Is Street Food the New Bacon?
Street food has definitely entered a new era, maybe even reaching the faddish extremes of bacon. Last week the Wall Street Journal was yet another publication to notice that the new breed of street food "is aggressively gourmet, tech-savvy and politically correct."
While I'm all for crème brûlée from a kitchen next to a steering wheel, it's hard not to wonder how this new-agey mobile food culture will affect the old guard. What about the non-organic, questionably hygienic vendors without Blackberrys or Facebook accounts? Are they going to survive this moment?
In some cities it's not an issue. Chicago, for example, doesn't have a truck selling quiche Lorraine or hormone-free gelato. In fact, the city is still pretty limited to vendors selling elotes (roasted corn on the cob), hot dogs, ice cream, and sno-cones. According to Chuck Sudo of Chicagoist, "the city may never experience the same cutting-edge street food culture because the aldermen regulate and legislate anything they don't understand to excess." Compounding that, the vendors cannot afford wireless service or don't want to draw attention to their residency status.
But in other regions, especially Northern and Southern California, and New York City, the trend is on fire. In fact, tonight in Rockefeller Center, leading chefs will prepare "gourmet street food" for a Citymeals-on-Wheels fundraiser where tickets were $600 a pop. On the menu: funnel cake with orange blossom honey, Nova Scotia lobster rolls, and grilled lamb with black cardamom dressing in homemade pita.
While I like the fact that more entrepreneurs are doing innovative things with food on sidewalks, part of me is a little nervous that, some day, a sno-cone with bright blue syrup might not be good enough.