I Still Believe Street Food Fans Are Better Off w/ Food Trucks Being Semi-Illegal

Anybody who has read this site for any length of time knows how much I love street carts and food trucks.  For 5+ years Midtown Lunch has celebrated, promoted, and advocated for the great street food in New York City.  But it might surprise some to discover that I don’t actually want to see food trucks (or any street food for that matter) fully legalized in Midtown. And you can read why in this op-ed I wrote for the New York Times.


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    Just read the opinions page, nice balance point you bring up.

  • Congrats on your NY Times Op-Ed!

  • It’s Cupcake Crew’s fault!

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    What about the question of carts vs trucks? It seems to me that the *carts* are almost always the immigrant mom-and-pop operations that Zach idealizes. From Zach’s point of view, who cares if they kick out the food trucks? Most of the ones that parked in midtown were the “new school” vendors anyway, hoping to ride the street food wave to bigger and better things, or at least corporate catering opportunities.

    One thing I believe is that if food trucks want full legalization, that’s fine, but they should have to PAY for it, big time. The fact is that patches of the street in midtown are highly valuable pieces of real estate, owned by the city (that is, US). Why should we be giving it away?

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    Zach – nice op-ed and piece of writing…

    You’re going to be the Brian Brian Stelter of foodie writing (deservedly so).

  • one point missed: for many vendors, this is their livelihood – their only source of income. so to tell them to wait it out…..is forgetting that they got bills to pay, mouths to feed, payroll to crank out.

    • Completely fair point… but changing the laws wouldn’t happen overnight either. In fact, the economic issues surrounding food trucks could fill another op-ed piece entirely.

      For example, when people open restaurants there is usually a business plan. And most of those business plans will include 3-6 months worth of operating expenses, while the new restaurant finds its footing and its audience. Very few places expect to open and be profitable from Day 1. Food trucks are no different, and yet because of all the great press and the long lines many of the new school vendors expect to be making money as soon as they hit the street. So, rather than find an out of the way spot and build up an audience over time, they go right for the highest density areas. It’s another part of the reason why there is a crackdown in Midtown right now.

    • Too bad. Such risks are inherent in any grey-market business

      My bookie, dealer & hooker all agree

  • I tend to disagree. I think there should be firm laws in place, so it’s a fair playing field and everyone knows the score. If the city wants to assign trucks and carts spots and have them pay for them, I’m all for it if they make it law. Just make it official and streamline the process for getting a food vending license, and by god, make sure every cart is inspected the same way a brick and mortar is. With rules in place, no one can cry foul… It is the only way to get justice for all.

  • Outstanding, especially for a food blog huckster… but why on earth did you choose the times? An op-ed with intelligence and national reach that espouses free markets belongs in the Journal, the most widespread paper in the US … and one that people actually read. Most copies of the times end up in the bird cages of the elderly or on the business end of a pooper scooper .

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    Sorry, but I disagree.

    What makes New York great aren’t the unwritten rules that favor the status quo. It’s the innovation and new ideas; the fact that it is constantly reinventing itself. If there wasn’t a demand for better food and more choice, the food trucks would die on their own.

    I also don’t buy that fast food chains will muscle out the little guys if the city legalizes food trucks. You don’t give us New Yorkers enough credit.

    I was in Austin, TX recently, where they have regulated food trailers, and that scene wasn’t bland or generic, not by a long shot.

    I can imagine a New York with food trucks alongside (perhaps fewer) hot dog stands, fast food establishments and steam delis, and it looks pretty good!

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