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The Food Truck Trend, Deconstructed

By August 24, 2009

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Photo of Burrito Girl Food Truck in Eugene

Burrito Girl, Eugene, Oregon

The other day, I paid a visit to Burrito Girl, in Eugene, Oregon, a food truck which specializes in El Salvadoran food.  I caught owner Maira Bell just as she was about to pack it in for the day -- it was over 100 degrees outside -- and as we chatted, she prepared her specialty -- a  pupusa plate, which included two pupusas -- a corn meal pancake similar to an arepa.  My pupusas came filled with chicarron, or seasoned, deep-fried pork rinds, and it was served with a dollop of sour cream, hot sauce, and a healthy serving of curtido, which is Salvadoran pickled cabbage.  It was delicious, and the entire meal cost only $5.

As I've mentioned before, food trucks are quite a trend right now, especially with the advent of social media like Twitter and Facebook, which make it easy to track down mobile food operations. But like so many things, this is really a matter of new technology putting a spin on something that's been around for a very long time -- we've been eating food from mobile "restaurants" since at least 1872, when the first diner was introduced in Rhode Island. In the early days, the diner became a low-overhead way for a would-be restaurateur to get into business, and this is still the case today. This is why you're likely to find creative and quirky cuisine in a truck -- a restaurant dedicated to the traditional Belgian waffle might have a hard time gaining traction in New York's restaurant scene, but the Wafels & Dinges food truck is making a go of it. Los Angeles is becoming world-famous for its fusion food trucks -- particularly Korean-Mexican and Chinese-Mexican specialties. The low-overhead/low-cost model it's also why you're likely to find authentic and inexpensive ethnic specialties in a food truck.

Photo of Pupusas from Burrito Girl in Euguene

Burrito Girl's Pupusa Plate

Burrito Girl doesn't really move around that much -- I found her in a parking lot at the corner 7th and Chambers Street in Eugene, which seems to be the regular spot. Burrito Girl isn't on Twitter, so she's not a part of that trend. But she's serving fresh, affordable, authentic and seriously yummy food -- all reasons why food trucks have played an important part in the American culinary scene -- past, present and future.

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