For the past decade, food trucks have been all the rage in the culinary world. They’ve inspired cookbooks, movies and television competitions.
The kitchens on wheels appealed to chefs tired of the restaurant grind and people who wanted to get a start in the food world without the expense of a brick and mortar investment.
With minimal start up costs, compared with conventional restaurants or franchises, they grew into a $2.7 billion industry. And, now, they’re becoming more visible as the pandemic wears on.
Although the events on which they relied for business have faded, food trucks have become an alternative for diners who can’t sit inside restaurants, and want something different than their typical carry out fare.
Around the country, from Savannah to Dallas, Wilmington to Seattle, food trucks are getting a warmer reception than the days when they battled with restaurants over the ability to operate.
Food trucks are benefiting from one of the trends I predicted for 2021: restaurants helping other restaurants.
With indoor dining closed, a number of places are letting food trucks use parking lots and available spaces to pull up and serve.
York, a gourmet food and beverage store in Ann Arbor, Mich., has been acting as a food truck incubator, even giving one of its food truck friends space inside to cook.
Ricewood, which specializes in barbecue, began as a truck outside and subsequently moved inside to serve brisket, chicken and burgers. It landed on Food and Wine’s list of the best barbecue in the country, and regularly sells out of its food.
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Meanwhile, York Yard, as it calls its area out back, has played host to two other trucks. Bao Boys is selling Chinese buns filled with meats and veggies, while Juicy Oistre holds events featuring raw and grilled oysters, as well as peel and eat shrimp.
Across town, the Zal Gaz Grotto, a Masonic Lodge, has given inside space to Cosa Sabrosa, a Mexican food truck whose menu ranges from tacos and burritos to beverages.
And, while some food lovers travel to Ann Arbor to visit Zingerman’s Deli, Zingerman’s also has taken its food on the road.
Last year, it held two series of sandwich pop ups, called the Reuben Tour, around Michigan and Ohio. It also took its truck on a Pie Tour, transporting its pot pies and dessert pies to restaurants, bars and other places in the area.
The friendliness is extending to other parts of the country, too.
Hattiesburg, Miss., approved an ordinance that gives trucks more access to business and residential zones, according to Food Truck Operator.
On Long Island, the Bellmore, N.Y. Kiwanis Club is hosting a food truck brunch court on Sundays at the Long Island Rail Road station on Sunrise Highway. The events began on Jan. 10, and are scheduled for every Sunday through March.
In Chicago, meanwhile, two chefs are using a food truck to feed breakfast and lunch to homeless residents, while scores of other food trucks have offered their services to feed essential workers.
As the pandemic wears on, food trucks are joining many of the trends that conventional restaurants have embraced. Many take orders via app or the Web and some have even signed up with delivery services.
That’s putting food trucks within reach of people who might have only thought of them as a lunch time option near the office, or a treat near a farmer’s market.