Food Truck Rally Pulls In for a Thrill
No longer are they just competing for the patronage of construction workers, food trucks have become so popular in Los Angeles that they are now competing for titles as well. Such was the case this past Saturday wherein five of LA's local food trucks competed for the moniker of "Best of the Best" at the Thrillist Food Truck Rally on Sunset Boulevard, a testament to the mobile food culture that has thrived in LA for the past two years. Hundreds gathered in long lines at Siren Studios to sample the culinary offerings of the competing trucks. Afterward, attendees would vote for their favorite truck via Twitter.
Part of the appeal of these new-age trucks is that they use technologies such as Twitter and Facebook to gain customers, with some trucks having thousands of followers.
"What we've seen is a gourmet renaissance of an existing culture," said Ross Resnick of roaminghunger.com, a sponsor for the event.
Many of these truck's owners are young entrepreneurs who share a familiar story; a passion for cooking and an economic downturn that meant starting a food truck made the most sense. The results are often times fusion foods with new interpretations on traditionally popular dishes.
Common practices amongst the food trucks are the themes in which their menus are based. Competing in the event were trucks like Lardon, a bacon themed truck whose menu includes the "baco," a taco that replaces the tortilla with woven bacon. Frysmith is a truck that specializes in gourmet french fries and whose Rajas fries feature marinated steak topped with poblano chili and caramelized onions.
Alex Chu, 22, owner of the Dim Sum truck points out that most of his customers are of the Twitter age. "It's definitely for a younger crowd," said Chu.
Crystal and Daniel Weisberg, who joke about being "the oldest people here," commented on the some of the problems that have come about with the popularity of food trucks in LA, mainly long lines and the lack of city regulation.
In fact, city Councilmember Tom LaBonge has introduce two motions that would create designated parking areas for food trucks. This comes after complaints by residents and merchants who argue that the trucks take away public parking spaces and congest the sidewalks.
"As long as they are kept to a standard that restaurants are kept to, I think it's cool," said Daniel Weisberg.
Jeff Miller, the LA editor of Thrillest.com, thinks that in the end food trucks are positively changing LA's culinary culture. "If you're a restaurant and you're losing out to a food truck, I don't think you should be upset about the food truck; you might maybe want to step up your food game," said Miller.
However, Thomas Choi, co-owner of Komodo, admits that a brick and mortar shop is the end goal for most food truck owners.
By the end of the day, attendees had voted Dante's Fried Chicken as LA's best. The menu, which owner Dante Gonzalez describes as trans-Atlantic African cuisine, was a big draw amongst the crowd and his fried chicken and tofu dishes received applause from those in attendance.
When asked if he felt Dante's Fried Chicken should have won, Anthony Howard, an antendee of the event, could only muster one word out of his full mouth: "Totally."
All proceeds for the event were donated to Meals on Wheels West located on Michigan Ave. in Santa Monica.