Mobile Treats and Eats!
BY: RACHEL WUMKES
It’s the sensation sweeping the Nation for the past few decades… the Food Truck!
I often wonder what it is about standing outside in a line to get our meal from a vehicle instead of sitting in a comfy cozy restaurant. Is it the ambiance? The food? I suppose it could be the fact these trucks are only out during the nice weather months. A new sign of summer in the Midwest.
While food trucks have been around for decades, the modern-day craze where trucks specialize in niche food items didn’t explode until around 2008. You see, the recession of the early 2000s hit the food industry hard. Chefs from top restaurants were being laid off, and not many restaurants were hiring.
Take the food on the road!
It was the obvious answer for many. Cheaper to buy and easy to run, a chef could operate the whole business. It was at this time where they morphed from a “cheap taco” type of truck to gourmet cuisine.
To get to that point, however, we must go back. Way back, actually, to the horse and buggy days.
The OG food truck was the chuckwagon. In the olden days of the wild west, an actual covered wagon carried all the perishable food for the cowboys. A typical menu consisted of beans, meat, coffee and biscuits. They also carried water and all the utensils and items needed to start a fire.
In the 1950s, the ice cream truck became popular. It was a staple of simpler, happy times. Cruising the streets, their playful tunes (and sweet treats) drew children from all over the neighborhood. It was the All-American picture of perfection in America.
In the 1970s, the taco truck boomed as immigrants from Mexico became more prevalent in the United States. In fact, in 1974, Raul Martinez bought an old ice cream van and opened up King Taco. People told him he was crazy, but Raul set up outside a bar in East Los Angeles and sold $70 of tacos the first night. It wasn’t long before the bar crowd flocked to his truck upon closing, and Raul was pulling in cash left and right.
It was such a hit, Raul opened an actual restaurant, but still continued to grow his taco fleet. Mostly stationed outside bars throughout college towns, these taco trucks were a sparse commodity until the boom of 2008.
Since then, there seems to be a food truck of every possible flavor.
BBQ, hot dogs, sweet treats, Mexican delights, even sushi and high-end seafood.
There are even reality shows based on taco trucks these days!!
Popular, established restaurants are getting in on the action as well. They offer a low-cost, high-impact marketing solution. And while a limited menu is available in the mobile unit, it often entices customers to check out the restaurant to experience the full menu.
Sort of like a billboard constantly on the move!
With over 23,000 food trucks in the United States, people have definitely adapted to the concept of eating gourmet grub from a mobile concession stand. With the advancement of social media, the food truck has driven straight into pop culture history.
So, what’s cooking around Clear Lake?
While many local businesses host food trucks throughout the summer, you can also catch a wide variety downtown Clear Lake during Thursdays on Main.
Check out the full list of Food Trucks in our Chamber Member Directory. They are each unique and fabulous in their own way, creating delicious concoctions for all of North Iowa. Many are even available for private events!
It might not be the most conventional way to get a meal, but the Food Truck sensation swept the Nation and is here to stay. These mobile treats and eats have found their place in today’s culture. And honestly? I can’t wait to see how the industry changes and morphs in the future!