By Cyrene Cabantog | Xplore Sydney
It’s official: food trucks have carved themselves a slice of the Sydney food scene pie, and they’ve got the loyal, hundred-strong crowds who seek them out to prove it. Tacos are handed out of windows, illegal parking is rampant for a decent burger, and bearded bakers turn into rockstars when they get on counters and dance while they sling out piping hot knafeh (as someone usually squished in the crowd of waiting customers, I can tell you it’s a pretty good show).
Sydney, however, is not a food truck friendly city.
The current restrictions that the city places on food trucks are rigorous and stringent. These restrictions are meant to separate the chumps from the contenders and elevate the standard of food trucks, as well as minimise disruptions, traffic or otherwise, throughout the city, and I really want to say they’re a good thing. I really want to say that they’re helping to make our food truck scene better than anywhere else (I presume that Portland is preparing to stone me alive for even suggesting it).
Our semi-nanny state of a city lacks the infrastructure and the laws to really support the growing baby of the food truck movement. Trucks are extremely limited to where and when the can operate, which is virtually no where in the CBD or in hubs of nightlife, and only for a maximum of five hours trading in any one spot. Truck licenses are split into two kinds that limit where they can trade even within the designated areas, and then there’s the ignorant whine of a brick-and-mortar business every once in a while about how food trucks are going to destroy the established food industry (which just sounds like the food version of the marriage equality debate).
The city of Sydney isn’t trying to be difficult; there’s just no way food trucks are going to work with our current system if there aren’t strict regulations about it. Our city roads can barely handle midday traffic, let alone bad parking and lines around the block. Instead of building a food truck program to fit within Sydney, the city should have been given some wiggle room for the potential changes a food truck scene would bring. The purpose of the food truck program was to help develop Sydney’s night-time economy; by 2030, the government is hoping it’ll be an all-hours, all-ages, ecologically and economically sustainable playground of a city. Food trucks are a big part in the foundation of that, so forcing trucks to fit a cookie-cutter instead of bolstering their growth with supportive infrastructure and laws just isn’t responsible parenting, you know?
There’s plenty to love about Sydney’s food truck scene. In relativity, it’s a bit of a baby (you know, the kind that are unbearably adorable no matter what they do and are somehow forgivable even in the most epic of disasters), but they are a real food alternative to what’s available, and add a truckload (yes I went there) of diversity to the Sydney food scene. Most trucks and their crew are happy to work with each other; it’s part community, part friendly rivalry, and there’s less of the cut-throat business associated with New York food trucks.
Sydney food trucks’ dedicated social media presence makes them approachable; after following any given truck online and real life, it’s hard not to go up and feel like you know the actual people taking your order, making your food and handing it to you. Most importantly, the food is usually worth the adulterous moan and eye-roll, unlike the several thousand redundant mobile food vendors roaming Los Angeles (for every great truck in L.A., there’s a crappy burger and/or hot dog cart that is deeply shameful to the cow that died for it). Food trucks here hit the Sydney sweet spot of all the restaurant quality at a not-so-restaurant price with all the casual friendliness of a mate.
If anyone shames you for driving across the city after a truck, tell the City of Sydney to make grabbing dinner a little easier. And send a Snapchat to your shamer of your food truck feast.