In some way, nothing says Totally LA to me quite like the food truck.
Each of the three times I have lived in Los Angeles, I would be struck by how different the food truck is in Los Angeles compared to what we had in Denver. There, and in other inland cities the food truck was much smaller and limited to packaged sandwiches, pastries, drinks and maybe an apple and a banana. They would arrive in the warehouse and factory districts on time for lunch and breaks. Nothing was cooked on them at all.
When I returned to LA a couple of years ago, the promised parking space to go with my downtown loft/studio was not yet available. I had to park on the street at first and each morning I would run down before 7:00 to feed the meter. There were usually 2 or 3 food trucks parked on the street right out front to choose from and I would grab a hot, freshly cooked breakfast. So did my neighbors. It just seemed a part of the LA lifestyle.
Earlier times when I lived in LA, I quickly realized the food on some of the trucks was actually quite good. Not something you could say about the food trucks we had back in Colorado (think the packaged sandwiches you get at 7/11). In fact the food served by these trucks earned them the moniker of “the roach coach.”
I got curious about the history of the food trucks and in researching them learned that there is currently a whole gourmet food truck culture and a community that will actually use Twitter and other social media channels to find out where their favorite food truck is at when they are hungry.
A Very Brief History of the Food Truck in LA
Food trucks actually pre-date motorized transportation. Part of this history includes the Texas chuckwagon that kept the cowhands on the trail for months at a time during the 1800s.
Fast forwarding to more modern times in Los Angeles our relationship with the food truck grew in large part due to the entertainment industry’s demand for on-site catering. By bringing the food to the cast and crew directly, food trucks eliminated the need to interrupt movie and TV shoot schedules for meal breaks.
Food trucks have also provided opportunity for talented chefs that were unable to to afford brick and mortar restaurants to establish themselves in the world of cuisine and create the gourmet food truck. Gourmet food trucks soon became popular in upscale party and nightlife zones such as Hollywood Blvd near Vine Street, Miracle Mile and Abbot Kinney.
It is not uncommon to see more upscale food trucks parked outside art gallery openings and other social events. Whether this is pre-arranged by the event coordinators (a food truck outside helps them limit the amount of refreshments they have to provide) or not, I do not know. I do know they always have a line.
Food trucks are are becoming more common around the nation but I don’t think there is any city on earth where the food truck is as much a part of the culture as in Los Angeles. In fact, the gourmet food truck is so Totally LA that it just wouldn’t be LA without them.