5 Cities, 15 Food Trucks: We’ve Got the Best Meals on Wheels in the U.S.
Food carts line the streets in Portland, Oregon. (Photo: John Dalton/Flickr)
Food trucks are having a moment. There’s the success of Jon Favreau’s “Chef” film, the long lines surrounding the trucks at the country’s most prominent music festivals, and the trucks regularly showing up in best-of lists like revered Los Angeles Times critic Jonathan Gold’s top restaurants of the year. Recently, Pimco fund manager Jeremie Banet made headlines when he quit his job with plans to start a croque monsieur truck in California.
A recent study found that food-safety standards of trucks and carts in cities including Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Miami often meet or exceed those of restaurants. And the Life Is Beautiful festival in Vegas announced its lineup this week — the event is hyping its culinary roster, including food-truck stars from both LA and Vegas alongside restaurant chefs, as much as headliners like Kanye West and Outkast.
It’s about time.
I’ve spent years dining around the country, and many of my best meals have been at food trucks and carts. This is where you’ll get a taste of a city’s soul and encounter its ethnic diversity, its sense of whimsy, and its philosophy about feeding the streets. Yes, these trucks and carts are often about inexpensive food and stoner-friendly fare, but they’re also often about refined chefs with classical training turning your lunch break into something amazing. And they’re often worth crisscrossing America for a taste. After doing just that, here are my picks for the country’s best food trucks and carts.
LA’s legendary chef Roy Choi, with his Kogi BBQ truck. (Photo: Corbis)
Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ truck became a cultural revolution after it launched in 2008. It’s been the instigator for countless parking-lot parties as hungry revelers happily wait an hour or more for Korean-Mexican tacos, burritos, and sliders. Choi is now a celebrity who gets full-page profiles in national newspapers and went on a nationwide tour to promote “Chef,” the Jon Favreau film about a food truck that Choi co-produced. And Kogi, with four trucks that crisscross LA daily and a bonus truck for events like Coachella, is still the king of the street-eats scene in a city that truly defines itself by the excellent quality and wild variety of its tacos.