America’s Best Food Truck Cities
With the food truck trend continuing to grow, it's safe to say some of America’s best grub now comes on wheels. Charlotte Steinway rounds up her top seven cities for mobile munchies, plus can't-miss dishes in each
Los Angeles, CA
Though it’s tough to pinpoint which city officially jumpstarted the food truck trend, we’re going to throw L.A. a bone for coining the OG food on wheels — the taco truck — back when today’s artisanal mayo purveyors were just a gleam in their parents' eyes. East L.A.’s King Taco claims to have opened the first taco truck in 1974 from a repurposed ice cream van. And 34 years later, the city gave birth to another first: Korean barbecue tacos from the now-famed Kogi BBQ truck [pictured], the crown jewel of L.A.'s mobile food scene.
TRUCK MUST: Buttermilk fried chicken with a honey-lavender biscuit at the Ludo Truck
Which came first, the trendy SoCo (short for “South of Congress Avenue”) scene, or the food trucks that line its streets? It’s a chicken or egg situation — in more ways than one. Austinites have taken the eggy breakfast taco into the mainstream (Migas, a Tex-Mex concoction of scrambled eggs, tortillas, and salsa, is a local staple), but many other trucks (Torchy’s, Lucky J’s) are now jumping on the bird train, with a fried chicken and waffle variety becoming de rigeur in the city’s taco parlance.
TRUCK MUST: Deep-fried avocado taco at Torchy’s Taco
With more than 500 food truck varieties, Portland blows other cities out of the water on the diversity factor. Although mac n’ cheese and fro yo may reign supreme in other cities, Portland boasts a more adventurous selection of international options — think paprika-infused Bohemian goulash from Tábor or one of the Norwegian Lefse wraps from Viking Soul Food — at their pop-up food lots, which in-the-know locals refer to as “Pods.”
TRUCK MUST: Pan-fried eggplant sandwich on ciabatta from Tábor
With the burgeoning art scene in Wynwood (and annual creative mecca, Art Basel), it’s no surprise that Miami has amped up its foodie factor. Here, the trucks tend to gather in groups called “Food Courts,” catering to locals toting blankets, brown-bagged booze and ravenous appetites. While the Miami Street Food Court has been relocated in recent years due to zoning issues, the monthly Wynwood Art Walk puts more than 25 food trucks in one hipster-friendly place.
TRUCK MUST: Cracklin’ duck sandwich at the Anthony Bourdain-approved Dim Ssam A Go Go
Food trucks in the Windy City have had it trickier than most, considering cooking was legally outlawed on carts and trucks until last summer. And while a slew of creative names like the Gaztro-Wagon and Meatyballs Mobile were able to evade fines by using pre-cooked food, a whole new deluge of trucks came onto the scene once the city caught up with the times. And catch on, they did — even Chi Town’s famed deep-dish slice, Giordano’s [pictured], has recently gone mobile.
TRUCK MUST: Sun dried tomato with smoked gouda and caramelized onion mac n’ cheese at The Southern Mac Truck
New York, NY
While hot nuts and hot dogs have reigned the Manhattan streets for decades, a gourmet onslaught of artisanal newbies like Red Hook Lobster Pound [pictured] and Van Leweeun have come to redefine the Midtown lunch, Central Park and Union Square food scenes. Some of the city’s most celebrated trucks have even inspired standalone stores of their own: Big Gay Ice Cream and Mexicue trucks now each boast two brick and mortar locations a piece.
TRUCK MUST: Bacon cheddar blue grilled cheese with caramelized onions and spicy pickles from Milk Truck
San Francisco, CA
In SF, food trucks are so integral to the city’s culinary scene that they hold a number of festivals entirely devoted to their existence. And the trucks themselves take their grub quite seriously too — Chez Spencer offshoot Spencer on the Go bills itself as the city’s only “mobile bistro,” serving SoMA up with a street food interpretation of high French cuisine (think Foie Gras Torchons and Escargot Puff Lollipops).
TRUCK MUST: Grilled sweetbread with sherry, ratatouille, and truffle boeuf bourguignon at Spencer on the Go