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The History of American Food Trucks

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The history of American food trucks dates back many years as mobile dining and street food have been part of American’s dining habits since the late 17th century where it could be found in many of the larger cities on the east coast. Since then, food trucks have taken a front seat in the world of American street food and are part of an ongoing food revolution.

A brief history of the mobile food industry in the United States:

chuckwagon - history of food trucks

1691 – New Amsterdam (now known as New York City) begins regulating street vendors selling food from push carts.

1850’s – Dining cars begin feeding cross country train passengers.

1866 – The Chuck wagon is invented by Charles Goodnight to feed cattlemen and wagon trains traversing the old West.

WWII_mobile_canteen

1872 – The first diner is setup in a horse-drawn freight wagon.

1894 - Sausage vendors sell their wares outside the student dorms at major eastern universities (Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Cornell), and their carts became known as “dog wagons”.

1917 – The US Army mobile canteens (field kitchens) begin to feed the troops.

Wienermobile-1936 - history of food trucks

1936 – Oscar Mayer rolls out the first portable hot dog cart The Weiner Mobile.

1950’s – Ice cream trucks begin selling their frozen treats.

1960’s – Roach coaches make their presence known to construction sites around the country.

1974 - Raul Martinez converted an old ice cream truck into the nation’s first taco truck and parked it outside of an East Los Angeles bar.

Kogi BBQ 2008 - history of food trucks

1980’s – Grease trucks begin parking on Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ selling “Fat Sandwiches” to college students.

2004 – The Street Vendor Project creates the Vendy Awards. A competition that identifies and celebrates NYC’s best street food vendors.

July 2006 - Wikipedia adds “food truck” to their list of entries including the history of food trucks around the world.

November 2008 – Kogi BBQ hit the streets of Los Angeles selling Asian infused tacos.

Great Food Truck Race Logo

January 2010 – Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association (SoCalMFVA) is created, becoming the first organization created to protect the rights of gourmet food truck owners.

May 2010 – National Restaurant Association dedicates 1,500 square feet to food truck exhibits at its annual convention in Chicago.

August 2010 – The Great Food Truck Race marks the first television program centered on the mobile food industry.

September 2010 – Mobile Cuisine (www.mobile-cuisine.com) becomes the first website to provide coverage of the mobile food industry nationally.

September 2010 – The US government adds “Tips for Starting Your Own Street Food Business” to its small business website www.business.gov.

October 2010 – The prestigious Zagat guide announces that in 2011 they will begin to provide reviews of food trucks.

Gap-food-truck

November 2010 – Los Angeles starts ranking food trucks with letter grades like restaurants.

January 2011 – President Barak Obama “Tweets” that his favorite food truck in Washington DC is D.C. Empanadas.

June 2011 – NY issues the first limited liquor license to the Pera Food Truck.

August 2011 – The Gap launches a nationwide ad campaign marketing a retro style jean with the use of a food truck.

February 2012 - Food Trucks serves NFL Superbowl Fans in Indianapolis.

Street food has been available to Americans for several hundred years, and food trucks have been serving up tasty treats for over two decades, so the basic concept is nothing new. Yet, as you can see, the food truck has taken on new meaning as the mobile food industry continues to morph.

Keep and eye on this article as we make changes to show the evolution of the history of American food trucks.

10 COMMENTS

  1. [...] Great photos in this article shared by mobile-cuisine.com. Mobile dining and street food have been part of American’s dining habits since the late 17th century where it could be found in many of the larger cities on the east coast. Since then, food trucks have taken a front seat in the world of American street food and are part of an ongoing food revolution. Here is a brief history of the mobile food industry in the United States READ MORE [...]

  2. [...] While mobile dining has been around in the U.S. since the 1600s, the idea has gained in popularity i…, with shows like The Great Food Truck Race, and the prestigious Zagat guide starting to review food trucks in 2011, according to Mobile-Cusine.com.  [...]

  3. What is the justification for splitting this article into SIX pages? Is this just for ad revenue? It’s nowhere near long enough to warrant even three pages let alone six. Are you guys having problems making your pages longer? This is completely counter to productive design and just discourages people who are researching this topic from consulting your site.

  4. Robin, You are absolutely correct. We’ve corrected the multiple pages and it’s currently just a single page. Was it about advertising? No, not at all but thank you for your tip.

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