Friday, April 29, 2011

The Food Truck Diaries, Volume 13: The Future of Tucson Food Trucks

Posted By on Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 4:53 PM

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It wasn’t long ago that Tucson’s mobile-food culture was little more than Sonoran hot dogs and taco stands, but that is changing.

A new generation of food trucks is emerging, selling everything from tender barbecue sandwiches to Hawaiian shaved ice. I even saw a truck selling Chinese food out in Sells on the Tohono O’odham reservation a few weeks back, alongside trucks selling burritos and fry-bread tacos.

It’s hard to say what’s fueling this mobile food trend. Some say it’s the trickle down from the exposure food trucks have seen in the popular culture, while others say years of thin economic times make starting a food truck a better option for those who cook for a living.

Whatever it is, it means more good roadside food for those willing to look for it.

Julie Ray wants to make the search for food trucks a little easier. She recently started the Tucson Food Trucks Facebook page — the first Internet hub of food truck knowledge outside of the Food Truck Diaries that we know of — and is currently looking at other ways to offer people the tools needed to access more local food trucks, or even start their own.

“In L.A., food trucks have become part of the culture,” said Ray, who just returned from a trip to Los Angeles. “I’d like to see some interesting takes on food trucks from a Tucson angle, a new hybrid with more of the Tucson flavor.”

(Ray also sent this link about a sold-out event focusing on L.A. food trucks, humbly submitted here for your perusal.)

Ray was one of the people at a recent meeting at Dinnerware Artspace where the conversation was all about food trucks. What came out of the meeting is that there is definitely a hunger for more mobile food in Tucson—and that there are also some serious stumbling blocks for those wanting to get into the business.

“One of the barriers to getting people going is that we need a commissary kitchen, which is a requirement: A food truck has to operate out of one,” said Ray. The search is currently on for a centralized commissary that could act as a hub for food trucks, but nothing solid has emerged.

But that isn’t stopping food truck entrepreneurs. Whispers of a new food truck called Street Delights have been circulating for months, and some details recently started emerging via Twitter. Other chefs are also talking about taking their skills on the road, although I’ve been sworn to secrecy on all accounts.

There has also been buzz about holding a food-truck festival or organizing “mobile food courts,” where patrons could count on finding their favorite food trucks on designated days of the week.

It’s an exciting time to enjoy roadside food, and we’ll be sure to keep you posted as our mobile-food culture continues to grow.

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