Food trucks are a phenomenon on the rise in Europe. Coming from American cities like Portland and Los Angeles, where the trucks have a long tradition in serving the hungry passers-by, more and more urbanites on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean discover mobile food. This creates new options for plug-in urban food strategies. In Amsterdam the initiative Kanen bij Ten Kate asks local food trucks to gather in a market street in the west of the city every Thursday afternoon between 4 an 9 PM, after the market stalls have been broken down, in order to create a spontaneous pop-up food court.
All the participating food trucks have an eco-friendly or artisan focus and serve small meals varying from vegetarian gyros and eco-hamburgers to pancakes and chicken curry wraps. When the trucks roll in just before 4 PM the street instantly changes into a lively open air restaurant in which everyone can choose to eat whatever he or she likes. Some of the trucks require to be plugged into the existing electricity and water infrastructure that’s available at the Ten Katestraat as the street functions as a market during daytime.
The idea of this modular restaurant is inspired by events like Off the Grid in San Francisco, where local food trucks breathe live into dead urban spaces all across the Bay Area. The markets are set up in fairly central areas on plots of undeveloped land to keep costs low, and local vendors are invited to peddle their fares. Offerings range from fusion tacos to delectable cupcakes. As part of the Off the Grid caravan, visitors can expect to see both locally well-known food trucks, as well as lesser-known start-ups, and even chefs of famous local pop-up dinners. With a network of over 200 different mobile food vendors, Off the Grid has developed into a local brand for pop-up food, that also hosts an app that enables people to trace their favorite food truck, and can be hired as a catering partner for events for up to 10,000.
In most European cities the rules for street vending are still pretty tight. That’s why you won’t find food trucks ‘in the wild’ so much, but predominantly at festivals, where most trucks make their business profitable. The Kanen bij Ten Kate initiative creates momentum in a street that’s normally not very bustling during after-market time.