Food Truck 101: Everything You Need to Know Before Hitting the Streets

by Sarah Russo

When you hear the words “food truck,” what comes to mind? Maybe you are picturing one of those hot dog stands you see on every New York City corner or some rickety cart being pushed around selling premade ice cream. And granted, that was the norm years ago, but today, the food truck game is way more than that. 

The boom of the food truck business began back in 2008, when LA-based entrepreneurs Mark Manguera and Caroline Shin teamed up with chef Roy Choi to create Kogi BBQ, the first food truck. The business crossed Korean BBQ with Mexican tacos that were inexpensive and unique. Kogi BBQ was able to break social and economic boundaries in Los Angeles and introduce the community to convenient food that was also high-quality and not the typical unhealthy or greasy food truck fare. 

A recent industry report found that there are over 32,000 food trucks in the United States. Syracuse alone has a little over 30 food trucks. There is one organization that brings them all together: The Syracuse Food Truck Association, which plans events and promotes businesses for local vendors. 

Photo by Sarah Russo

There are trucks serving gourmet lobster rolls, authentic Ethiopian cuisine, wood fired pizza, scratch made desserts and so much more. 

Syracuse Food Truck Association President Nick Sanford said the organization aims to grow the food truck scene in Central New York and Syracuse. 

“There’s just some really incredible things being done with food trucks these days,” Sanford said. “We want to bring people together, bring vendors together, and show people what the food trucks can offer.” 

Navigating the food truck scene can be intimidating and overwhelming, especially when it is so new. There are a few tips we’d like to share, so you can get the most out of your next (or very first!) food truck adventure. 

  1. Do Some Research

Just like how you might search for new restaurants before visiting somewhere, food trucks are no different. StreetFoodFinder.com is a great way to find food trucks near you, figure out when they’re open and see what they’re serving. 

  1. Try Something New 

Your favorite food may be chicken tenders, but food trucks have a lot more to offer than that. We recommend stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring new flavors and cuisines. You are probably not traveling to Latin America anytime soon, but Mamacita’s Food Truck in Syracuse serves up authentic Spanish foods that will transport you right over.

Photo by Sarah Russo
  1. Bring Friends 

Heading out to explore some food trucks is a great activity to do with friends. Get a group together, find a truck and have a picnic. Bonus tip: have everyone buy a different food item, so you can taste a little of everything!

  1. Follow Socials 

A great way to stay up to date with all things food trucks in Syracuse is by checking out their socials. The Syracuse Food Truck Association is active on Instagram and Facebook, and lots of food trucks have social media pages for their businesses. Lots of times, they’ll share different events coming up, deals or discounts and new menu items. 

Syracuse is home to a diverse community, and the food truck scene here is just one way to showcase that. Starting April 27, The Syracuse Food Truck Association will be hosting 20 food trucks every Wednesday at the Great Northern Mall until October.

But wait! There’s another huge food event coming up. Syracuse is hosting the largest food truck gathering in CNY history at the New York State fairgrounds this summer. The Food Truck Battle will feature over 50 food trucks from around CNY, and a panel of local celebrity judges will taste and grade the sample items from each truck.

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