It’s not uncommon in many countries for locals to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at street food stalls, which means that, in many ways, it’s the best way to experience authentic local cuisine. Plus, it’s often really inexpensive, which can help you make your vacation food budget stretch much further than if you ate at traditional restaurants. There are many cities around the world that have a vibrant street food scene, like Bangkok and other parts of Asia. Certainly, food trucks have become more popular in North America over the last few years, which is a type of street food. We’ve put together this guide to help you decide where you should travel to next if you’re looking for the best street foods in the United States.
While DC politicians, staffers, and power brokers like to be seen at the exclusive fine dining establishments around town, more than one knows when it comes to plain good food there are some great choices among the city’s food vendors. Food carts and trucks dot the city; where there once sat a hot dog cart now you might find Korean BBQ or Mexican food. If you’re hungry, try Peruvian Brothers, owned and run by two brothers Giuseppe and Mario Lanzone who were born and raised off the coast of Lima Peru. Thanks to the two brothers you can now have such tasty treats as their sandwiches, empanadas, or quinoa salad, featuring peppers, tomatoes, carrots, and cucumbers. From Vietnamese Pho served up in a zombie apocalypse truck by Pho Junkies food truck to The Crab Cab serving up crab cake sandwiches, BBQ smoked salmon salad, and crab bisque, Washington DC has a thriving street food scene.
New York City, New York
New York street vendors are an iconic part of the city. Even if you have never traveled to New York you probably have heard of the hot dog and pretzel carts. While the dog and pretzel carts still dot the city there is more to the NYC street food scene today. Take Domo Taco, for instance, a modern Asian Mexican fusion food truck. With lemongrass chicken and teriyaki steak tacos, they are a favorite no matter where the truck stops. Then there is Uncle Gussy’s, which serves up Greek food consisting of platters brimming with chicken and souvlaki to sandwiches, salads, and sweet baklava. If you just can’t decide on what to eat from this worldwide food tour then you can always head over to Big D’s Grub Truck. Big D, aka Dennis, serves everything from breakfast burritos and Spanish omelets to Tacos, Korean bulgogi, pork and chive dumplings to old-fashioned grinders served on warm toasty bread.
Los Angeles, California
LA is dotted with street vendors selling everything from tamales to ice cream. Although it’s long been illegal to sell street food (the city is just starting to give out permits) it hasn’t stopped people from setting up shop in markets and sidewalks throughout the city. However, food trucks are legal and have been growing in numbers as residents line up to get their hands on really good food. One of the early entrants into the food truck scene that is still going strong is Roy Choi with his Kogi Food truck serving Korean fusion food like short rib tacos and kimchi quesadillas. Another popular venue is Leo’s Taco Truck. Since opening in 2010 and selling tacos starting at $1 Leo’s has expanded to 8 trucks roaming the streets and feeding the masses. While the lawmakers debate the fate of sidewalk street vendors in LA the food truck business is going strong and visitors should plan to take part in the street food fare.
There always seems to be something happening in Austin. With the University of Texas, the annual SXSW Festival, and the incredible nightlife and atmosphere of 6th Street, it’s only natural that the street food scene has grown. If you’re in the area, check out Kebabalicious, a Turkish truck offering up a menu filled with items like Beef & Lamb Pitas and a Mezza Platter with homemade falafel. One of the more famous examples of Austin street food is Franklin BBQ, which has had glowing reviews from customers for over a decade. From a trailer serving BBQ, Aaron Franklin shot to stardom on cooking network shows and more. In 2011, he moved from a trailer to a brick and mortar establishment but stayed true to his roots by insisting on first come first serve with no cutting in line no matter who you are.
Portland is known for inspiring creativity and the multitude of small independently owned businesses, which is part of the hipster city vibe. When it comes to the food scene it’s no different. Portland has over 600 food carts selling everything from burgers to Indian, Thai, Korean, German, Czech food, and more. A lot of the street food carts are grouped together in “pods” where there will be anywhere from 3 or 4 food carts to over 50 at one location. Along with mobile food trucks, these pods make Portland one of the best places in the US for street food. For some truly memorable street food head to Viking Soul Food for Lefse, a Norwegian flatbread, and some smoked salmon. If that’s not your thing, there’s a wide variety of cuisine to suit anyone’s taste. You can’t go wrong with fresh homemade pasta from Gumba which offers a rotating menu. From the knockout mac n’ cheese at Kee’s #Loaded Kitchen to the “Yolko Ono” breakfast sandwich at Fried Egg, I’m in Love, Portland has definitely earned a spot as one of the cities with the best street food.
Besides having a street food festival every August, Seattle has great street food year-round. Two local favorites are Bumbu Truck, which serves up authentic Indonesian food like Curry Beef Lumpia and Chicken Satay, and “HamHock” Jones Soul Shack with melt-in-your-mouth fried fish or the gargantuan bacon mac n cheeseburger. Seattle may have a reputation for being rain-soaked year-round but they have also become known for a vibrant street food scene. Be sure to check out the simple blue truck emblazoned with crossed rolling pins operated by the 314 Pie Company. From this unassuming little truck savory pies filled with lamb, curry, or their famous steak, cheese, and mushroom are served up. From grilled bratwurst, Mediterranean flatbread sandwiches, sushi to sweets, Seattle is a foodie paradise and home to the best street food in the USA.