Food trucks and street vendors selling delicious edibles is a fast-growing movement in the United States. Most likely because they offer great, often gourmet, cuisine at an excellent price. Being a nation of diverse cultures, it should come as no surprise that some of the USA’s ultimate street foods come from abroad. From American comfort classics to Belgian favorites, here is a list highlighting some of the most popular American street foods and where to find them.
While not American, arepas are becoming quite popular throughout the United States, with several food trucks popping up around the country specializing in this Venezuelan delicacy. A flatbread made with ground corn, an arepa can be cooked in a variety of ways, including grilling, baking, and frying. The patty is then split open and stuffed with a variety of delicious ingredients from meats to cheeses to vegetables. The Washington D.C. food truck, Arepa Zone, is a popular spot to try this delicacy.
While many people might think of the South and Midwest when it comes to BBQ, this mouthwatering specialty can be found all over the country. Featuring meat from pork to beef to chicken that is cooked over a low temperature for several hours, barbecue changes from region to region. Chef Mike Minor’s Truck U Barbecue in Las Vegas offers tasty options such as ribs with sweet BBQ sauce or a pulled pork sandwich topped with honey-chipotle coleslaw.
Burgers, from classic cheeseburgers to gourmet options, abound in the USA. A cooked patty of a ground beef being the most popular choice, burgers can also be made with chicken, turkey, bison, and even kangaroo. The patty is then sandwiched inside a sliced bun and often served with a variety of toppings. Not just for meat lovers, there are several vegetarian versions as well. PDX Sliders, located in Portland, is a great spot to try mini-hamburgers in both meat and meat-free varieties.
A very thin pancake made of wheat or buckwheat flour, the popular French street food known as crêpes have become a hit in the USA, with many restaurants and food trucks now specializing in this tasty treat. They can be very simple, with butter and sugar, or filled with a host of sweet and savory ingredients from Nutella and bananas to chicken, spinach and cheese. One of the top-rated food trucks in the nation, Crêpes Bonaparte, which is found throughout Southern California, offers breakfast, lunch, and dessert crêpes.
Fried deliciousness, doughnuts are a beloved American street treat found all over the United States. An endless variety of options can be found, from ring-shaped doughnuts topped with sweetness, such as glaze or maple and bacon, to holes or bite-size edibles, to those that are filled with jams and creams. For those seeking something a bit healthier, some doughnuts come in baked varieties. The Chicago donut shop called Doughnut Vault specializes in the sweet treats, found at their stores or mobile eatery. They sell out quickly, so be sure to arrive early.
Falafel is a Middle Eastern street food popular with Americans and is found just about everywhere. Formed into little balls or patties, which are then deep-fried, falafel is made from ground chickpeas or fava beans and are often stuffed inside pita bread with veggies and tahini sauce, or placed atop salads. Liba Falafel, a San Francisco mobile truck, specializes in this meat-free treat and features a bar where visitors can customize their pita sandwich or salad.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Across the nation, grilled cheese sandwiches are getting a modern upgrade. Inspired by the classic American comfort sandwich, food trucks are turning plain grilled cheese on white bread into gourmet sandwiches. Filled with a variety of cheeses, vegetables, and meats on artisan bread, the possibilities are endless and even include sweet versions made with mild cheeses and fruit. If visiting Boston, be sure to visit Roxy’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese, which was featured on the Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race.
Hot dogs are one of the most favored American street foods. From all-beef hot dogs to those made with other meats and poultry, such as elk and duck, to vegan varieties, its something that can be enjoyed by many. Found in cities big and small, many places have specific ideas on how a hot dog should be dressed. For example, in Seattle, the eponymous Seattle dog is topped with cream cheese and grilled onions. For a diverse selection of hot dogs, try Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs in Denver.
Macaroni & Cheese
Macaroni and cheese may not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to American street food, but the comfort dish can be found in several food trucks across the USA. Mac and cheese, like grilled cheese, is getting a gourmet update thanks to mobile eateries like the Mac Mart Cart in Philadelphia, the city’s first and only truck specializing in this hearty dish. They offer two bases, original and Italian, which can then be customized with a variety of mix-ins, plus a selection of specialty creations.
An import from Italy, pizza is a delicious street food beloved by everyone from meat lovers to vegetarians. Not limited to pizza parlors any longer, many pizza makers are creating mobile trucks where people can visit to try a variety of crusts topped with traditional ingredients, including tomato sauce, pepperoni, and cheese, to gourmet toppings, such as duck and figs. If in Milwaukee, visit Street-Za, a mobile pizza joint offering guests pizza by the slice topped with fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Tacos are one of the most popular and budget-friendly street foods found within the USA. Mexican in origin, tacos feature corn or flour tortillas, either soft or hard, that are filled with a wide range of savory ingredients, including meats, poultry, fish, and vegetables. With many cities having numerous taco stands, it’s not hard to find a good option nearby. When in New Orleans, find the mobile eatery, Taceaux Loceaux, for a variety of tasty tacos stuffed with slow-roasted brisket or seasoned braised greens.
A renowned Belgian street food, waffles, batter-cooked between two plates, are also a popular American choice when grabbing something fast from street vendors. There are different varieties from American, which uses baking powder, to Belgian, which relies on yeast, to Liège, which is sweet. With so many toppings from sweet edibles to savory options, the combinations are endless. The celebrated New York City food truck, Wafels and Dinges, specializes in both Belgian and Liège varieties with many sweet and savory delights.