Every Thursday night, Lonnie Bishop and Lisa Case have a dinner date. For $5 each, the couple dines on fancy hot dogs served from a food truck parked outside their favorite wine shop in Los Angeles.
The fire engine-red truck labelled ‘Let’s be Frank’ is part of a growing fleet of mobile food vendors that serve tasty and inventive fare, often organic.
The trend has drawn entrepreneurs looking for opportunities in the recession and diners seeking cheap eats. Their menus are wildly different, with unusual items: tacos filled with Korean-style barbecued meat, vegan burgers, sushi, cupcakes, and architecturally inspired ice cream sandwiches.
“I've eaten all over the world in three-star restaurants. I enjoy this as much as I enjoy anything and I save a lot of money,” said Bishop, 46, holding a bun-wrapped sausage made from family-farmed pork and topped with pickles.
Erica Cohen and her business partner leased a boxy truck complete with a kitchen and an order window for $30,000. Their hot pink truck, called ‘Baby’s Badass Burgers,’ is a big draw on Hollywood Boulevard, where it is parked.
Many operators use Twitter to tell customers where they’re going next. ‘Kogi,’ which serves Korean barbecue tacos, was among the first to use the free social media site.
Moreover, it’s now hip to be a penny-pincher.
“It used to be cool to have a credit card and be all high-flying. Now cash is king,” said Kam Miceli, who helped start ‘Green Truck,’ which serves high-end organic fare.