Honest Fare

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Finding Inspiration in: Food Trucks

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Finding Inspiration in: Food Trucks, Honest Fare by Gabrielle Arnold

You know what we need more of in Orlando? Street food. More specifically, food trucks. We’ve got one vegan hot dog guy, a crepe guy and bunch of regular hot dog/sausage guys downtown, but that’s kind of it. There are a handful of awesome Latin food/lunch trucks (tacos, mofongo, etc.) too, but they’re pretty scattered across town and not generally downtown. Most the mobile food vendors I’ve seen here only come out for sidewalk fairs and other public events and then they disappear again. Not even our farmer’s markets offer much as far as food on wheels goes. Visiting other cities always reminds me of this. I mean, New York and Portland – are you kidding me? So many great ones and so beautifully done. Meanwhile, in Orlando we’ve got nada? I’m thinking….I’m thinking…this has all got me really thinking…

I know everyone’s kind of psyched on food trucks at the moment (New York Magazine Cheap Eats: Trucks on a Roll) and there’s even that new show on the Food Network, The Great American Food Truck Race. (Haven’t seen it cause we don’t currently subscribe to cable television, but I do want to eventually check it out.) But, street food vendors are obviously not a new concept and have always played an important role in feeding people, especially in urban areas in the U.S. (How great is this image of lunch carts circa 1910s.)

old-time-lunch-carts

Pretty much any country you can think of has its variety of curbside specialties. Corn on the cob in Morocco. Puni Puri in India. Jerk Chicken in Jamaica. Arepas in Venezula. Pork buns in China. Crepes in France. Yam Ruam in Thailand. Et cetera, et cetera.

Yam-Ruam

And not to be a huge dork, but according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 2.5 billion people eat street food every day. Wowie.

food-truck-food

Why am I going off about this? Mainly because now that I belong to the elite group of the unemployed by choice, I’ve got the time on my hands to consider these things. But also because I really do think that taking food to the streets does great things for a community in a quite different way than restaurants can. Where there is food openly, there are people. And where there are people and food in one place, there is socializing and the kind of positive energy that tends to surround a good meal. The smell of it pulls us in and then it becomes something to try out and talk about. I love that. By removing the front door and the hostess and the table and the server and even the 20% tip from the whole equation, food vendors are able to expose people to new kinds of foods and ideas about food that they might not otherwise see or be comfortable trying. It’s the whole non-committal aspect at work I guess.

Here are some of the trucks I’ve been really inspired by lately. Their menus sound exceptional, but sadly, I haven’t been to most of them, so if you have, let me know if they’re as great as they look!

Miho Gastro Truck
miho-food-1

128 Café
128MobileCafe

Buttermilk Truck
buttermilk

Spencer on the go
Spencer-on-the-go

Food Shark
food-shark

Cravings NYC
nyc-cravings

Schnitzel and things
schnitzel and things

Skillet
skillet-food-truck

Treats Truck
treats-truck

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream
vanleeuwinicecream

So what do you think – do I have what it takes to drive a giant truck around town and feed people? I think I would love that. If anyone has any advice or good resources, please do share.

25 Comments

  1. Adam
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 4:40 PM | Permalink

    Great post! I love it. I’ve eaten food off of probably 100 street carts in NYC and Boston combined and never had an issue. I ate once at a well-known (extremely famous) chef’s restaurant in NYC with my wife and we both got the worst case of food poisoning we had ever experienced. Goes to show you never know.

    Taking the street food to another level, my 80 year old neighbor always talks about “the old neighborhood” and how the meat cart used to come around. A person would push this cart up and down the streets, and in it would be various slabs of meat covered with a canvas sheet. When you wanted meat for the week, the ladies would walk out to the cart and make their choice and the butcher would cut off the slab and the woman would carry it away in their aprons. These folks were tough as nails.

    As for the truck idea? Go for it! Absolutely love it.

    -Adam

  2. Posted September 22, 2010 at 4:51 PM | Permalink

    Miho Gastro Truck is AMAZING! I’ve had the Miho burger and belgian fries and tasted the Tomato tart and the Fried Okra salad. All incredible. Their menu items always make me drool. Worth a day trip to San Diego for sure!

  3. Posted September 22, 2010 at 5:46 PM | Permalink

    Seattle’s food truck scene has been growing in the past couple years. Skillet is one of the tastiest, making people smile with their bacon jam! I think you might even be able to order it online now… I was also recently in Portland and they have tons of little food cart pods.
    I think a truck is a great idea especially in a market like Orlando that is lacking. Keep us updated!

  4. Posted September 22, 2010 at 8:16 PM | Permalink

    Food trucks are a fascinating trend. I live just north of you and also lament that we have NONE. Amazingly, I’ve been to one that you listed – Skillet. I posted briefly about it here (http://www.merrygourmet.com/2010/09/seattle-food-trucks-one-last-ifbc-post/). It was fantastic, and the experience really had me craving more.

  5. Posted September 23, 2010 at 8:34 AM | Permalink

    I didn’t know Eric Wallman was running Skillet..

  6. gabi
    Posted September 23, 2010 at 9:14 AM | Permalink

    HA – I know right!

  7. Posted September 23, 2010 at 9:55 AM | Permalink

    The above food trucks are great, and there are many more you can find on http://newyorkstreetfood.com/. We even have an app with a live twitter feed of where the NY area trucks are at the moment.

  8. Posted September 23, 2010 at 12:47 PM | Permalink

    We have started getting a few in St. Augustine and every time one opens I am extremely inspired/jealous. There is low overhead and it is a nice way to open your own food place with your own terms.

    I don’t know if this is St. Johns county specific but I did hear you must have an accessible restroom for your customers, which would clarify why all the food trucks here are in a business’s parking lot.

    I love Nalu’s fish tacos, and we also had an organic salad/wraps/smoothies one open call JuiceBox which looks super cute.

    A taco shop closed its brick and mortar location and opened a trailer called Pesky’s tacos which goes to the farmer’s market and a honky tonk bar on the weekends.

    And another young guy is opening a place in a former bread truck called Sprockets in front of Sprocket’s bike shop.

    Everyone I talk to is super friendly and they have created a little food cart community . They are pretty informative and might be worth making a trip up to talk to for some inside perspective.

    When I lived in Orlando I always thought it was a good market for better food trends since there seems to be a lot of young “professionals” that go out to drink and eat out a lot. I always wondered what it would be like to be in a metal box in Florida’s August heat.
    Probably can’t be any more claustrophobic than a cubicle at a job you hate though!

  9. gabi
    Posted September 23, 2010 at 2:37 PM | Permalink

    Jenn – Um, this is the craziest coincidence ever! Guess what – I am actually going to St. Augustine this weekend! I’ll be sure to check out all the spots you’ve listed above. Thanks so much!

  10. gabi
    Posted September 23, 2010 at 2:39 PM | Permalink

    Adam – I love this story. Thank you.

  11. Posted September 23, 2010 at 6:47 PM | Permalink

    That would be awesome! I live in the suburbs so there is zilch street food. Le sigh. In Philly I only ever see the usual food trucks with hot dogs, kielbasa, knish, etc. I think I saw a middle eastern food cart once. So yea, go for it!

  12. Steve C
    Posted September 24, 2010 at 6:58 AM | Permalink

    I’ve been talking about this for months!
    do it.
    do it.
    do it.
    I will help.

  13. Posted September 24, 2010 at 12:45 PM | Permalink

    Yeah you do! That would be amazing.

    And, I love the vegan hot dog stand so much!

  14. gabi
    Posted September 24, 2010 at 1:12 PM | Permalink

    But Steve, remember what happened the last time we tried working together ;)
    Thanks for the support xoxo

  15. Posted September 24, 2010 at 10:48 PM | Permalink

    Having just moved to Beijing, China just a few weeks ago, I have gained an incredible appreciation for street food. Having moved to Beijing from Orlando, I also recognize the paucity of such food trucks and mourn the absence along with you. Please please start the food truck trend in the downtown! I will try to take more pictures of Chinese street vendors to add to your collection.

    ~leah

  16. Posted September 26, 2010 at 2:26 PM | Permalink

    I am trying to do the exact same thing here in Atlanta. Check out the Atlanta Street Food Coalition at http://www.atlantafoodcarts.com as well as Grace’s Goodness for more info. Maybe we can idea swap…

  17. gabi
    Posted September 26, 2010 at 2:30 PM | Permalink

    Brittany – Thanks for the resources. It looks like you’re making a lot of strides with local government over there. Congratulations an best of luck like Grace’s. I’m excited to follow your progress and YES swapping ideas sounds great.

  18. Posted September 26, 2010 at 11:22 PM | Permalink

    Ohhhh I love Skillet! Huge here in Seattle and great for parties! This whole post is so great and Im excited to check out the other venders :)

  19. Posted September 27, 2010 at 1:13 PM | Permalink

    I love this idea! I live just east of you, by the beach, and I lament the lack of street food both here and in Orlando often. I keep saying I’m going to open a southern taco truck/trailer, but for now, I’m still un-blissfully employed. If you do decide to take this plunge, I can’t wait to follow along. And I concur with Jenn, as a former (but wish I were current) Oldest City resident, St. Aug has it going on in the foodie department these days. I ate as Pesky’s all the time when it was bricks and mortar, and it seems somehow better from the truck! I hope you enjoy your trip there! If you can, stop by The Floridian downtown on Cordova street. It’s a little place my friends just opened up, and it’s divine!

  20. Jordan
    Posted September 27, 2010 at 8:19 PM | Permalink

    Orlando could definitely use some more street food! There’s a truck for sale in my neighborhood that appears to have food truck potential. If you’re interested I can e-mail you the address.

  21. Posted September 29, 2010 at 5:48 AM | Permalink

    how fantastic!

  22. Ericka M
    Posted October 1, 2010 at 10:56 AM | Permalink

    If you’re ever in Miami, try Dim Sum A Go Go or Yellow Submarine. Absolutely delicious street food.

  23. Meagan
    Posted October 1, 2010 at 10:56 AM | Permalink

    Portland has a ton of delicious food trucks. One of my favorites is the Volks-Waffle ( they serve waffles from a volkswagon van).

  24. Joseph
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 2:10 PM | Permalink

    As an aspiring restauranteur I’ve been looking into and researching opening my own food truck in Orlando. I’m currently an FSU student in my final year, but after graduation I plan on heading to O-town and jumping on the food truck bandwagon. It’s inspiring to know that there are already people out there looking for someone to start the street food makeover in Orlando.

  25. Lee Hawaii
    Posted November 12, 2010 at 6:33 PM | Permalink

    I am down here to check out the possibility of opening a franchise business in Orlando selling Shrimp. I started the shrimp trucks on the north shore of Oahu and have a system in place to sell the shrimp. If I had the investor to get it started, It would do really well here.

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