Street Food: a Timeline

From hunter/gatherers to the Seattle Street Food Fair.

This city's newfound enthusiasm for street meat is far from unique. New chichi food carts, stands, and trucks appear every week in New York and San Francisco, each with its own Twitter feed and artful concept. These new vendors sell everything from crème brûlée to curry, and last month The New York Times reported on quasi-violent turf wars developing between old-school gyros vendors and new-school cupcake trucks. In Los Angeles, the County Board of Supervisors' attempt to impose exorbitant fines on loncheras for staying in one place too long set off a public outcry that forced the county to yield. Meanwhile, Portland and Austin, which developed thriving cart scenes before the foodistas discovered them, continue to blow raspberries at other cities.A trend timeline, at least in Seattle, might look something like this:Dawn of civilization: People start selling food on the side of the road. Other people buy, barter, or kill for it.Mid-1990s: Taco trucks begin appearing on the streets of Seattle.Late 1990s and early 2000s: Food stalls—hamburgers, crepes, strudel, ice cream carts—join the growing neighborhood farmers markets, and Seattleites learn how to eat and shop.2005-ish: National food magazines discover what most of us have known for a decade—that taco trucks actually serve great food.August 2007: Josh Henderson and Danny Sizemore (no longer involved) launch Skillet Street Food; the Airstream trailer serving hamburgers with bacon jam and other upscale-at-a-bargain lunches becomes a cult phenomenon.November 2008: Kogi Korean BBQ Truck launches in Los Angeles, and within two months has attracted national press—not just for serving Korean tacos but for Twittering its ever-changing location.Immediately after: Everyone in Seattle begins Twittering.Immediately after that: Everyone in Seattle begins hating on Twitter.Summer 2009: Four new street-food vendors here—three trucks, one a guerrilla stall operating out of an existing restaurant—join in the game. News flash: On July 10, Parfait, an ice cream truck serving organic ice cream (@parfaiticecream, natch!), starts appearing in Queen Anne and Crown Hill. That makes five.Mid-August 2009: Henderson, with Gabe Claycamp, plans to throw a Seattle Street Food Fair, though according to Henderson the lineup and the location are still being negotiated.jkauffman@seattleweekly.com

 
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