Food trucks; what a novel concept. The fact that you can order food from the same vehicle that transports it. And not just any type of food, but gourmet items that can serve as your lunch or dinner. What at one time was nothing more than hot dog stands and ice cream trucks has evolved to become its own culture in many cities. Many food trucks have a cult following, with guests who will stand in long lines to have their favorite food truck entree, like beer battered fish tacos, falafel, sweet potato tater tots, and crème brûlée. Food trucks represent a new, unique way to eat while traveling and brings new meaning to eating on the go. Today I showcase the best food truck cities in America.
When you think of some of the best food cities in the U.S., what comes to mind? On that list would likely include New York City, San Francisco, and New Orleans, just to name a few. But the Washington D.C. food truck scene is worth noting. D.C. has been a little slower on the uptake, but features some unique foods that you probably wouldn’t expect, such as lobster rolls from the Brooklyn-based Red Hook Lobster Pound. Cheese lovers can appreciate some of the unique offerings, such as cheesy empanadas, poutine, and every kind of grilled cheese you could think of from The Big Cheese.
Anytime there’s a discussion about the best food truck cities in the U.S., Portland is going to be at the center of that discussion. Portland has been ahead of the curve in America, making food trucks more of a permanent part of the culture than other cities. Around Portland you’ll find pods with permanent food carts that cater to food truck lovers, many of which have ATMs, covered seating, and restrooms. Not to mention Portland has over 400 food trucks, which is double the trucks of many cities twice its size. Many of Portland’s trucks bring gourmet food to the streets, such as handmade pasta from Artigiano or goulash at Tábor.
New York, New York
It’s only natural that one of the best food cities in America would also be one of the best food truck cities. While many cities may take a little more work in finding food trucks, it’s a little bit easier to find trucks in Manhattan when there are so many. New York has a long street food history, one that dates back years, as Nathan’s Famous has its origins as a hot dog stand. The unique thing about New York is that because it’s such a fusion of cultures, you have a diversity of food to choose from. Anything you can find at a brick and mortar restaurant, you’re likely to also find from a nearby food truck. Many of the trucks are very specialized, such as Wafels and Dinges, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dessert waffles. Those with a sweet tooth will love New York City’s many dessert trucks, such as The Treats Truck and The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck.
San Francisco, California
The perks of the food truck scene in San Francisco is the organization of it. Familiarize yourself with the term “Off the Grid”. Off the Grid is a daily lunch and dinner round-up of local food trucks in neighborhoods around the Bay Area. These typically include anywhere from a couple to 15 trucks and take place in the East Bay, as well as San Francisco, in Oakland, Berkeley, and other Bay Area cities. The main event is on Friday nights in the Marina district of San Francisco when 30+ vendors gather at Fort Mason. The event includes live music and beer and cocktails from popular San Francisco bar, Alembic. You’ll find a lot of interesting spins on the classics, such as Baja fried fish tacos from The Taco Guys and Nutella and fresh strawberry crème brûlée from the Crème Brûlée Cart.
There are plenty of things to do and see in Denver, but you probably don’t typically think of Denver when it comes to foodie destinations in America. That and the brisk winter keeps food trucks at bay during most of the year. Nonetheless, Anthony Bourdain raved about his Denver street food experience during an episode of No Reservations. During the warmer months, food trucks gather a couple times a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays during lunch hours at the Civic Center. Civic Center Eats is in its seventh year and includes shaded tables and on-site ATMs for those who want to sit and stay a while. Quite possibly the most interesting truck in both design and food is the Pink Tank, which serves many traditional items with a twist, such as a burger topped with a fried egg or chicken and waffles.
Los Angeles, California
In Los Angeles, it’s all about the taco trucks. If you come to L.A. and only eat from one food truck, then make sure it involves tacos. The one negative thing about the food truck scene in Los Angeles is that it isn’t nearly as easy to navigate as a smaller cities like San Francisco, since it’s so spread out. Nonetheless, some of America’s most notable food trucks can be found in L.A., including the Kogi truck. The Kogi Truck is at the forefront of the Korean BBQ trend among street food vendors in Los Angeles. Kogi can be found throughout L.A. serving up their famous Korean barbecue tacos, of which the short rib is the favorite.
While Seattle isn’t as spread out as L.A., it’s another city that you’ll have to do your research since it doesn’t have the same organization as cities like San Francisco and Portland. The Seattle food truck scene may not have the same following and organization as other notable cities, yet showcases items that’ll rival any city’s best vendors. Marination is one of the most notable vendors, voted “America’s Best Food Truck” by Good Morning America. Marination can be found in multiple locations and even has a brick and mortar location in Capitol Hill, making a name for itself for their Korean barbecue tacos and sliders. For a taste of the deep south in the Pacific Northwest, there’s Where Ya At Matt, which features New Orleans favorites, like po’ boys, gumbo, jambalaya, muffulettas, and beignets.
While many of America’s top barbecue destinations aren’t exactly known for their barbecue food trucks, Austin is among the best food truck cities in America. The Sugar Shack is less truck and more trailer, or rather mobile shack, but a must if you’re looking for barbecue. However, Austin has its fair share of quirky food trucks, such as Ms. P’s Electric Cock, which serves up fried chicken and waffles, and Gourdough’s, housed in an old Airstream trailer and serving some of the biggest, most delectable doughnuts you’ve ever seen.