By Elijah Bronson
No matter how bad your day might be going or how sad you might be feeling, there is always one thing that can turn it all around—a good meal. Getting the chance to taste something truly palate-blowing is the dose of happiness anyone appreciates. However, most people nowadays don’t have the time to go through restaurants and diners to experience this. Always on the clock, looking to save time and clear your to-do list as much as possible.
Luckily, urban environments have a way of offering solutions to such problems. And that is how we came to the creation of food truck culture in NYC. That is how this global trend became such a vital component of the Big Apple.
How did all this come to be?
Food truck culture has a rich and long history. According to Mobile Cuisine, this NYC foodie trend dates all the way back to 1691, back when the first street food vendors moved to New Amsterdam (NYC today). Originally, street food vendors focused on selling what was cheapest and most available at the time—oysters and clams.
However, as immigrants continued to pour into the U.S., they also brought their cuisine with them. As a result, the street food trend refocused their efforts in the 1800s to hot corn, sausages, pickles, etc. Soon enough, the need to feed large groups of blue collar workers became a profitable endeavor, which led to the invention of the Chuck Wagon by Charles Goodnight back in 1866. The focus was to feed cattlemen and wagon train passengers headed West.
A century later, Oscar Mayer began driving his wiener-mobile across the highways of America, in search of hungry travelers in need of a quick meal. Soon enough, ice cream trucks began circling urban and suburban areas to offer summertime refreshments. And from there, the food truck culture in NYC and other metropolitan areas focused on construction sites and other areas with high volumes of workers that needed lunch, but lacked a nearby diner to get it.
The modernization of the food truck culture in NYC
The revolution of food trucks actually came into play a decade ago, as a result of the 2008 recession. Since over 8 million people lost their jobs at the time, a lot of them saw this as an opportunity to start their own businesses. And a large percentage of those people had culinary skills that they wanted to try out in an entrepreneurial environment.
And surely enough, food trucks started appearing on the street of New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Charlotte, Chicago, etc. And given the different demographic backgrounds and interests of people, the diversity of the food truck culture began to grow. In the pursuit of gaining a competitive edge over other food trucks, people began developing menus with unique meals and offers.
Ten years later, the mobile food industry has become a global trend, targeting customers from all areas of life: corporate, working class, colleges, athletes, tourists and more. Long Islanders have also embraced the food truck culture in NYC, and are contributing to the nearly $1 billion annual revenue mark of the food truck sector in the US alone. Some of the most notable food trucks in the Long Island area today are:
- Green Street
- Eat Me, Drink Me
- Mama’s Cuban Kitchen
- Eddie’s Pizza
- The Big Black Food Truck
- On The Road
- Cheezy Pete’s
- Shake Shack
- Crepes & Bakes
- Royal Elite BBQ
- Ralphie’s Crossroads Café
- Hamza & Madina Halal Food
- Whole Le Crepe
- Frozen Sin
- Empanada Queen
Operating a food truck is not as simple as you might think
With the trend of mobile cuisine rapidly expanding across NYC and other major cities, one would think that it’s a sure bet for making money. The truth is a little more complex. In fact, the NYC Health Department has a long list of rules you need to abide by to get a license for owning a food truck.
And having that license is a must if you want to open a food truck anywhere in New York. Once you open the truck, it has to pass an inspection to confirm that the conditions are sanitary and up to regulations. Another requirement to get a permit is to complete a food-safety course, upon the completion of which, the food truck owner (you) will get a decal to display on the truck. Once all this is taken care of, the time to position your truck comes. When it comes to scouting locations for food trucks, the city mandates that no food truck can vend “within any bus stop and taxi stand, and within the portion of the sidewalk abutting any no-standing zone adjacent to a hospital; within 10 feet of any driveway, any subway entrance or exit, or any crosswalk at any intersection.”
Ways in which meat is deboned, how the food is cut, the temperature used—all this falls under strict rules. The trucks must be kept clean and have a sink with running water for hand washing. Employees must maintain a professional appearance, without sleeveless shirts or bare midriffs. Any violation of noted rules can lead to fines, and ultimately, loss of permit.
Although the regulation mentioned above can be frightening for most entrepreneurs, it’s well worth it. Once you get through the rules, courses, and inspection—you will be able to enjoy the revenue from your food truck. So long as you have the right idea for your menu, and a good location, you will be able to join in the gold rush that is food truck culture in NYC.
Mobile cuisine is here to stay
The boom of food truck culture came to life from necessity. Today, this has become a commodity, and a profitable one at that. And the best part is that this comes from experienced chefs as well as the average Joe cook. Food trucks have provided a way to score inexpensive, authentic, on-the-go meals for the urban environment.
While many foodies believe that New York City is the food truck capital of the country, the truth is that all major cities across the U.S. are filled with food trucks. This culture is definitely one that is here to stay, and will only keep growing in time.
Elijah Bronson has lived in New York his entire life and spent the past few years working for JP Urban Moving. He knows the past and present trends that circle in the five boroughs, as well as the influence they have on the moving and storage industry.
Dear Mr Bronson
My name is Marilyn Gaeta. My daughter Wendy works very hard so that she can provide a good life for her children. She has faced many challenges this past year. She began a Food Truck Friday event at her church in Levittown and there are times when she has to turn down trucks because there just isn’t any room in the church parking lot for all that want to come. Some of the trucks you mentioned in your article attend every week and do very well. In fact, some of them sell out because there are times when 400-500 people come for the FTF event from 6-9 every week. Oh and I failed to mention that she owns and operates a food truck named The Happy Pig. She attended culinary school and knows all the laws and all the struggles the trucks face daily. I am surprised that none of her regular trucks mentioned Wendy. I would like to ask that you consider interviewing her. I am sure she would be so happy to meet you and tell you about her hopes and dreams for the future of the food truck industry. Thank you for taking the time to read this.