An Illustrated History of Food Trucks

Have you ever wondered how food trucks came to be? When did someone decide that restaurants could become mobile? Are food trucks really making an impact on the culinary world? Well, today we have the answer to these questions, and many more!

Food truck’s roots can be traced all the way back to Texas chuck wagons from the 1800’s-1974, but theses chuck wagons were nothing compared to the Korean taco revolution that came to be in 1993, lasting until 2008. People credit Kogi (in LA) as the first gourmet food truck. But, the gourmet food truck scene did not erupt until 2009, and in 2010 Zagat began including food trucks in their guides. People began to see the appeal of food trucks; owning a food truck is much cheaper than operating a restaurant. Michelin starred chefs who could not afford to keep their restaurants open began turning to food trucks as their new stomping grounds. Now, I think it is safe to say that food trucks are here to stay. They have fought to make a positive impression on the American people, and they have.



There’s a joke on the show 30 Rock in which Liz Lemon’s boyfriend is trying to start a mobile hot dog business. He pulls up in a white van labeled “Manhattan Hot Dogs,” which gets shortened to “Man Hogs” as he slides open the door. Trust me, it’s a great visual pun. But the idea behind it is that trying to start a business selling food out of a mobile unit is considered a reasonably sound business plan. The joke pokes fun at the name—not the customers who would readily purchase meat from a guy in a van. Because as suspect as that may seem, buying food out of a vehicle is actually a long-standing American tradition.

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The food truck as we know it now is a modern invention, something that’s equally a business in itself and a stepping stone to something bigger. “Food trucks are hospitality incubators,” writes the New York City Food Truck Association. “They give entrepreneurs a chance to test out their operations, brand, and food in different areas of the city, and hone their concept before taking the leap to open a brick and mortar.” They are also fodder for TV shows, movies, and lots of think pieces about The State Of Food Today. Now you’ll even find them at weddings.

But if anything, the brick and mortar restaurant is a more recent concept than that of buying food from a temporary setup, whether it’s from a cart, a market, or out of a truck. We may have nicknamed them “roach coaches,” but historically Americans have been quite comfortable getting their food on the streets. Now the food truck has, in many ways, come full circle. Here we take a look at how Texas chuck wagons, a brilliant Korean taco entrepreneur, and the gourmet boom helped secure their ubiquity.

All illustrations by Max Schieble 

Full article here.

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