Alternative Eats: The Evolution of Food Trucks & Pop-Up Restaurants

The Evolution of Food Trucks

Food trucks, which have been affectionately known as Roach Coaches since the 1960s, have gone through a dramatic evolution over the past several decades. The TV Show “The Great Food Truck Race” debuted in 2010 and brought food trucks to the forefront of media. These trucks can be found all over cities big and small and are abundant right here in Orange County.

Slapfish, which has been described as street food-meets-seafood, started as a food truck in 2011. Known for its lobster rolls, fish plates, and tacos, Slapfish has 6 brick-and-mortar restaurants in Orange County, about half of which are franchise-owned. The latest location opened up in the Village at La Floresta in Brea in February 2016. This location is a nod to the roots of Slapfish, as many of their original fans hail from the Inland Empire and Brea.

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Two popular food trucks specializing in American eats teamed up in 2015 to open a brick-and-mortar hybrid restaurant. Trucks Dogzilla and the Burnt Truck combined to make Burntzilla Modern Eats, which opened off Culver & Walnut in Irvine in February 2015. The same owners are now opening Burnt Crumbs in Los Olivos Marketplace in Irvine. Burnt Crumbs will serve up gourmet sandwiches and are slated to open up in mid-2016.

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Interested in trying what could be the next big food truck? You can find food trucks locally at the Irvine Great Park, the Orange County Fairgrounds, and at various Irvine Company properties. Food trucks are also found at big events such as expos and mall openings, like the November 2015 opening of the Outlets at San Clemente.

Pop-Up Restaurants,

The concept of pop-up restaurants is nothing new- smaller versions of regular restaurants have been opening up at festivals for decades- but the novelty eateries are becoming trendy and more widespread.

In addition to opening brick-and-mortar restaurants, seafood favorite Slapfish hosted a one-night-only pop-up at Brooklyn’s Loosie’s Kitchen in New York in October 2015. A fixed-price menu was served that included tuna salad, chowder fries, and fish tacos for $70 per person. While it is anyone’s guess whether owner Andrew Gruel will open another pop-up; it’s obvious that Slapfish is planning to take over the world of portable cuisine.

It’s not just food trucks that are getting in on the pop-up craze. The Habit, a popular burger place with dozens of locations in the OC, also did a pop-up event where they sold burgers in Santa Ana last October to benefit the non-profit Share Our Strength.

Hello Kitty fans went wild when Sanrio opened a pop-up Hello Kitty Café at the Irvine Spectrum at the end of November 2015. Due to the lack of space, the Café was set up in a retrofitted shipping container near the Giant Wheel. Guests were served doughnuts, mini cakes, artisanal sodas, premium coffee, and macarons. This Café was the first of its kind, representing other Sanrio brands like Keroppi and Little Twin Stars. Rumor has it that the Café is expected to remain through the end of 2016, with plans to open up a permanent restaurant in Southern California.

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Whether you are munching on a snack from a food truck or visiting one of the latest truck-turned-restaurants, the evolution of mobile cuisine gets better and better as technology progresses. We can’t wait to see the future of food.

If you want to find your favorite food truck in Orange County, try Roaming Hungry.

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