Food Trucks

These Men Want to Save You a Taco (Truck)

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Rascoe pointed to the No Borders truck. "See them? They're doing everything right. But this isn't a high-traffic area, so no one's lining up. No one's on Washington Avenue in the middle of the day. I'm sure they'd rather be where medical students are getting out of school or people are getting out of court."

Said Cohen: "It's as if the Houston Restaurant Association has stepped in and said, 'Hey, no...we don't want all these food trucks.'" Some restaurants, like Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen and Hubcap Grill, are clearly on board the food truck bandwagon: They have their own food trucks now, which both operate on Washington Avenue.

Cohen thinks others are upset that food trucks and stands are able to run more cheaply and efficiently -- and therefore have lower operating costs -- which can be viewed as direct competition for many restaurants. But he wants to find out directly from restaurant owners themselves how they feel about taco trucks.

There's also the issue that many people -- both citizens and at the City -- have with the often wrongheaded idea that taco trucks are pits of filth. It doesn't help that mainstream news outlets such as KHOU gives air time to frivolous, casually racist stories like "Health department says filthy taco truck vendors found during surprise visits." As J.C. Reid pointed out at 29-95, where are the scare-tactic news stories on all the brick-and-mortar restaurants that are found to be "filthy" during weekly visits from the Health Department?

The trio stridently disagrees with allegations that taco trucks are dirty. "These are essentially open kitchens," Cohen points out. "You can look in there and see exactly what these guys are doing, where they're grabbing the food from, how they're cooking it."

"And," added Rascoe, "you can see that some 16-year-old isn't talking on his cell phone while he's working the line and making your food, not paying attention." A quick poll of the group determined that while many of us had gotten food poisoning from traditional restaurants, none of us had ever gotten sick from a taco truck. And that's after eating from mobile food vendors for most of our combined lives.

The first step for the fledgling organization is to interview food truck owners around town -- both new and old -- to find out what their largest barriers and stumbling blocks have been. For many of the food trucks, at least one of those barriers is language. That's why Save Our Food Trucks is currently looking for Spanish translators to accompany them on these interviews.

Armed with that information, the group hopes to create a game plan to eventually take to the City and begin working with them on perhaps loosening certain restrictions and regulations. They're quick to point out, however, that they don't want health codes compromised in any way. "Public health is extremely important," said Cohen "That's always number one."

In the meantime, the group's progress can be followed on Twitter at @SaveOurFoodTrux or on their website. Plans for a Mobile Food Rally in January 2011 are in motion, for anyone who wants to provide a public show of support. Of course, you can always just grab a taco or two at your local truck just to start.

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Katharine Shilcutt