HAMPTON ROADS, VA – It’s late Thursday morning, and workers queue up in front of the Karnage Asada food truck parked at The Net Center building in Hampton. From the Latin-Asian inspired menu, they order dishes like Dragon Whip Beef Taco, made with chipotle-braised beef and topped with wasabi Napa slaw, queso fresco and pickled purple onion.
In downtown Newport News, another lunch crowd has gathered in front of Stuft — Not Your Average Street Food, a food truck owned by brothers Alex and Casey Haas who serve up a variety of tacos, tortas, burritos and quesadillas.
Food trucks are nothing new. They’ve been a familiar site at ball games, festivals and street fairs, where folks line up for hot dogs, pretzels and other fast foods.
But a new chapter in the food truck movement that began in California several years ago is making its way to Hampton Roads and other parts of the East Coast. Many are Latin or Hispanic in their offerings and feature wild combinations of flavors that would be at home in upscale restaurants.
The movement has caught municipal regulators and health officials somewhat by surprise as food trucks have taken up residence on street corners across the region.
Some city officials and restaurateurs worry that food trucks take lunch business away from existing restaurants and do not generate the taxes that restaurants do. There are other concerns that some trucks are operating without city business licenses and health department permits.
This month, the Newport News City Council approved new regulations requiring food truck vendors to pay an annual fee. In return, they would be assured of a set place to park to service shipyard and downtown workers. The city also has marked off a certain area in downtown where food trucks can operate.
Food trucks “seem to be the new entrepreneurial thing,” said Carol Puckett, an environmental health technical specialist with the Peninsula Health District, a division of the Virginia Department of Health. “They’re really big in California and are slowly coming in this direction.”
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