Columbus, OH: Food Trucks

Cafe De Wheels

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Cafe De Wheels

People are so busy these days and the fast food industry has also gotten really busy.  But, there is a form of fast food that is becoming more and wider spread in the US.  I’m sure you have driven past one of these amazing mobile kitchens but, in case you haven’t they are known as several different names such as food truck, mobile kitchen, mobile canteen, breakfast truck, lunch truck, lunch wagon, snack truck, break truck or taco truck.

Ohio has joined in the mobile food craze and there are more and more coming around every day.  There is even a website dedicated to helping you find these food trucks, you can find them here.

Food trucks are the main staple at carnivals, sporting events, or factory sites.  But, where did they come from?  After the American Civil War, there was a mass expansion to move westward. The expansion created a large market for beef, specifically in Texas. Innovative cattlemen needed to herd cattle to parts of the country that did not have railroads which would mean they would be on the road for months at a time. The need to feed these cattlemen resulted in the creation of the chuck wagon. The origin of the chuck wagon or food truck, stems from the “father of the Texas Panhandle,” Charles Goodnight.  He took a sturdy old Army wagon and constructed interior shelving and drawers. He then stocked the wagon with tableware and utensils, spices and medical supplies, including castor oil and quinine. Heavy pots and pans were stashed on the lower shelves while food was kept on in the bed of the wagon. Food consisted of dried beans, coffee, cornmeal, and other easy to preserve food stuffs. There was no fresh fruit, vegetables, or eggs available and meat was not fresh unless an animal was injured during the run and therefore had to be killed. The meat they ate was greasy cloth-wrapped bacon, salt pork, and beef, usually dried or salted or smoked. The wagon was also stocked with a water barrel and a sling to kindle wood to heat and cook food and so the chuck wagon was created.

Today’s food truck is nothing like it used to be.  They are more like  gourmet mobile catering trucks.  Their menus can range from ethnic cuisine to sushi. Often focusing on limited but creative dishes at reasonable prices, they offer customers a chance to experience food they otherwise may not. Finding a niche seems to be a path to success for most trucks. While one truck may specialize in outlandish burgers, another may serve only lobster rolls.

Due to an apparent combination of economic and technological factors combined with “street food” being “hip” or “chic” there has been a rise in food trucks in the United States in recent years.

The food truck trend has grown as they are now being utilized at special events such as weddings, school dances, birthday parties, mitzvahs, retirement parties, and public gatherings such as art festivals and movie nights. Food trucks are now even Zagat rated. Another thing to develop is the food truck festival phenomenon. These festivals are gatherings in which people can find their favorite trucks all in one place and as well provide a means for a variety of diverse cultures to come together and find a common ground over a love for food.

What is your favorite mobile kitchen?