Over the last few weeks I have been trying to catch up on some of my local food truck eating (Chef Shack, 128 Cafe, GastroTruck, Magic Bus, Barrio, Smack Shack, Hola Arepa, Vellee Deli, Foxy Falafel), and I am very impressed. The food in this town that comes spilling out of these mobile kitchens is, for the most part, pretty gosh darn amazing.
On Sunday in the NYT, Kim Severson wrote an op-ed piece that got me thinking about our local food truck scene. And this is definitely not a “gone tomorrow” trend. She quotes the SVP of the Nat’l Rest Association rightly pointing out that growth in the restaurant biz is all about access, so anything that increases that for the consumer is bound to succeed. I think over the years the consumer will dictate the necessary improvements to access by supporting well-positioned trucks, and frequenting trucks that figure out how to deal with long lines by putting out food quickly enough. Price and quality is there, the tweaks will follow.
Severson points out that two arguments are consistently made against the food truck entrepreneurial tidal wave. First, they clog streets and hog parking, they spew noxious fumes, and so on. The second is that local restaurateurs are hurt by competition on wheels, many of which, in theory, could drive up and park outside a brick and mortar establishment. Thankfully, the Minneapolis and St Paul truck experiment of the last 18 months proves both arguments from the nattering nabobs to be unproven, and ditto in other cities as well. Cities all over the country passed legislation to limit what and where these trucks can sell so that they avoid cannibalizing the restaurant community or clogging our streets. SO STOP TRYING TO MAKE THESE BUSINESSES OUT TO BE PREDATORY SPECIES!
Food trucks are a brilliant way to engage the community, provide informal gathering spots, spur entrepreneurship, grow jobs, increase the tax base, and provide good food at good prices. And they are fun. My only nit with the truck scene here in this town is the creation of gathering spots off the beaten path where more than a few trucks can congregate. For me, it’s less fun as an eater. But I think I am in the minority on this one. I would like to see trucks in singles and pairs all over the Cities, but hey, I’m not complaining.
Bottom line, I love this scene, and along with its development has come the best year of conventional restaurant growth in recent memory. So I guess we have our cake and can eat it too.
More importantly perhaps is this chilling story about the food movement that we all seem to be so enthralled with and the realization for many that eating well in this country continues to be a class issue. Many of us can afford the time and money to eat well, source locally, cook healthy meals, afford the waste factor on fresh foods, and argue over a cold glass of Meursault the merits of species specific snout to tail hog chowfests. Most can’t. I believe strongly in the issues at hand, but the key is not creating more ridiculous content aimed at the few, instead it should be focused on increasing access for the many.
I believe in restoring our food system to what makes sense, not the poisonous environment it’s become, and while I believe we need mass consumer products and supermarkets as much as anyone, I believe in the core of what I read this morning on eater.com: The British critic Jay Rayner isn't so sure that shopping at farmers' markets is going to change the world.
"We believe that, in spending ludicrous sums on this wonderful food, we are making a stand against The Man. We are turning our faces against the supermarkets, promoting true British agriculture, supporting a way of life that is in danger of being lost. There is a technical term for all this: bollocks."
Finally, viceland.com is a crazy site that Molly turned me on to. I spent half a day on it today and I love it. Here is the funniest travel-blog I have read in years.