The Food Truck Phenomenon which America is experiencing doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.These moving restaurants and carts are the single fastest growing segment in our food world. As a huge proponent of dining outside whenever possible, I’m a long time fan. I have lived in downtown D.C. and watched the trucks move beyond The Mall standard hotdog and eggroll guys to the likes of anise scented rice noodles at What the Pho? I introduced my daughter, clutching her newly purchased first American Girl Doll, to the pleasue of a freshly prepared personal picnic in the shade of Bryant Park, NYC thanks to the food trucks which surround it. In fact,our featured product at outdoorLUX.com is the EVO Flat Top Grill which it is made near Portland, Oregon. Whenever we are in Portland, I make it a point to eat my way through several “pods” or groups of trucks while there. With more than 600 trucks and carts, Portland’s food truck and cart scene is legendary.
The many “Pods” clustered around the city, are a worthwhile culinary adventure to walk, taste, and smell.(If you are blessed to find yourself in Portland hungry, be sure and visit www.FoodCartsPortland.com for a complete current rundown of food truck offerings and locations.) New Orleans has just recently opened their city’s first Food Truck Park which operates similarly to Portland’s “Pods”. Los Angeles (thank you Kogi BBQ guys!), San Francisco, and Austin all boast hundreds of trucks on their streets. In fact, most American cities now have a least a small showing of this growing and popular segment of food suppliers.
So why is America in love with Food Trucks? I believe that they are filling the ever growing consumer demand for better, higher quality, and more diverse “fast food”. America is not going to give up its worship of “Fast” anytime soon. But we are beginning to demand what Europeans and Asian countries have a long tome ago- quick doesn’t have to mean low quality. Maybe your neighborhood can’t support it’s own Vietnamese, Fusion, or Lobster Roll restaurant, but a truck visiting once a week gives you that variety. And this allows for trucks to specialize, like the Crème Brulee truck you can find in San Francisco, CA. It offers fantastic variations on the classic dessert favorite. Not a very easy storefront to open, but an amazing food truck phenomenon! And for the first time in history, fast food giants (picture a large M here) are showing market slippage and looking for new solutions. While enterprising new chefs and some long time veterans are hiting the road much to the delight of many hungry patrons.
So, how often do you eat at a local Food truck? Friends of mine recently held a great 50th Birthday party in their backyard and had it catered with a cool retro truck featuring a built in brick oven for pizza truck by the name of Coastal Crust. It was a wonderful and unique party, that had the added benefit that it didn’t seem to exhaust the hosts. On my last visit to China, the street food markets in Beijing and Hong Kong were some of my favorite sensory memories.
And although I always make it a point to hunt down the” hot” new Food Trucks or seek out my old favorites when traveling, I confess to not patronizing our Charleston Food Truck scene with any regularity. But why? This logical question occurred to me while attending my favorite party of 2014, the Charleston Wine and Food Ticket Launch last month. The photo montage here should easily illustrate why it became my favorite ( as well as probably convincing you to get tickets for it next year)!
This was an outdoor party with a truly fun and unique concept. It was interactive and laid back and a fantastic way to get everyone excited for the 10 year anniversary of Charleston Wine and Food festival. Held at the stunning Power Point Building in N.Charleston it featured live music, various high end bars, carts, and lots of local Food trucks. The creative twist was the folks at CHWF had teamed up each truck with a well known Charleston Chef (from mostly higher pay grade establishments) and had them sweating and serving like a regular guy on the street.
In a word, fun. The antithesis of stuffy or pretentious, it was the kind of laid back and intimate outdoor gathering that always makes for my favorite kind of party.
So, I asked myself- what do these guys cook up when Jeremiah Bacon or Mike Lata isn’t inside? And with a roll of paper towels in hand, I set out to discover my own hometown Food truck culture.
I am a fan of our farmers markets and have helped myself to many a cart or food truck offering there. So, I wanted to see where else they were. Turns out right in my own backyard and all around me. But you do have to know where to look.Social media and websites are your friends here when in tracking down who’s serving what where. IIf you use twitter that is very up to the minute. I especially appreciated ION Charleston for their daily updates of several trucks with maps which are offered by link. And when you get there don’t give up. This is Charleston.You usually have to drive around to the back of a building to find them parked under a the shade of a tree or next to an employee entry. Daniel Island is where I lay my head at night and it turns out there is usually a (sometimes two!) trucks parked every weekday less than a mile from my house.
And I had no idea. What a wonderful discovery! Like they just opened a 3 new restaurants on my island this week! And a short 10 minute drive away in any direction proved fruitful with food truck possibilities. North Charleston has several regular spots. As does Downtown Charleston. So, I ate everyday for a week at a different Food Truck and here are some visual highlights.
I encourage you to explore the local food truck scene wherever you live or travel. It supports upcoming local chefs and often local farmers. It offers you the opportunity to talk to local people waiting for food alongside you in line. This is especially valuable when you’re traveling and could use a little non guidebook local lowdown. Here in Charleston I found people in line and working the trucks very approachable and friendly. I couldn’t have eaten all the food pictured here- but many strangers let me photograph their lunch and joyfully told me about their favorite menu items or food trucks on the scene. And best of all-You get to enjoy lunch outdoors. Seeing the city where you live or the place you traveled to experience. And it does so at a price that still leaves you enough left over to eat dinner.
The Holy City Brewery really provided my favorite discovery of where to enjoy our local Food trucks. They invite different trucks to visit and are open 7 days a week. Cold Craft beer, Corn Hole, Dogs and Kids welcome, shaded seating, and a bathroom. Clink the link to see who’s there today or plan your visit. You will drive through a sketchy part of town to get here. It will be worth it. Korki’s Kafe was the truck on site the Saturday afternoon we visited. We loved their fresh shrimp tacos, comfort food favorites, and southern hospitality. All of the tips Korki’s collects go to help Shelter animals, so tip generously!
Cast Iron Food truck comes to us direct from the vibrant food truck scene of Washington,DC. They have been winning awards there for years and now operate a great truck here in Charleston with many restaurant quality menu items. No surprise they have developed a loyal group of fans.
My always willing blog model,daughter,and guinea pig extraordinaire would not forgive me if I failed to include her favorite type of food trucks on the planet. The ones who carry Shave Ice machines on board. She has sampled them from the shores of Kauai and streets of Puerto Rico, and loves that we have a local Kona Ice truck right here in Charleston. The secret to our local truck is that they lhave a child sized syrup station to let the shorter set customize their flavors. Sugar Magic, pure and simple.
And finally, the discovery that will most change the way I eat on a regular basis. The food trucks in my own back yard of beautiful Daniel Island. Where I can now get a take out lunch and enjoy it in any of our many lovely parks or in the comfort of my own backyard or porch. I have been driving far and wide to feed my passion for Fusion and Asian fare not offered nearby. I found out I don’t have to any more. Thank you Charleston Food trucks, thank you.
I am feeling so happy about discovering the treasure of our local Food truck scene. If you are lucky enough to live in Charleston, discover your favorites at the Food Truck Rodeo going on all day this Saturday, September 20 ( It’s free but bring your own chairs). Wherever you may call home and whether it is at a party, a city sidewalk, your desk, a “pod”, a park bench, or your own back yard- go outside and discover the casual lux of the Food Truck Phenomenon for yourself!
Have a favorite Food Truck menu item or experience? Give them a shout out by posting yours in our comment section! We would love to hear what you love.
Hungry for more info on Food trucks? Expore these links