Archive for the ‘Taco Trucks in the News’ Category

'The Great Food Truck Race' to debut Sunday, August 15

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on August 14, 2010

So yes, I’m a little behind on this one. And thank you to friends and family alike that have asked me: “Hey, have you heard? There’s going to be a food truck show on Food Network!”

Well, at least I posted in time for the premiere, which airs tomorrow night. Scope the trailer below.

Ok, I’ll bite. (Har.)

I haven’t seen the show yet, and will post my review of the first episode next week. But my gut reaction sort of breaks down into three ways.

1) “Yeah, food trucks!” I think it’s absolutely fantastic that these trucks, a few of which I interviewed on this here blog way back when, are now going to be on national television. (Grill ‘Em All, Nom Nom) Kudos, guys!

2) Everyone seems to think that this is new. And maybe it’s just the latest example of a good idea from one part of society getting appropriated and commercialized by another. I worry that in this hype over tweet-fueled trendiness, somehow the classic taco trucks that aren’t on Twitter and don’t come to flashy downtown art strolls, get pushed aside, when in fact many of those guys were there first, and def could use the exposure.

In an article previewing the show, The New York Times proclaimed: “We’re living in a food-truck moment. Thanks to a booming gastro-culture and an economy gone bust, America’s streets are filled as never before with high-quality meals on wheels.”

I’d speculate that there are already tons of high-quality meals on wheels. Heck, check out the Yum Tacos map. I’m sure the Grey Lady didn’t know that there’s taco trucks in Arkansas, Illinois and Idaho. (I sure didn’t.)

3) Do food trucks really need to be a reality show? Do I really need people put in situations where they’re yelling at each other, à la The Real World? I really loathe these type of shows with these sit-downs at the camera and people talking smack about one another.

That said, as I found myself drawn to this part of TV Squad‘s interview with Tyler Florence, the new host of the show:

So it really is a race for them? Who can get set up and selling in new places the fastest.

Absolutely. There’s an elimination challenge in every city. They got 72 hours to make the most money. We start each truck with a full tank of gas and a completely cleaned out pantry, and everyone gets the same amount of money, so everyone starts on a completely even playing field. They’ve got 72 hours to shop, prep, cook and compete for the dollars and the hearts and minds of the whole community.

In their hometown, they’re rockstars — they can literally just Twitter, “Hey I’m on the corner of whatever,” and 25 minutes later, there’s a line around the block. But in the new cities, they don’t know anybody, so they’re trying to figure out who’ll Twitter, who’s calling the paper, who’s calling the television station, who’s gonna let them know we’re out here. These guys really thought out of the box. It was amazing to watch them all step up to the plate and be strong, independent mobile companies.

No matter what, I’ll be watching.

Lodi caps local taco trucks at 22, permits will be transferrable

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on November 19, 2009

Nearly two weeks ago we reported that the Lodi City Council might cap the number of taco trucks operating in the city. At a City Council meeting last night, the lawmakers voted unanimously to do just that, according to the Lodi News-Sentinel.

While the specific language of the final ordinance hasn’t been formally approved yet, the councilmembers did agree that the permits will be transferable.

Remember how I’d asked about what attorney David LeBeouf thinks of this new ordinance? Not surprisingly, he was there:

Local attorney David LeBeouf, who has represented the owners of the trucks in the past, told City Attorney Steve Schwabauer that he is fine with the ordinance as long as it allows the current trucks to continue to operate, Schwabauer said. LeBeouf also wanted the permits to be transferable if the owner sells the truck.

The newspaper also added that Mayor Larry Hansen has charged his staff with being more aggressive in making sure that the trucks will obey existing permit, health and safety laws and that he hopes that the new permit limit makes sure that the vendors will be in compliance, as the city has had a tough time with some vendors.

“Now that there is a cap, there is a value to having that license,” he said. “There could be more understanding of I really need to play by the rules of the game if I don’t want to be suspended or revoked.”

Baja Fresh introduces ‘Baja Kogi Gogi’ burrito

Posted by Martin do Nascimento on July 27, 2009

It is unlikely that when William Shakespeare wrote that now famous phrase “what’s in a name?” he had Korean Tacos in mind. Yet, there are hardly better words to express the controversy that has arisen around the word ‘Kogi’ in the world of tacos in the past few weeks.

It is quite possible that frequent readers of this taco-loving publication will recognize the word from a number of Korean taco-related articles recently published herein. Kogi BBQ, the Los Angeles based Korean BBQ taco truck that communicates its location to interested clients via Twitter, has received a lot of face time on this blog and elsewhere as a result of its innovative adaptation of Korean BBQ to the taco and the taco truck. Not only has the concept inspired some taco lovers to attempt to replicate Kogi BBQ’s recipes at home–especially we taco-deprived easterners–but it has even resulted in the spawning operations (see May 13th and May 31st posts).

Amazingly, some non-wheeled taco establishments have even begun picking up on Korean BBQ tacos. Recently, Baja Fresh the ubiquitous 300+ unit Tex-Mex burrito-and-taquería announced that it would begin serving its own version of Korean BBQ tacos under the name ‘Baja Kogi,’ as evidenced in the photo above.

Were it the case that Baja Fresh were simply adopting the Korean taco from Kogi BBQ as has already been done by other taquerías, what has become a major controversy may never have reached this blog as it there would have been no question as to the legality of the Baja Fresh’s actions. The origin of the controversy is to be found, however, in the adoption of not only the style of taco but also its name ‘kogi’ by Baja Fresh.

As I’m told, many copyright infringement proceedings are clear-cut cases, this one is not due to the meaning of the word Kogi in Korean: meat (고기). Does Kogi BBQ have exclusive rights to the word as a consequence of being the first firm to offer the Korean BBQ taco under that name? Whereas a word such as ‘meat’ or ‘vegetable’ could never be copyrighted in English, does the fact that the word ‘kogi’ is more widely recognized as a brand name than as a word mean that it is trademark infringement? These are questions that remain to be answered.

Update 9:35 am Pacific: Melanie Wong points out that Baja Fresh is now calling them ‘Baja Gogi‘ and not Baja Kogi. According to LAist, Chuck Rink, president of Fresh Enterprises, which owns Baja Fresh, released a statement clarifying what his company is doing:

Baja Fresh wants to clarify that our Korean BBQ style “Kogi” chicken and beef tacos and burritos, concept testing right now in one Irvine store, was by no means intended to seem “stolen” from the famous LA-area Kogi taco truck.

Rather, we were under the impression that “Kogi” was the generic word for Korean BBQ style. We have since learned “Gogi” is the general word and will be moving to change our naming to Gogi, for the Irvine store, and for any future roll outs of these products.

I’m still not sure what the difference between a “generic word” and a “general word” are, but whatev. -CF

Bay City News: Brothers Get Life For Oakland Taco Truck Murder

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on February 25, 2009

Remember that murder that happened at an East Oakland taco truck in January 2008?

Abel Martinez Mejia was buying lunch at a taco truck on the corner of 85th St. and San Leandro Ave. in East Oakland, when he was killed in an attempted robbery. Out of solidarity with a fellow taco lover, I donated $10 to his family.

Fortunately the murderers Darryl Hill, 22, and Deandre Hill, 19, who perpetrated this heinous crime were convicted in October on charges of first-degree murder with the special circumstance of committing murder during the course of a robbery.

Last week, according to a report in Bay City News:

Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay sentenced Darryl Hill, who shot Martinez Mejia five times, to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus another 25 years to life and sentenced Deandre Hill to life in prison plus 11 years.

I think that these scum should also be sentenced to life without tacos, from trucks or otherwise. Good riddance.

Rancho Palos Verdes City Council tightens taco truck rules

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on February 25, 2009

This just in from The Daily Breeze:

This week, the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that requires the trucks to park within 200 feet of a restroom that employees and customers have written permission to use.

The rules are a tightening of those created in 2006 that require catering vehicles to move at least 500 feet every 10 minutes – a requirement that for a time discouraged truck owners from operating in Rancho Palos Verdes, much to the satisfaction of residents who had complained about the lunch scene.

My guess is that none of the city council members in this uppity, ritzy neighborhood of Los Angeles County have ever eaten at a taco truck, otherwise they’d probably know what every taco truck patron and owner knows: 10 minutes is absurdly short.

Further, this new legislation is likely bordering on violating state law, says taco truck legal crusader, Phil Greenwald, in an interview with The Daily Breeze:“It is so outrageous, it tests credulity,” Greenwald said. “This (Rancho Palos Verdes) ordinance is apparently a thinly veiled attempt to restrain trade. It would effectively prohibit mobile vendors from exercising their right to participate in a lawful occupation.”

adding: “How many restrictions do you need before you realize that the purpose of the law is not for the public safety but it is to drive street vendors out of the city?”

New taco truck laws under consideration in Red Bluff

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on February 25, 2009

The small town of Red Bluff, Calif., between Redding and Chico along I-5, is considering letting taco trucks back within the city limits.

According to the Red Bluff Daily News:

A 2000 city ordinance banned mobile food vendors within the city, but a pair of taco trucks had continued to operate until the summer because the FBI had asked city officials to allow them to continue their operations because of a federal investigation into a methamphetamine and money laundering ring.

A third taco truck has operated legally within the city since before 2000 and has been grandfathered in. The city received a number of requests from entrepreneurs hoping to move their mobile businesses after the drug busts, which prompted the council to review the 2000 ordinance.

The new proposed ordinance would allow taco trucks back into the city limits, provided that they comply with several conditions.

The two that give me pause are the ones that say “Vendors must provide at least three off street parking spaces.” and that “Mobile units must be no closer than 800 feet from each other.”

I’m not sure if those provisions could potentially be in violation of California Vehicle Code 22455, which stipulates that cities only may regulate in the interest of “public safety.” I’ll check in with Phil Greenwald to see what he says.

Portland’s El Nutri Taco serves up next to a residential patio

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on December 28, 2008

News of innovative types of taco trucks are probably one of the best things that I could receive this year for Christmas. A smile crept across my face when I read about this new taco truck parked in a residential neighborhood:

El Nutri Taco owners Gabina Lopez and Chencho Martinez are pleased to have achieved a successful business literally in their front yard. Although the majority of properties on Woodstock east of 50th are single-family residences, this family has permission from the city for the setup.

Now free of debt, Martinez had borrowed from his brother to buy the truck and used a Home Depot credit card to build out his porch to the street. “My American dream is starting to take shape,” he said.

But soon after the business opened in March, the city got an earful from complaining neighbors. Because the cart was legally in a commercial zone, an immediate order to close the business was not an option.

If any Oregon readers are up near this truck, please do let me know how good the tacos are! Also, be sure to send photos to cfarivar [at] cfarivar [dot] org.

El Nutri Taco
Where: 8438 S.E. Woodstock Blvd.
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 9 p.m. Sunday
Information: 503-788-3492

Tacos Santana caters Jesse Thorn’s wedding

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on September 11, 2008

Man, this guy is my hero.

Why? Not only because he has a great podcast and has interviewed everyone from Ira Glass to Ted Leo. Not only because his podcast was picked up by WNYC and then PRI. Not only because he’s America’s Radio Sweetheart. Not only because his wedding was covered by The Grey Lady herself. But mostly, because his wedding was catered by, yes, a taco truck.

The Times neglected to mention which truck provided the food. Because, as we all know, not all trucks are created equal. A closer look at the above photo reveals it to be Tacos Santana, which appears to be part of the El Tonayense empire. Good pick, Jesse!

Anti-Taco Truck law declared unconstitutional in Los Angeles County

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on August 27, 2008

This just in from Phil Greenwald, the attorney representing the taco trucks in unincorporated LA County hit by the ordinance from earlier this year:


This morning in Department 1 of the Los Angeles Superior Court in the East Los Angeles Court House, the Hon. Dennis A. Aichroth ruled on a motion that I filed.

The motion (called a “demurrer”) asked the Court to declare Los Angeles County Code Section 7.62.070 “unconstitutional” and thereby render it unenforceable.

This is the so called “time limit ordinance” which prohibited street vendors (e.g., Taco Truck Operators) from: (1)remaining at one place more than one hour (in a commercial zone) or (2) for more than one half hour (in a residential zone) and (3) prohibiting them from returning to the previous location at which they had been selling, or (4) within one half mile of the previous location in any THREE HOUR PERIOD.

The Judge accepted my arguments notwithstanding the opposition filed by the District Attorney’s Office. The Judge ruled the ordinance “unconstitutional.”

Yea! We won!

Fraternally and sincerely,

Phil Greenwald


New Santa Rosa-area taco truck burns down

Posted by Cyrus Farivar on July 8, 2008

Apparently a new Santa Rosa taco truck has burned to the ground for an unknown reason.

The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat:

The 2005 truck was parked behind Perry’s Deli on Sebastopol Road when smoke was reported billowing out of it just after 6 a.m., Santa Rosa Fire Division Chief Mike Jones said.

The fire was extinguished by 6:46 a.m.

Officials estimated the loss to be $100,000. The cause is under investigation.