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The state of food trucks in Detroit

Tacos from Darcy's Cart in Ann Arbor.El Guapo Fresh Mexican Grill—the city of Detroit’s first recognized mobile food truck—hits the streets today and will set up shop on the corner of Monroe and Randolph. The newest truck on the block was able to attack and conquer Detroit’s red tape and should be sizzling up fresh Mexican food for the rest of the season.

The food truck craze has taken other cites by storm for years. But just as in other ways, Detroit seems to be left in the dust in this foodie phenomenon.

The Grilled Cheese Truck and Kogi out in Los Angeles and New York Cities’ Big Gay Ice Cream Truck and Schnitzel & Things have had my mouth watering for ages!

So why can’t Detroit have these nice and shiny food trucks too?

Due to antiquated laws in the city of Detroit, food trucks have been not allowed to legally operate in the city limits. Other food trucks have been operating in the area but have had to steer clear of downtown Detroit, Midtown and anywhere within the city.

I’m sure the hungry workforce in the downtown area—with swarms of new additions from Blue Cross Blue Shield and Quicken Loans—would welcome new lunch options close to their workplace.

The lowdown on food trucks in Detroit

  • El Guapo promises fresh Mexican fare and they are working with other local food businesses including Faygo and Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company.
  • The Pink FlaminGO! recently refurbished the old AirStream and is now fully-compliant but has yet to post locations this year.
  •  Jacques' Tacos who—to my knowledge—has never entered the city limits of Detroit. He has a few regular locations and is regularly posting his wherabouts on Twitter & Facebook.
  • Concrete Cuisine entered the scene just a short while ago but is another one that doesn’t venture into the city limits. Their playing field is mainly the western suburbs and the menu looks good enough for me to track them down. They have poutine!
  • Taco Mama is waiting in the wings and has yet to launch into the food truck landscape of Detroit. We’re still waiting for her to update us with her first location. My gut feeling is that she’ll be sticking to the suburbs as well.
  • Further afield, Mark’s Carts serves up street food in Ann Arbor in a courtyard setting. This set-up allows for a commissary kitchen, which solves one of the many issues surrounding food trucks. Again, they aren’t mobile.

I’m hoping that El Guapo—and all the other food entrepreneurs who have been working hard with the city—have finally opened up a door to creative food initiatives in Detroit. The road won’t be paved with gold but is it too optimistic to wish that they’ve made it somewhat easier for the next guy?

Food trucks are not needed in Detroit, we will get by without them. But damn it, I want them! Sometimes it’s the little things that can brighten your day. Peter Kageyama, the author of For the Love of Cites, said, “The things that we tend to love about cities are small. The cherry on top of the sundae.” Food trucks are just the cherry. Give me the cherry!

For all those out there who have aspirations of food truck ownership in the future, please gather around and listen.

Tantalize my taste buds with quirky concoctions. Wow me! Do something different. Don’t do the standard taco truck fare; we have a few of those already.

Take notice of all the brilliant food trucks around the country and Canada and do them one better! Do it so well that when people tell me that they’re coming to visit Detroit your food truck is the first must-do I mention. Deal?

Have I missed any other food trucks in the Detroit area? What would your ideal food truck serve?

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Reader Comments (11)

I love food trucks. Writing about Denver and that city's vibrant food truck culture, it's hard not to feel frustrated by the lack thereof here in SE Michigan. Jacques Tacos is the only one I've visited in Metro D (and it was really, really good), but they've been down for several months after a transition in ownership (I believe) and their Facebook page recently announced they're serving food only weekends.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Thanks, Becks! Hoping that I can sneak out of work one day to find El Guapo, but looking forward to hitting up as many of the taco trucks as possible on that map! Not necessarily a truck, but Neighborhood Noodle is supposed to be launching a cart or some sort of mobile version of their business downtown in the next few months, too.

July 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Kuptz

I've eaten at Jacques Taco truck a few times...good stuff. I was wondering where they've been lately, though. The last notice I saw from them on Twitter said they were on hiatus a bit (this somewhere in April or May) and that they planned to be back on the streets in June. I haven't seen them since :(
Royal Oak has a similarly repressive attitude towards food trucks and carts. A woman who wanted to open a hot dog cart near the court building in RO was denied permission, and one of the local newspaper reporters hesitated to write about Jacques for fear he might get them shut down from their regular stop near 13 & Woodward. The arguments generally seem to revolve around protecting the restaurant folks and food trucks' perceived advantage of having less overhead - although its usually couched in terms of trying to protect the public from unregulated food trucks.
Pish posh!

July 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDominique

I saw El Guapo featured on Fox 2 yesterday!

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNikki

Thanks for mentioning Neighborhood Noodle! Yes, I've heard they're going to be launching a cart soon. As I understand it, the founder—Jess—has been instrumental in tackling barriers and talking to the city about food entrepreneurship in Detroit.

July 19, 2011 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

How do I start my own food truck business? Is there somewhere I can get information?

September 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWillie Davis

I'm not exactly sure. But if I wanted to start a food truck I would contact the trucks mentioned above via their websites and ask them for advice.

September 11, 2011 | Registered CommenterBecks Davis

Ate at Jacques Taco truck yesterday 9/10/11 in Ferndale. He was parked at a radiator shop off Woodward and 9 1/2 mile. It was great! I'll definitely be back not only for the good chow, but for advice on how to launch a truck of my own...

September 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercolleen levitt

I live in LA and the Food Truck market is pretty saturated here. I have a great idea and concept for a product and am looking to partner up with a someone who can make it fly in another city. I grew up in Detroit so that is a definite possibility. Any interest?

November 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTony Adduci

I love Detroit so much, even though I no longer live there, Detroit goes with me wherever I roam!

May 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJim

I am looking to start one soon. Anyone in Oakland County that wants to talk, hit me up.

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTed

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