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Square Meal: LA's Mobile Dining Scene

One of the newest additions to Dwell's regular sections, the Square Meal column features new ideas, businesses and products that sit at the intersection of food and design. On the first day of this year's Dwell on Design in Los Angeles, we'll be running a panel on one of the first subjects covered in Square Meal (and recently a feverishly hot topic in food and design circles alike): eateries on wheels.

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LA is a city long known for its roaming taco trucks, but in the last few years these fixtures of the cityscape have faced obstacles in the form of push-back from the city about where they can park and for how long. In 2008, in response to a city ordinance restricting truck owners' right to park and sell, a couple of taco-loving citizens decided to organize. Chris Rutherford and Aaron Sonderleiter—friends since their freshman year at Occidental College—established the website saveourtacotrucks.org and launched a campaign with the tagline "Carne Asada is Not a Crime." Not a bad way to get attention.

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And attention they got: The press covered their citizen-driven efforts extensively, they gathered over 10,000 signatures on a petition to save the taco trucks, and in the end they were rewarded when a judge ruled against the ordinance. Rutherford will join our panel to talk about how his love for streetside tacos drove him to activism, what taco truck culture means to the city of LA, and how the evolution of the mobile eatery beyond the realm of tacos is changing the street food scene.

 

We will also be joined by Larry Bain and Sue Moore, the founders of Let's Be Frank—a traditional hot dog cart serving not-so-traditional dogs. Bain and Moore founded the company in 2005 with the idea of serving sustainably-sourced fast food. Veterans of the slow food scene and advocates of food justice, Bain and Moore have spawned a small west coast empire of high-quality hot dogs, from their first cart in the Helms Bakery parking lot in Culver City to their recent opening of a hot dog shop in San Francisco's Lower Haight neighborhood. The pair will speak to us about the appeal of taking their high-end restaurant backgrounds to the street and starting up a more accessible form of food service.

The third panelist in the Friday Square Meal panel will be Kam Miceli, owner of Green Truck—a relatively new mobile eatery in LA specializing in sustainable, organic, healthy meals. Green Truck operates out of solar-powered commissaries run on vegetable oil and biodiesel, dishing up menu items like the "Mother Trucker" vegan burger and a fresh arugula salad. Miceli will talk with us about his concept that merges the seemingly dichotomous symbols of a Los Angeles lifestyle: street-ready fast food and obsessive health-consciousness.

While the Square Meal panel will bring together figures from the culinary world, our conversation will focus not so much on the food itself as on issues of urbanism, community and how the dining experience can be designed as a nomadic, spontaneous event. Rutherford, Bain, Moore, and Miceli will bring their own ideas to the table, and we'll be counting on all of you who join us in the audience to add to this conversation and tell us how you feel about the growth of the mobile food scene in LA.

To register for Dwell on Design visit dwellondesign.com. Be sure to check out the Special Events page to learn about our evening event on Saturday, June 27, when we'll be bringing some of LA's best food trucks together for a mobile restaurant row as part of our double-feature film screening.

Illustration: Heart of Oak

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