A local news article has reignited the debate as to whether food trucks are stealing business from brick-and-mortar restaurants - and now an LA City Councilmember has entered the fray. This article, in the Park La Brea News/Beverly Press, covered the ongoing restaurants-vs.-trucks battle on Miracle Mile. Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, 5th District, was interviewed for the piece. He called the trucks "a nuisance," and said they posed "unfair competition" to Mid-Wilshire restaurants in "stationary, permitted locations." He went on to suggest that food trucks should stick to serving construction sites where workers don't have easy access to other food, and "that should be their only place in the city."
Now Maxson Smith, the owner and proprietor of the TastyMeat! truck, is firing back at Koretz in an open letter on the Santa Monica Food Truck Lot site. "Do you feel the notion of free and unrestricted trade [should] apply only to business owners in stationary locations?" he asks Koretz. "I am governed by the same Health Department rules and regulations as any other restaurant in Los Angeles county, and am fully permitted and allowed by state and local law to operate in the manner you feel has “no place” in my city."
Santa Monica Food Truck Lot (on Twitter here) and the SoCal Mobile Food Vendors Association (on Twitter here) have tweeted the link to Smith's letter, and are asking that their Twitter followers retweet it. They also suggest that food truck supporters email Koretz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chef Ludo Lefebvre, mastermind of traveling LA restaurant event LudoBites, is bringing his own food truck to the LA Street Food Fest on February 13. He'll be making one dish: his fried chicken, in bite-size servings. This is a very interesting incarnation of LudoBites. It has all Ludo's usual ingredients - small plates, small kitchen, pop-up location - plus the hottest accessory for a chef right now: a truck. Unlike most LudoBites events, though, the LudoTruck will be around for one day only.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that next Thursday, February 11, a new food truck lot will open in downtown LA, at Alameda and Traction Streets. It'll feature three or four trucks a day and plenty of parking for nomming visitors. It's opening on the same day that the next installment of Downtown Art Walk is taking place. Matt Geller, vice-president of SoCal Mobile Food Vendors Association, is running the lot: he was also behind the Santa Monica food lot. According to Geller, the LAPD and local businesses are on board, which gives this lot a good chance of staying open. Hope so.
I'm already having trouble deciding whether I like Phamish's or Nom Nom's banh mi best: now it looks as if another contender will join the battle of the mobile baguette sandwiches. Mandoline Grill is a brand new truck that specializes in Vietnamese classics like banh mi and bun (vermicelli noodle bowls), and has several vegan menu items, such as cha gio (crispy spring rolls). Mandoline Grill is having a launch party at Verdugo Bar in Glassell Park this Saturday, February 6, from 1 PM to 8 PM. There'll be an open bar, DJs, giveaways and, of course, food.
LAist is reporting that 36 food trucks and food carts will be at the LA Street Food Fest on February 13. The festival will take place at LA Center Studios from 11 AM to 5 PM. LA Center Studios is downtown, by the 110 freeway: its entrance is at 500 S. Beaudry Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90017. 5th St. is the cross street.
Find out more information at the LA Street Food Fest's official site, or follow them on Twitter at @lafoodfest.
At the Haiti fundraiser, Phamish were handing out coupons for $1 off their Vietnamese home cooking - and they've still got plenty left. Hit up the truck at 5900 Wilshire Blvd, on Miracle Mile, today (January 25) from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM, and Wednesday (January 27) at the same time.
According to food-truck gossip, Los Angeles city authorities may be about to tighten up on truck parking in certain areas. The 5700 block of Wilshire Blvd., on Miracle Mile, is a popular weekday lunch spot for trucks. Since last August, owners and managers of local restaurants like Toshi's, Baja Fresh, Koo Koo Roo and Johnnie's New York Pizzeria have been complaining to the city that the trucks are stealing their business. (In the case of Toshi's, they may have been right: the Asian takeout joint recently closed.) In December, mysterious Tow Zone street signs even appeared on the block: the LA Department of Transportation confirmed it didn't issue the signs, and sent people out to take them down. Los Angeles Business Journal covered the battle between brick-and-mortar restaurants and food trucks on January 18. Now, rumor has it that a city ordinance could soon be passed to bar food trucks from parking on that stretch of Wilshire.
Trucks could perhaps combat this potential ban by convincing a local store to invite them to park outside. Farther north, on Melrose Avenue, vintage store SLOW invited Don Chow Tacos to park in its lot on January 16, and has hosted other food trucks before: maybe some non-restaurant-related businesses on the Miracle Mile will follow suit.
This Saturday’s Haiti fundraiser at TLofts had an enormous turnout. 25 food trucks lined the intersection of Tennessee and Butler Avenues in West LA, and, from 11 AM to 4 PM, seemingly thousands of people showed up to eat for charity. Participating trucks included Nom Nom Truck, Bool BBQ, Buttermilk Truck, Get Shaved, Fishlips Sushi, India Jones Chow Truck, and many, many more.
I ran into a fellow food-truck aficionado; too overwhelmed to order yet, we stood and chatted for a while. Like me, he was stunned into inaction not only by the Disneyland-long lines at each truck, but also by the staggering variety of food on offer. The problem with such a concentration of trucks in one area is that you can’t possibly eat everything that looks good. By the time I left, I’d only managed to make it through a meatball sub from Vesuvio, a Del’s frozen lemonade, and a chocolate milkshake from King Kone. It would have been great if each truck had prepared smaller portions of some or all of its dishes, so customers could sample more than one truck’s cuisine: although maybe it’s to a truck’s advantage to fill customers’ bellies so full that they can’t fit anyone else’s food in there. I asked a woman at Vesuvio if she could make me a half-sandwich instead of a full order; she told me they “don’t really do that.”
The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly: everyone wanted to know what everyone else was eating and which truck it’d come from. At Vesuvio, I waited with two other women for arancini (savory rice balls), and we cursed our luck together when the staff told us they’d run out. My friend accosted a man eating a good-looking tostada, and he directed her over to LA FuXion. Sadly, they were all out too.
By 3:15, almost all the trucks began to run out of food. Willoughby Road had erased most of its blackboard menu; one or two lonely items remained. Don Chow Tacos held off on taking orders, unsure it even had enough food left to fulfill the ones already on the docket. Asian Soul Kitchen took off, honking its horn triumphantly (or perhaps simply attempting to clear the road of chatting diners). The Grilled Cheese Truck and Louks To Go left next. Ridiculously full, I departed soon afterward.
Notable absences: Frysmith, who had a prior commitment at the Natural History Museum; Marked5, who tweeted today that it’ll be “coming back soon;” TastyMeat (its truck was in the shop); Baby’s Badass Burgers; Kogi BBQ; and Grill ’Em All – as a huge fan of both burgers and Metallica, I was sad this new truck wasn’t there today.
Tomorrow (Saturday, January 23), from 11 AM to 4 PM, West LA's eco-friendly condo complex TLofts is hosting a benefit for Haiti earthquake relief. As of this posting, 24 food trucks have signed up to participate in the benefit. They'll be parked by TLofts, at the intersection of Tennessee and Butler Avenues, one block south of Olympic Boulevard and three blocks west of Sawtelle Boulevard. A portion of the trucks' proceeds will go to the Red Cross International Response Fund. Keep checking this Twitter feed list for the most up-to-date list of the trucks that'll be there. (Make sure you're signed into Twitter in order to view the list.) Personally, I'm looking forward to trying Vesuvio and The Sweets Truck, and eating good food for a good cause.
LA Weekly's Squid Ink food blog reported today that mobile dessert company Little Spoon is getting rid of its truck. Instead founders Melissa Hanna and Laurel Tincher are going to make their desserts available on other food trucks: Willoughby Road and the Nom Nom truck will start serving them next week. LA coffee-shop chain Groundwork is also going to be carrying Little Spoon sweets, starting in mid-February.
I'm a fan of Little Spoon's cookie bark and lemon bars, and I'm glad its desserts are still going to be available. I can't help noting, however, that its retirement from mobile baking means there's a fully equipped truck for sale. Could someone please buy it and start up the bagel truck I've been dreaming about?