, 1,000 seasonal permits and 1,000 green carts. Of those permits, just 500 are issued to food trucks.
"The number hasn't changed since the '80s and there's still the same number of permits for New York that are in use," said Adam Sobel, who operates Cinnamon Snail, the city's first organic vegan food truck. Running a truck is a challenge in many ways, and permits problems are just one—Sobel cites parking competition as another major gripe. "Some of the parking spots we're been parking at for years have become really difficult to get a spot at. A lot of trucks will get there earlier than us and take ours."
There are new food trucks popping up, of course—the black market isn't exactly a secret, and a $200 permit can (and does) sell for a hundred times that. It's a big risk, though, and there's no real guarantee trucks will stick around since they're technically operating outside the law.
With all these issues, it's not surprising that some chefs who, a few years back, would have been tempted to get brand recognition by starting off on the street, are skipping that step altogether and looking for more traditional brick-and-mortar spaces instead. This, obviously, is a big shame for food-truck lovers: Whether it's looking out for Korilla BBQ's distinctive black and orange stripes in midtown or inhaling the sizzling batter scent wafting from Wafels & Dinges on Seventh Avenue, it's hard to imagine this city without the constant influx of new options, and we shudder to think of what we'd do if they vanished altogether. Here are five trucks we hope never drive off into the sunset.
Calexico is as artisanal as it gets. Favorites from the Cali-Mex–style truck include the Baja fish tacos, rice bowls and wet burritos—plus their signature crack sauce.
It's pretty hard to make a bad grilled cheese, but it's not easy to make a truly memorable once, and Milk Truck succeeds in that. The classic shouldn't be overlooked, but the bacon cheddar blue shouldn't, either.
Kimchi Taco Truck's Korean fusion fare is a revelation. From enormous burritos and the sides of Korean-rice gnocchi to the short-rib tacos and tofu edamame falafel bowl, it never disappoints. (The spice factor ranks high, too.)
It's too easy to mock Van Leeuwen's adorably old-fashioned truck, but fortunately the artisanal flavors are the perfect distraction (currants and cream! palm sugar!), and its near-perfect cone speaks for itself.
Kelvin's award-winning, well-praised slush lives up to the hype. In addition to his mix-you-own fruit flavors, this summer, look for Kelvin's floats made with Blue Marble ice cream.
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
You might also like
Send tips to:
Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)