Food trucks may be trendy now but the concept is hardly new. Since the turn of the century, hungry workers have counted on mobile vans and stalls lining city streets to provide cheap, filling fixes. Today, the lack of capital for brick-and-mortar restaurants has inspired a surge of chefs to turn old trucks and buses into curbside culinary destinations. The contemporary food truck scene runs deep in the USA, but if you’re traipsing the streets of Europe craving a roving kitchen that can knock your socks off, here are a few spots to try on this side of the pond.
When in London, make a beeline to the food truck mecca, Eat St. (www.eat.st) at Kings Cross. Seven days a week, London’s best mobile merchants flock here to dish out everything from Japanese-style hot dogs smothered in wasabi-mayo to old-school English pies to Korean fusion street food. Look out for Kimchi Cult (www.kimchicult.com) and their infamous kimchi sliders (a mini beef burger topped with kimchi), or Yum Bun’s pillowy-soft steamed buns bursting with slow roasted pork belly (www.yumbun.co.uk). Visit Eat St.’s website for a full schedule of which vendors are due to roll in each day.
Over in Paris, mobile merchant Cantine California (www.cantinecalifornia.com) is marrying local, organic French produce with American street food traditions and Baja California-inspired flavors. Armed with a professional kitchen in the truck and two chefs at the helm – with enough training to pass the toughest French culinary tests – this latest arrival is gaining accolades among even the most skeptical Parisians. But if throwing back burgers and burritos on your Paris holiday isn’t what you had in mind, then keep an eye out for Le Réfectoire (www.facebook.com/LeRefectoire), a French-focused food truck set to hit those infamous boulevards this summer.
While in Geneva, forgo the high-priced restaurants and opt instead for Les Tartes de la Caravane (www.traiteur-de-tartes.ch). For 19 years and counting, this red and gold lined truck has parked itself at the city’s bi-weekly flea market, the Marché aux puces, in the Plainpalais neighbourhood (ville-geneve.ch). The Mediterranean serves as inspiration for the ever-changing menu of innovative quiches, breads, pastries and tarts. Using flavours from Turkey and Greece, Cyprus and Lebanon, savoury and sweet tones are creatively fused and an in-truck oven means piping hot goods are always on offer. For a real treat, grab a slice of the apricot and rosemary crumble and wash it down with spicy chai while strolling the market’s stalls for vintage watches.
Meanwhile in Berlin, next to heaps of currywurst stands, rests Vatos Tacos (www.vatos-tacos.com): a vintage milk and cheese truck turned authentic taco van. Abundantly flavourful Tex-Mex-style eats grace the revolving menu, with favourites like beef tacos topped with sautéed onions and habanero peppers. Follow the locals’ lead and stop by at night to pair your tacos and Mexican beer with live music and guest DJs; this is Berlin after all.
Each spring, the Netherlands' best food trucks descend on Amsterdam for the gluttonous Het Weekend van de Rollende Keukens (Weekend of the Rolling Kitchens). During this four-day foodie festival (www.rollendekeukens.nl), 75 trucks dish out old-school delicacies and modern eats to crowds of hungry Dutch at the city’s popular park, Westergasfabriek. With an eclectic mix of foods offered – think glowing rhubarb liqueur, geese and crayfish – creativity and turnout are on the rise.
The rest of Europe
If you can’t catch a festival or pin down the latest food truck that’s revving its engines during your European adventure, head to a local food market where mobile vendors are often on hand. Check out traditional products, like porchetta in Italy and frites in Belgium, but don’t discount the contemporary options either. Passionate foodies and chefs are often behind those revamped VW buses and vintage dairy trucks, serving-up creative restaurant-grade eats in the open air and on the cheap.
Caitlin Zaino is the founder of The Urban Grocer and she's scouring the globe in search of the world's most cutting-edge food discoveries.
Hungry to hear more about the smorgasbord of food you can score on the street? Devour a copy of Lonely Planet's The World's Best Street Food.