Monday, July 18, 2011

Atlanta's Food Truck Debate Hits the Big Time

Hey this looks a lot like the New York Times' pic, ahem.
The New York Times recently shined its bright light on the raging nationwide debate about food trucks.  Front and center picture?  The VaHi Wednesday evening food truck park, just a hop, skip and a jump from Chez AdventurousTastes.

Seems Atlanta isn't the only city struggling with the debate over four-wheeled food purveyors.  From Seattle to Chicago, Raleigh to L.A., cities are struggling to balance the rights of food trucks, their customers, and traditional restaurants.  Restaurants complain that food trucks steal customers, motorists complain that food trucks steal parking spots, and residents complain that food trucks create noise and crowds.  Chicago has responded by forcing food trucks to stay 200 feet from any restaurant - no small feat in a city where a restaurant is on almost every block of every major street, while NYC has tried to encourage food trucks to move off the streets and into parks.

Lindsey and I were bowled over by the variety and sheer number of food trucks that we encountered in Portland.  Some of the most memorable meals of our recent trip were enjoyed while hovering over a paper plate, not sitting in a restaurant.  And while I'm really encouraged by the expansion of the food truck scene here in Atlanta (seemingly despite the city government's best efforts to shut them down), I also see why some rules are needed.  There's nothing like the experience of great food, service and atmosphere that a quality restaurant delivers, and food trucks can certainly siphon customers away from restaurants that pay property taxes, employ dozens and are permanent fixtures in our communities.  One thing is for sure: food trucks are here to stay for the foreseeable future.  Given time, I am sure most cities - even our own, constantly dysfunctional ATL - will find the right balance to make all parties at least a little happy.

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