With cheap, chic fare, like arugula pizza, squash empanadas and fish tacos, the country's 15,000-plus food trucks are rolling into virtually every big city and many small towns across the United States.
The burning question: Is it safe to grab a bite to eat from a truck that cooks for hundreds in a space that's a fraction of the size of your kitchen?
For the most part, yes.
My jaw hit the pavement the first time I saw the truck. Outside Atlanta's CNN Center was parked a FedEx-sized delivery automobile, painted with the colors of the Mexican flag and the portrait of an African-American man wearing a sombrero right smack in the middle. It bore a tagline, “The Blaxican Mexican Soul Food.”
I knew I had to find this Blaxican.
Before he was known as The Blaxican, William Turner was a Boston, Massachusetts-raised father of two who came to Atlanta in 1992 and today, like many Americans, found himself unemployed. Turner was laid off from his job as the marketing director for a non-profit religious organization a year ago.
So with that background, where did the food come in?
When tragic crime struck two neighboring Atlanta businesses last week, leaving a shop owner dead and a community in shock, residents turned to food to raise spirits and help survivors.
The result was a crowd-sourced bake sale to benefit one of the affected businesses, Sugar Coated Radical, a self-described "libertine confection shop" that has earned national press for creating "honest" chocolate from organic, fairly traded and locally sourced raw materials.
The event, also known as a "cash mob," drew hundreds of well-wishers on Sunday who bought baked goods to help the business recoup money lost in a robbery. Other small businesses donated coffee for sale and a food truck from which to sell the surplus of baked goods prepared by Sugar Coated Radical. Volunteers staffed the cash register.
Imagine, if you will, Paula Deen with a couple of tattoos.
Now, imagine her behind the wheel of a semi, hauling 100,000 pounds down a two-lane back road as a vegetable stand pops up in the distance.
Just like Paula Deen would, Camille Pask gets on the brakes and whoas it down. It’s more than curiosity or a chance to break the boredom of the long rolls over the road; it’s a time to pick up something awesome for lunch.
Pask is a rare woman in many respects. She drives more than 100,000 miles a year as a long haul trucker, but she’s also a trained gourmet chef. The worlds intersect in the back of the cab of her rig, which she co-owns with her new beau, Chris Woolf.
Now that former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman has officially entered the GOP presidential field, he's making a play for a small but passionate group of voters: street food fanatics.
"Street food is so fresh, and it's so good and it's so cheap," he says.
This summer, CNN's Defining America project will be traveling the country with the CNN Express bus to explore the stories behind the data and demographics that show how places are changing.
Most of the time, ordering a burrito is just trying to get lunch.
But ordering one from a food truck in Charlotte could be a political act.
After a 2008 Charlotte ordinance tightened restrictions on mobile food vendors, several went out of business or left town. But with a changing population that has tasted food truck fare in other cities, the rules are again being debated - much to the chagrin of some neighborhoods here.
Some in Charlotte said the food truck debate is a test of the city's culture and whether this Southern boomtown can support grassroots street food like residents do in Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; or Washington.
Others said it's a fight over the character of neighborhoods, over whether food trucks are a service or a dangerous signal of a place that's failing to thrive.
iReporter Lulis Leal travels the world with a keen eye, an open heart and an empty stomach. Here, she shares the visual flavor of a trip to a Mexican market where vendors hawk fruit, vegetables, elote (roasted corn with cream and chile powder), tacos and musch more.
Submit your own street food photos and sample more iReports from around the globe. (Yes, it says Maine right now, but last week, it was street food. Just go with it.)
5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.
Don't let its charming jingle fool you: hard decisions abound at the ice cream truck.
Some of us can hardly figure out which pant leg to put on first in the morning, let alone decide between a cup or cone. And don't even get us started on whether to go with sprinkles or without - we may bust a coronary.
In general, ordering food can be sensory overload for those who hem and haw. That's why owners like Douglas Quint of the über-popular Big Gay Ice Cream Truck (and soon-to-open shop) sometimes have to take matters into their own hands.
Street food is suddenly hip, but in New York it's as old as salt on pretzels. So we asked a Big Apple vendor for dirt on - well, how dirty are those carts, anyway? He wanted to be anonymous. We agreed, so long as he gave us extra kraut.
"Street food adds life and vibrancy to the city," says Greg Smith, President of the Atlanta Street Food Coalition, a group seeking to help entrepreneurs break into the industry.
While some cities, like Los Angeles, have long-standing street food scenes, others have sprouted up in recent years. Instead of the LA-style trucks that are truly mobile, cities like Portland, Oregon, and Austin, Texas, employ a model where more-or-less stationary carts and trailers gather in designated areas.
Other cities are developing models somewhere along that spectrum; Greg Smith thinks Atlanta will end up with a hybrid approach.
"There will be multiple 'food truck lots' around the city and the trucks might move on a daily basis from lot to lot," predicts Smith.