Taste TV

Dash and dine: 'Food Truck Nation' delivers more bites on wheels

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Michelle Rose / TV Media
Brad Miller in "Food Truck Nation"

Brad Miller in "Food Truck Nation"

From shawarma quesadillas to blueberry pie PB&J (more on that later), food trucks are a sure bet if you're looking for unique eats. And Brad Miller knows where you can find them.

Season 2 of "Food Truck Nation" premiered last week on the Cooking Channel. That means we can expect new weekly food truck discoveries all summer long.

In the episode airing Tuesday, July 23, Miller stops by El Shuko in Las Vegas, where an American classic (a double hot dog) is topped up with Guatemalan flavors, and a "quick" jump over the Rocky Mountains takes Miller to Denver and to Crescent City Connection, which is dishing out Cajun- and Creole-inspired foods. Miller won't earn any frequent flyer points with his final stop: he's staying put in Denver to sample blueberry pie PB&J from Hey PB&J. And, yes, the peanut butter and jam sandwich is actually filled with a piece of pie. Like, pie crust and everything.

For diners, these are the kinds of menu items that have elevated street foods and made food trucks the symbols of cutting-edge culinary innovation.

On the other side of the concession window, mobile kitchens are ideal for chefs who enjoy thinking outside the box — not just in terms of pushing the boundaries of food but also as a viable option for the entrepreneurial minded. They allow chefs to offer diverse, even niche menu items without the prohibitive costs of leasing a permanent location. And that helps to keep prices low for diners (depending on the ingredients, of course).

But not everyone's a fan. Chicago was in the news recently when the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the city's food truck regulations. Owners had challenged a rule prohibiting trucks from operating within 200 feet of any establishment that served food, even a convenience store. Another issue was the mandatory GPS tracking that allowed the city to know a truck's whereabouts at all times.

The city argued these measures were necessary to protect property tax-paying businesses. In the end, Chicago's brick-and-mortar eateries won.

But there are other cities where food trucks and restaurants have found a way to exist side by side. Food truck-friendly cities such as Portland, Denver, Orlando, Philadelphia and Indianapolis are now benefitting from the entrepreneurial exodus occurring in other cities.

While America's food truck experiment hasn't always been trouble- or tension-free, one thing is certain: wherever chefs are allowed to do their thing, the true winners are usually the diners.