Where Y'Eat: Keep On (Food) Trucking

Jun 13, 2013

When it comes to finding a food truck in New Orleans, social media is usually the preferred method. But lately just checking local event listings has been a pretty reliable tool, too.

Since the whole food truck trend arrived a few years ago, we’ve grown accustomed to finding these mobile vendors parked individually outside of bars or maybe along some downtown block, angling for lunch traffic. More often now, though, they’re also gathering — five, eight, even a dozen at a time. They look like mini festivals or temporary food truck food courts.

Along the way, an interesting ripple has developed. The organizers of all sorts of events have discovered that food trucks can draw a crowd, and so they’ve been recruiting the trucks to essentially be portable foodie attractions, in the same way a band or celebrity might headline a different event. 

For instance, the Fair Grounds Race Course has routinely used food trucks to market a nighttime outing at the horse track to a younger demographic. And if you think this is all just driven by young hipsters, well, consider that civic boosters in Jefferson Parish also organized a recent food truck rally to promote a new image for Fat City, that old entertainment district in Metairie that has seen some heavy-duty facelift work lately.

Meanwhile, a new local events company called My House has been organizing food truck events around New Orleans at a pace so rapid that, frankly, it’s hard to keep up with them all. This company’s latest venture is a whole series of related food truck gatherings called Rolling Through. This series is now underway and continues each Tuesday through the end of June. Each of these events is produced in one of four different neighborhoods and in junction with different community groups working in those neighborhoods. At least part of the idea is to showcase what’s happening in these neighborhoods to people willing to travel across town to sample the latest food truck find. You can find links to details on these events here.

This marriage of food trucks and events sure seems like a symbiotic one. Event producers want people out, after all, and the public curiosity for these hot new trucks sure gets them there. Meanwhile, food truck operators need good locations where, A) people can find them easily, and B) where they know they won’t be run off by authorities, an especially important factor given how opaque the city’s rules on street vending have proven.

Now keep in mind that big crowds and the limits of a small truck-based kitchen mean that sampling the fare of food trucks at these events can often entail quite a wait. If you’re expecting the grab-and-go efficiency of, say, a Jazz Fest food booth, well, this is a different story — something more akin to a bread line glowing with iPhone screens.

But these gatherings do showcase the wide diversity of the food truck circuit, which is growing all the time. And the atmosphere is usually pretty festive too, often with live music, little outdoor bars and plenty of socializing as people nosh the night away. The trucks may be new, but it turns out that particular combination has been a good way to get a New Orleans crowd out for a long time.

Here are some online resources for keeping up with the latest events:

My House NOLA

Web site for the local events production company behind many recent food truck gatherings.

New Orleans Food Truck Coalition

Facebook page for the local food truck advocacy group, with event listings.