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gourmet to go Food trucks have a long history, so why do they still seem so fresh? By John Taraborelli • Photography by James Jones

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arlier this summer, East Side City Councilman Sam Zurier proposed

an ordinance that would require food truck owners operating in Providence to register their vehicles in the city and pay motor vehicle taxes accordingly. “If they’re going to come to our city and they’re going to gain business from our customers and they’re going to park their truck on our streets, it would seem only [right] that they would pay to us their motor vehicle excise tax,” he told WPRI’s Dan McGowan. Fortunately, the idea seemed to generate about as much interest among his colleagues as Lincoln Chafee’s presidential campaign, and Council President Luis Aponte quickly offered a voice of support for the mobile businesses, noting, “What the food trucks and the street food scene offer really has an impact beyond what the revenues may be.” Putting aside the holes in Zurier’s proposed ordinance (couldn’t every city and town in which food trucks do business make the same argument?), it speaks to the level of novelty that still exists around mobile eateries. We regard them as new and exciting, the start-up disruptors of the restaurant industry. But why should food trucks still seem so novel? They’re not exactly a new part of our culinary landscape.

the genesis of food trucks The idea of mobile food peddlers is almost as old as the country itself. New York first began regulating vendors selling food from pushcarts in the 1690s, back when it was still New Amsterdam. In 1866, an enterprising Texas cattleman named Charles Goodnight invented the first chuck wagon as a way to feed traveling cowboys. Of course, we all know mobile restaurants have a long and storied tradition here in Providence, where in 1872 a man named Walter Scott began serving lunch to ProJo employees out of a horse drawn wagon, creating the diner as we know it, and Haven Brothers has been a fixture since 1893. How can a concept so old and ingrained in our culture still generate so much buzz and excitement that only this year did Motif, a local arts and culture newspaper, decide to launch Rhode Island’s first-ever Food Truck Awards? Perhaps it has something to do with the modern reinvention of the mobile eatery – let’s call it the nouveau food truck. Up until very recently, the food truck experience was mostly limited to a basic ham or tuna sandwich purchased from a “roach coach” at a work site, a dirty water hot dog from a cart outside a baseball game or perhaps some carnitas from a mobile taqueria. For most of our food truck loving history, Haven Brothers was about as upscale as it got.

out of this world Founded in 2010, Rocket Fine Street Food is known for their mouth-watering hamburgers made with naturally-raised black angus beef. Offerings include speciality beef burgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, sides and seasonal specials.

Profile for Providence Media

Providence Monthly July 2016  

Food Trucks: Providence's favorite dining trend is on four wheels; Curiosities at the Roger Williams Museum of Natural History; Vintage vide...

Providence Monthly July 2016  

Food Trucks: Providence's favorite dining trend is on four wheels; Curiosities at the Roger Williams Museum of Natural History; Vintage vide...