Los Angeles's Food Truck Revolution

A new hub for food trucks expands the offerings beyond tacos. Food trucks are typically pretty hard to pin down. While some may...

A new hub for food trucks expands the offerings beyond tacos.Food trucks are typically pretty hard to pin down. While some may argue that's the point, a growing number of gourmet food trucks in Los Angeles is getting keen on the idea of permanence-or at least temporary permanence. In the process, they're bringing new life-and a more varied cuisine-to the streets of Los Angeles, transforming otherwise empty spaces into lively, popular, and profitable hubs.With the cult popularity of food trucks, however, has come a backlash from disgruntled restaurateurs, who've watched customers pass by their doors, favoring instead the four-wheeled restaurants in parking spots nearby. Revoked permits and parking citations have followed, prompting this new breed of L.A. food vendors to band together and form the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association-a voice for their growing ranks and as an internal support network.And now, to jointly dodge bureaucratic grief and establish a more consistent market, the group has opened what they're calling a Gourmet Food Truck Lot in downtown Los Angeles. It's a narrow strip of asphalt at the corner of Alameda Street and Traction Avenue in between the sidewalk and a warehouse loading dock in a steadily populating industrial section of the city's formerly desolate downtown. Its first day saw a line of five trucks, bumper-to-bumper, offering a menu of food ranging from kabob to Indian dosa to Asian-infused tacos-street food uncommon in a culinary scene made up almost entirely of Latin American dishes. Dozens of office workers, students, and passersby chowed down-which confirmed to the organizers that a little permanence might work well for L.A.'s mobile food world."It's more than I expected for the first day," says Matt Geller, vice president of the vendors association. He's looking to bring in a rotating collection of about three trucks to this area five or six days a week. "So far it's a thumbs up for a full-time gig. I haven't seen a frown yet."That's a big contrast to the scene a month earlier. Geller and his cadre of industrious truck owners had actually tried in early January to set up another mobile food truck lot in nearby Santa Monica, but they were shut down by the city after only one day due to zoning violations. They were parking in the lot of an unused former car dealership, a space volunteered by its owner. But "mobile food truck vending" is not among the 44 approved land uses listed in the city of Santa Monica's zoning code for that particular property and city officials came early on day two to enforce.

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