$1 Fish Tacos from Mariscos German

A few weeks ago, a poster to this blog asked why I did not include taco trucks like Mariscos German and Manny’s in my “definitive list of gourmet food trucks”.  To me, the answer was clear – they are not “gourmet” food trucks (or GFTs).  But what exactly does that mean?  I have a lot of love for the $1 Mariscos German fish taco, and I would dine there as much as any of the other trucks.  So why aren’t trucks like them included in this GFT craze?  Who is to say that fish taco is any less “gourmet” than something from one of the GFTs? 

For me, the biggest difference is that GFTs use Twitter and Facebook and often have websites, so it is easy to track them.  A lot of the “non” gourmet trucks seem to always be in the same place and don’t use social media or websites.

I asked the illustrious San Diego Food Trucks Facebook fans this question and their collective brainpower and worldliness totally schooled me.

First, Janet T. enlightened me on the many, many different subcategories of mobile eateries:

  • food stall (farmer’s markets usually)
  • food carts (two wheels, has to be towed)
  • hot dog stand (or Cart)
  • Taco Truck (four wheels, engine)
  • BBQ truck
  • Pizza truck
  • Dessert truck
  • Gourmet Food Trucks
  • Bustaurants
  • Corporate food trucks
  • Catering trucks (including those selling packaged prepared food items)
  • “Double-features” combined Brick & Mortar and food truck

Manny's Taco Truck

Danielle B. wrote, “I would say that it is the amount of creativity that is in the dishes: a normal ‘taco’ truck serves what you find in many other ‘taco’ trucks, there’s nothing unique about it.”

Ram U. said simply, “Price.”

Carl B. said, “Gourmet means white tablecloths and corking fees. Good food is good food. A kitchen is a kitchen.”

Then Bor Z. chimed in with this informative essay on what he perceived as the difference between GFTs and non-gourmet trucks:

“1. Hygiene & Sanitation: Some of the ‘standing’ or ‘ethnic’ food trucks are perceived as not abiding strictly to the health codes. Whether this is fair or unfair – or even xenophobic in origin – there is a large community that that will not eat at an ethnic food truck for this reason. The word ‘gourmet’ confers higher quality in raw ingredients, in service, in execution, in presentation – in hygiene.

“2. Lower Quality Existing Equivalents
Many of the ethnic trucks have existing brick-and-mortar competitors who serve offerings in the same genre. When these stationary competitors are well known, their pricing is used as an ‘anchor’ value from which to assess the food trucks’ relative value-for-price. When one can get a lunch combination for $4.99, this affects the perception of the food truck offering just because they are both Mexican – even if a fresh Marisco taco is far superior in quality to a bean-laden, Grade-D beef ‘Speedy Gonzalez’ platter.

“3. Buzzwords & Branding
We are trained by foodies and other ‘cultural elite’ to bow to words that imply quality or higher relative worth. Our perception of value is affected by promoting …

  • customization (‘sauteed’ mushrooms; ‘grilled’ onions)
  • slightly better ingredients (truffles; unique cheeses)
  • small business (free range; local farm; organic)
  • obscurity & rarity (an uncommon soda in a glass bottle)
  • expression of worldliness, and thus, experience (“fusion”)
  • technique & education (a different way to cook fries)

Many of the ethnic trucks express food in their constituency, not by flamboyance in vocabulary or understanding of semiotics.

“4. Hipness
Tracking your favorite food truck via Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, etc., across San Diego has a small element of chase similar to being “an insider” and finding out your favorite band will be playing under a pseudonym at some club across town: it changes; its trendy; its fun. Marisco’s has been a mainstay at the same location since forever.”

So, what do you think? Does this cover all the differences between GFTs and other trucks?