food truck

From a city festival to a college campus to your local gas station, food trucks are filling the parking lots and parks. Typical menus include foods such as hot dogs, tacos, pizza, ice cream, hamburgers, French fries, sandwiches, donuts, milkshakes, coffee, burritos, and tortillas. Some, like ice cream trucks, focus upon a particular food. Others, like Korean food trucks, feature cuisine of that nationality.

When did this all begin? According to, historians trace mobile dining in America back to 1691 when New York began regulating street vendors selling food from push carts. These vendors sold meat pies, fruits, and sandwiches to garment workers, construction crews, and delivery boys at lunch time.

By the 1850’s passengers on cross country trains could purchase food in dining cars. These full service, sit-down restaurants featured tables covered with white tablecloths and set with china, silverware, and glassware for a fine dining experience.

In 1866, the Chuck wagon was invented by Charles Goodnight. Chuck wagons accompanied cowboys on their cattle drives across the Great Plains and served breakfast, lunch, and dinner. According to “From Chuck Wagons to Pushcarts—The History of the Food Truck” at, “The wagons themselves were designed specifically for cooking, with separate areas for pot storage, washing up and food preparation. This specialization and the ability to actually prepare and cook food make the chuck wagon the most direct ancestor of our modern food truck.”

Today’s food trucks often feature bright colored exteriors with the name of the food truck prominently displayed. Others are covered with artistic designs or images. The truck itself is an advertising instrument to generate present and future sales.

Look for food trucks at Taste of Chicago, at pop-up events, at county fairs, at city-sponsored festivals, anywhere a hungry crowd might gather.

If you see a food truck at an event, buy something. Think of this as an adventure into a new area of the food service industry.

—By Karen Centowski

To see a video about food trucks, go to Food Trucks Documentary—Food on Four Wheels–YouTube at