The History of Street Food
When you think of the term “street food,” the first thing to come to mind may be the iconic hot dog cart on a New York sidewalk. But this popular food trend comes in many forms: a travelling food truck dishing out regional or ethnic cuisines, a fresh produce cart or open-air market in a downtown neighborhood, or maybe a restaurant pop-up serving specialty meals for a limited time only.
Despite the wide breadth, most street food vendors have a few things in common. They usually offer a limited menu that is very niche; whether it be tacos, kebabs, donuts, or sandwiches, most food trucks or carts have a specialty “theme” to their offerings. Their menu items also tend to be pretty affordable, which is part of what makes them so attractive to passersby.
In today’s age, social media has also had a great impact on many mobile food vendors—with convenient “status updates” and social posts, followers of a particular establishment can find their next location in real-time as opposed to having to track them down or wait for them to show up again.
While recent popularity has brought food trucks back to the public’s eye, it is possible that the tradition of street food has been around for nearly two millennia. (Evidence of these types of establishments have even been found in excavations of the ancient city of Pompeii)!
In the United States, street food carts have been around since the beginning—even as far back as the late 17th century with immigrants arriving and bringing their own cultures and food traditions. It seems like this diversity of cuisines still rings true today, making food trucks a convenient and accessible way for customers to try a variety of different foods at an affordable price.
With so many pop-up vendors touting regional cuisines, seasonal menus, or specialty goods, it’s no wonder street food establishments are still popular in the U.S. and around the world. In addition to that small cart on a busy city street, you can now find street food everywhere from food truck festivals and parks, to caterers at weddings and events.
Top Street Foods
What are the most popular street foods? While every country likely has their own favorites, here are some of the top street foods in America:
- Hot Dogs
Recipe: Check out these street food-worthy hot dog creations!
Featured Restaurant: If you live near NYC, make sure to stop by Dobbs Dawg House for some crazy hot dog toppings. Follow them on Instagram for some recipe inspiration: @dobbsdawghouse.
Recipe: Try these churro-like “French Fries” made from Martin’s Potato Rolls!
- Ice Cream
Recipe: Combine this with the last food item and you get these delicious Churro French Toast Ice Cream Sandwiches!
Recipe: This messy Carolina Style Burger topped with chili and cole slaw definitely looks like something you’d find at a burger food truck!
Featured Restaurant: Hard Times Sundaes in Brooklyn, New York is often touted as “NYC’s #1 Burger Truck.” They’ve also won several awards such as “Judges’ Choice” at the 2017 Hamburger House Party! Check out this winning Bacon Cheeseburger recipe by Chef Andrew Zurica.
- Burritos & Tacos
Recipe: Tacos Al Pastor are a classic street food! Try our recipe for them which uses flattened Martin’s Long Potato Rolls as the “taco” shells!
Recipe: Try this recipe for delicious Chorizo Sliders with Mexican Street Corn (Elote) Slaw.
Featured Restaurant: You’ve gotta check out the classic (authentic) sliders from White Manna Hamburgers in Hackensack, NJ! You can read more about them on seriouseats.com.
Recipe: Another favorite for many Americans; try these Customizable French Bread Pizzas that are definitely food truck-worthy.
Recipe: Turn Martin’s Potato Bread into “tortilla chip” scoops in this nacho-esque recipe for Chicken Enchilada Bites!
Recipe: Walk around any major metropolitan city and you’ll likely see numerous falafel carts serving up delicious creations. Check out this recipe for Falafel Sliders with Avocado Hummus!
- Grilled Cheese
Recipe: You can’t get much more classic than a grilled cheese sandwich! In fact there are entire food trucks devoted to this beloved food. Try this recipe for Gourmet 3-Cheese Grilled Cheese!
Recipe: Donuts are another street food essential—many vendors gets very creative with the topping and filling ideas. Try out these Maple Glazed Donuts with Candied Bacon made with Martin’s Potato Rolls!
Recipe: Visit Philadelphia, PA and you’ll see more cheesesteak establishments than you can count! You really can’t beat the classic Philly-Style Cheesesteak!
- Mac and Cheese
Recipe: Ah—the ultimate comfort food! Wait…why not combine with another classic for this portable Mac & Cheese Grilled Cheese. Certainly something you could picture being served by a sandwich themed food truck.
- Seafood Rolls
Recipe: Lobster Rolls, Crab Rolls, or Shrimp Rolls, they’re all well-loved street food items!
Recipe: All across the country, but particularly in the Southern States, BBQ food trucks abound! Check out this recipe for a classic Beef Brisket Platter.
Featured Restaurant: Next time you’re in Austin, TX, you have to stop by La Barbecue for their delicious barbecue creations!
Check out these other great food trucks and restaurants below:
- Doggystyle Miami Hot Dogs – Miami, FL; (follow @doggystylemia)
- JJs Red Hots – Charlotte, NC; (follow @jjsredhots)
- Rocket Fine Street Food – Providence, RI; (follow @rockettruck)
- Schweid & Sons’ “The Very Best Burger” Truck
- Burgers Never Say Die – Hollywood, CA; (follow @burgersneversaydie)
read more at eater.com
- Kings Street Food Counter – St. Petersburg, FL; (follow @kingsdtsp)
- Joes Dairy Bar – Hopewell Junction, NY; (follow @joesdairybar)
- Federal Donuts – Philadelphia, PA; (follow @federaldonuts)
- East Side King – Austin, TX; (follow @eastsideking)
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