The food truck trend won’t stay hot forever, but that hasn’t stopped au currant trucks from bringing serious heat down on real L.A. street food. Yes, L.A. County Supervisors have preliminarily approved the requirement of letter grades for food trucks, food trailers, and food carts, with a final vote pending next week. After passing, the measure will go into effect following 30 days. This is great news for diners who insult the entire culture by still using the term "roach coach" while turning up their noses (although in fairness, trucks on our street do play "La Cucaracha" when they beep their horns), as well as the new-style vendors competing in the high-profile world of food trucks. so, what exactly do food truckers have to say?
Nom Nom co-owner Jennifer Green tells Grub Street that the letter grades provide the "potential for new customers to have more confidence in food quality," which is no doubt the clear upside here from a sales-perspective. Matt Geller of the Southern California Mobile Food Vendors Association echoes this hope to KSPR News, certain that letter grades will end the hesitancy of diners to dine "a la cart."
But Nom Nom’s Green also reveals that a potential downside could be a tendency for "city government to misuse regulations in order to assert more control over food trucks." Vesuvio’s owner Vince Giangrande agrees, telling the New York Times that "I don’t think they have our interests at heart…It’s another way to put us out of business," referring to the ongoing friction backed by neighborhood city councils who often appear to be on the side of reducing competition for brick-and-mortar restaurants.
Some of our own deepest fears are best relayed by Erin Glenn, executive director of the Asociación de Loncheros La Familia Unida de CA, in the same N.Y. Times article. Glenn says, “My main concern is not the ordinance itself, but the treatment of the vendors by the inspectors…Oftentimes, with traditional food trucks, there is a language divide. Truthfully, this could be such a challenge for some of our members.”
While Grilled Cheese and Kogi and the like can easily roll with these new laws and required twice-a-year inspections, traditional L.A. street food vendors like taco, mariscos, and cemitas trucks, not to mention the mixed fruit vendors, champurrado carriers, tamale vendors, and superior neighborhood taco tables, are surely in danger. Our undocumented brothers and sisters, many of who depend on selling food items that are crucial to our city’s culture, are unlikely to welcome inspections and stand to disappear from our streets with this increased scrutiny. In other words, Gloria Molina’s master-plan just might be coming to fruition, just two years after we all rallied to "save our taco trucks!"
We’d love to know your thoughts in our comments, readers. Will letter grades and increased scrutiny be the end of L.A.’s true street-food culture?