Best Food Truck Cities 2023
Global Tastemakers is our first-ever reader’s choice awards, celebrating the best culinary destinations in the U.S. and abroad. F&W readers voted based on travel completed within the past three years, on categories including restaurants and bars, cities, hotels, airports, airlines, and cruises. Due to the limitations of pandemic travel, this year’s Global Tastemakers winners reflect a smaller portion of the globe. In many categories, we’re including an editor’s pick to shout out some more culinary destinations in places you can’t miss. See the full list of winners at foodandwine.com/globaltastemakers.
The food truck scene in the United States exploded in popularity over the past decade, and for good reason. Affordable prices, inventive dishes, and a bit of social media hype helped make food trucks a staple of the American culinary landscape. People love food trucks because of their diverse culinary offerings, often served in close proximity to one another. One of the hardest parts of eating out is deciding where you want to go and what you want to eat, and food trucks solve for that.
Food trucks go where hungry people are, which typically results in several different concepts grouped together. The affordability of food trucks makes them a popular choice for budget-conscious diners; many trucks offer full meals for under $15.
Because overhead is lower than in a traditional restaurant, the risk is lower, so chefs are freer to experiment with new ingredients and flavors. Food trucks are hubs for culinary creativity and innovation. Chefs can use them to test out new ideas before taking the financial plunge of brick-and-mortar locations. Even though the environment is casual, these entrepreneurs take their work incredibly seriously, bringing people together with community-style dining.
Food & Wine readers voted these cities the best food truck cities in America.
No trip to Portland is complete without sampling one of the city’s hundreds of food trucks. But let’s clear things up: Food trucks here are actually referred to as food carts. Rather than stand-alone, most carts work together in clusters in what locals refer to as “pods,” making it easy for diners to try a variety of global cuisines — all in one place. The Fifth Avenue pod specializes in Korean tacos, Mexican, and Egyptian cuisine. The Third Avenue pod is perfect for diners in search of a view. Steps away from Waterfront Park, the pod is home to Stretch Noodle, one of the city’s most popular dining locations featuring hand-pulled noodles made fresh daily. New pods are popping up all over the city and one of the most anticipated is Lil’ America, featuring BIPOC and LGBTQ+ restaurant owners, opening in the inner Southeast neighborhood of Buckman this fall. Curated by the restaurant group Win Win, the pod is inspired by cuisine from the Philippines, Guyana, and China.
Sunny days nearly year-round make Los Angeles the perfect place for a thriving food truck scene. Mexican cuisine rules on the West Coast, so expect to find a diverse mix of taco and seafood options to choose from. There’s Simón, the Mexican seafood truck serving the Silver area that has become popular for its fish al pastor taco; Mariscos Jalisco in Boyle Heights is well-known and rightly hyped for their tacos dorado de camaron, a shrimp enveloped in a fried corn tortilla and topped with thick avocado wedges and salsa; and Chingon Catering, a favorite for James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Bricia Lopez-Maytorena, who recommends the crunch wrap. But don’t sleep on Yeastie Boys, the city’s first bagel truck popping up in various parts of the city each day, and Kogi BBQ, Roy Choi’s iconic Korean-Mexican fusion spot in Hollywood with items such as a kimchi quesadilla on the menu.
Austin, Texas, is renowned for its vibrant and diverse food scene, and at the heart of it is a thriving food truck community. More than 1,000 trucks offer diners a unique dining experience that is both convenient and affordable. Visitors can sample everything from juicy burgers and crispy fries to Ethiopian stews, Korean barbecue, and Thai curries. One of the best things about the food truck scene in Austin is its accessibility. With many trucks operating out of renovated trailers or converted shipping containers, the overhead costs are lower than traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants. This allows vendors to offer high-quality food at lower prices, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious diners. Standalone trucks are common, but locals know the way to go is by visiting a food truck park where a collection of assorted dining options are grouped together. Take Thicket South Austin Food Park, which offers Indonesian barbecue (Saté Texas), gumbo (Jacque Belle Cajun Eats), breakfast bagel sandwiches (Brooklyn Breakfast Company), truffle oil tagliatelle (Arti Pasta Italian), and jerk chicken (Shirley’s Trini Cuisine) — all in the same location.
There’s no denying that New York City is a culinary powerhouse, and part of its allure (and make-up) are the many food trucks located throughout the city. Hot dog, shawarma, and ice cream (in the summer!) vendors can be found on nearly every corner of Manhattan. But there’s also chickpea masala from Mysttik Masaala, falafel from Taïm, and gyros from King Souvlaki. One of the most popular trucks to come out of the city is The Halal Guys, offering Middle Eastern cuisine like chicken and gyro platters. In Midtown, you’ll find a high concentration of food trucks that cater to the office lunch rush, but expect to find them all across the city. The Smorgasburg food market in Brooklyn is a popular weekend spot for food trucks, beginning in April and ending in October. NYC is also home to the Vendy Awards, which honors the city’s best food trucks.
Food trucks face stiff competition from brick-and-mortar locations in this chef-driven city (along with strict regulations). However, rather than hinder their growth, the challenges have only served to accelerate their creativity. In a town known for its focus on sustainability and prioritizing local ingredients for farm-to-table cuisine, food trucks cater to vegans, vegetarians, and meat lovers alike with a wide array of options available. Tokachi Musubi from chef Erika Sanchez offers Japanese traditional home-style omusubi (rice balls), Kayma is an Algerian food truck owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Mounir and Wafa Bahloul (don’t miss the cumin chicken croute sandwich), and Mi Morena keeps diners happy with Mexican staples like tacos. The Chairman is one of the city’s most popular food trucks, serving dishes “inspired by the original street food of Asia” like steamed buns filled with pork belly or tofu. The city’s food trucks promote a food festival-esque vibe, and some of the most popular spots for food truck gatherings include Off the Grid at Fort Mason Center and SoMa StrEat Food Park.
Honolulu’s food truck scene is a reflection of the island’s diverse cultures and traditions. Local favorites include Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, which serves succulent shrimp dishes smothered in garlic and butter, and the popular Momo Burger, a thick patty made with locally sourced, grass-fed beef. For those looking for a taste of the island, trucks like Da Bald Food Guy and Five Star Poke serve up delicious Hawaiian-style plate lunches and poke bowls. Trucks can be found near public parks, residential areas, and in more touristy areas, making it easy and accessible to enjoy a delicious meal. Honolulu’s food truck scene is a reflection of the island’s diverse and dynamic culture, presented in an approachable, casual environment.
This surfer town is all about outdoor living. With beaches and beautiful views, it’s no wonder that San Diego’s phenomenal food truck scene is growing, offering a range of delicious options. There’s Kiko’s Place Seafood, a popular spot for tasty seafood-centric meals like ceviche, fish tacos, and fish burritos. Super Q Food Truck is famous for its wide range of Korean barbecue dishes and gourmet burgers. Sunny days and gorgeous sunsets make it easy to post up almost anywhere to enjoy a meal or snack. Whether diners are in the mood for classic Southern California dishes or international cuisine, San Diego’s food truck scene is sure to satisfy any craving.
Houston has no zoning restrictions, which only adds to an already vibrant culinary scene: Your next favorite meal could pop up in the most unlikely places. Food trucks can be found across the city, from downtown to the suburbs, and offer everything from classic Southern comfort food to South African cuisine. Pho-jita Fusion is one of the city’s hottest trucks, combining Vietnamese and Mexican flavors in dishes such as pho tacos and banh mi burritos. The Waffle Bus serves up sweet and savory waffle creations like the bacon, egg, and cheese waffle sandwich. Many trucks gather at designated locations around the city, creating a pop-up style, street food fest atmosphere. Some of the most popular food truck gatherings in Houston include the weekly Food Truck Fridays at Axelrad Beer Garden and the monthly HTX Market at Sawyer Yards.
Food truck dining options in Oakland are more than meals, they’re an homage to the places where its vast immigrant community comes from. The California city boosts a number of immigrant-run food trucks, mostly offering Mexican tacos, birria, and tortas. However, the variety of food options is vast and growing. There’s Yummy Yummy Hibachi known for its hibachi burrito; Southern Fried Vegan, which offers a vegan twist on classic Southern comfort food like mac and cheese and fried chicken; and Big Boyz SmokeHouse & Kitchen, popular for its pork ribs and beef brisket. Tacos Mi Rancho and La Grana Fish are two of the city’s most beloved food trucks, the latter best known for its quesabirria. Whether you’re in the mood for a hearty plate of soul food or a sublime Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich, you’re sure to find it at one of Oakland’s food trucks. The takeout-by-default dining option is an easy and affordable way to experience the city.
“[Raleigh] doesn’t have the ‘big city’ hurry up-ness, there’s a lot of culture in the South and its food truck scene,” says chef Ken Lumpkin. “The environment, the food, and the people make you feel like you’re at home.” It’s this laidback, casual ambiance that draws diners into Raleigh’s mobile kitchens. Food trucks are a popular addition to the city’s Southern charm, where barbecue and comfort food options are plentiful, like at The Wandering Moose, which offers slow-cooked meats like black angus brisket. The trucks are an integral part of the dining experience because chefs use them as a breeding ground to reinvent classic Southern dishes, while others bring more international flair to the city. There’s Chirba Chirba, serving dumplings and noodles; Qspresso’s dishes Cuban sandwiches alongside plantains and black beans; and Curry in a Hurry Truck offering Indian curry meals from chef Alaksha Surti. Expect to not only receive a tasty meal, but usually, the trucks divulge into impromptu parties with live music and entertainment for diners.