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Historical Highlights of Mobile Food in the United States

Street food has been a part of Americans’ dining habits since the late 17th century, when it was found in many of the larger cities on the East Coast. Since then, food trucks have taken a front seat in the world of American street food and are part of an ongoing food revolution. Here’s a brief history of the mobile food industry in the United States:

  • In 1691, New Amsterdam (now known as New York City) began regulating street vendors selling food from push carts.

  • Charles Goodnight invented the chuck wagon in 1866 to feed cattlemen and wagon trains traversing the Old West.

  • In 1894, sausage vendors sold their wares outside the student dorms at major eastern universities (Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Cornell), and their carts became known as dog wagons.

  • Ice cream trucks began selling frozen treats in the 1950s.

  • In 1974, Raul Martinez converted an old ice cream truck into the nation’s first taco truck and parked it outside an East Los Angeles bar.

  • In 1979, grease trucks began parking on Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, selling “Fat Sandwiches” to college students.

  • In November 2008, Kogi BBQ hit the streets of Los Angeles selling Asian-infused tacos.

  • The Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association (SoCalMFVA) was created in January 2010, becoming the first organization to protect the rights of gourmet food truck owners.

  • In August 2010, The Great Food Truck Race marked the first television program centered on the mobile food industry.

  • In September 2010, the U.S. government added “Tips for Starting Your Own Street Food Business” to its small-business website, BusinessUSA.

  • In October 2010, the prestigious Zagat guide announced that it’d begin providing reviews of food trucks in 2011.

  • In January 2011, President Barack Obama tweeted that his favorite food truck in Washington, D.C., is D.C. Empanadas.

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