One of my favorite aspects of living in Los Angeles (well, possibly the BEST aspect, if we’re going to be completely honest with each other) is the abundance of street food. Many countries around the world are defined by their street food–the United States is hardly an exception to this rule (see: hot dogs). I can hardly claim that Los Angeles has the most unique street food, as San Francisco and New York City can certainly give LA a run for its money nowadays. But in my mind, Los Angeles is the mecca of the modern movement–food trucks. When Kogi became enormously popular due to its unique twist on a standard taco truck in 2009, the idea took the country by storm. Imitators were quick to follow; but the novel idea of a ‘restaurant on wheels’, which had been overlooked in the past, jump-started the imagination of many creative chefs. Suddenly, people with great restaurant concepts but without the resources to afford a brick & mortar establishment could follow the ‘Kogi formula’ and achieve popularity. Trucks specializing in grilled cheese sandwiches, waffles, sushi and more were popping up all over the city–and like that, a city-wide (and eventually nation-wide) trend was born.
Even before we moved away from Denver in 2011, food trucks were already permeating the Mile High culture and becoming a familiar part of the cityscape. I remember chasing trucks by following Twitter on the Denver streets, trying to drum up excitement in my group of friends and squealing at each new food truck. Nowadays, food trucks are so ubiquitous around LA that they are a given: food trucks line up in front of LACMA, Mid-Wilshire, on weekdays; the Kogi Roja truck parks in Little Osaka on Sawtelle during Thursday nights. First Fridays on Abbot-Kinney in Venice, the ArtWalk in downtown LA, outdoor cinemas during the summer… where there is an open-air event, food trucks are expected and planned upon.
“Not so excited about food trucks around LA anymore, huh?” my friends ask with a smile.
I think this city has spoiled me rotten with its abundance of fantastic food trucks.
But this isn’t just about the trucks; the excellent quality of the food trucks here became a gateway ‘drug’ of sorts that hooked me into trying other types of street food. I used to be mildly fond of tacos before I moved here… now I’m an addict that considers the after-2 a.m. taco truck trip (say that five times fast!) an integral part of any night out in LA. I eat bacon-wrapped hot dogs off of questionable metal trays cooked on a cart without a permit in sight. Regardless of your financial situation–even if you’re down to the last $5 in your wallet–you can eat a damn good meal almost anywhere in Los Angeles thanks to street food.
Whether it’s a $12 gourmet lobster roll or a $1 beef tongue (lengua) taco, I can always satiate any craving I have on the streets of LA. And so, if you ever stop by–I highly encourage you to check out the Find LA Food Trucks website and try a truck or two nearby. Or if you’re open to becoming as addicted to street tacos as I am, The Great Taco Hunt is a great place to start (the blogger stopped updating in March of 2013, but it’s still a monster resource on taco trucks in the SoCal area). Even if you don’t live in LA or won’t be visiting in the foreseeable future, seek out food truck events in your local area. Support the culture so that new chefs with kick-ass ideas will continue to see the profit in starting trucks of their own, even after the trend has faded. Stuffing your face with tasty food on a street corner is probably one of the best ways to sacrifice your time while helping a creative entrepreneur, wouldn’t you agree?