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Food trucks selling gourmet goods like tacos, barbecue and cupcakes have grown in popularity in recent years. But people have been buying what’s known as street food for generations.

Food carts were already a fixture in many cities back in the 1800s. And hot dog, sausage and pretzel vendors have been selling quick lunches to office workers and tourists on city streets and in beach towns since the early 1900s.

The website for Good Humor ice cream says the company’s first trucks hit the road in 1920. And trucks selling breakfast and lunch items have been feeding workers at factories and other commercial sites for decades.

What’s different in this new wave of food trucks, and sometimes carts, is that they sell trendy food, not staples like hot dogs or muffins. They started showing up about 10 years ago, led by pioneers including Kogi, a Korean barbecue truck in Los Angeles, says Kevin Higar, an analyst at Technomic Inc., a research company that studies the food industry. The trend also includes carts and trailers that are hitched to the back of a truck or car and towed from spot to another.

Food trucks are just starting to become popular in cities like Dallas, Higar says. Chicago is behind the rest of the country because it has ordinances that restrict trucks from parking within 200 feet of a restaurant. The city did last week end a ban on truck operators from cooking onboard their vehicles.

In some cities like Los Angeles, food truck growth is leveling off because governments limit the number of permits issued for mobile food vendors, Higar says. Congestion is one reason for limits — everyone wants to be in the high-traffic areas. In some cities, lots are set aside for a specific number of trucks or carts. But permits may also be limited because of pressure from traditional restaurants that don’t want the lower-priced competition.

Weakness in the economy and high unemployment have encourage more people to start trucks and carts, Higar says. Some people who start food trucks include people who lost jobs, don’t have prospects for a new one and want more control over their own lives, he says.

Another group includes people in their 20s and 30s who are interested in a career in the food industry, but rather than work for someone else, “they want to be able to express themselves and do it in their own way,” Higar says.

 From Associated Press

history of american food trucks

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 (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 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.

June 2014 – The National Food Truck Association is formed creating the first national association of food truck associations.

August 2014 – The movie “Chef” is released. This Jon Favreau movie’s plot is centered around a chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his family.

Fun video on the history of American food trucks from history.com

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

Who would have ever thought cupcakes would become an overnight dessert sensation? Their mouth watering cake, delicious frosting, and bite size-ability have captured the hearts of millions. Cupcake shoppes and trucks are popping up in and around neighborhoods everywhere so it is probably time you learned about their humble start and eventual rise to glory!

Thanks to the folks at allculinaryschools.com for putting this graphic together.

History of Cupcakes

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