It’s pretty clear that the food truck phenomenon is here to stay. It may have tailed off a bit during the pandemic, but nonetheless it’s now a part of life and food consumption in most urban areas. The funny part is that, while these mobile eateries seem like a funky “new idea,” they are actually a concept that’s well over 100 years old.
Walter Scott, who is widely credited for inventing the concept of the the lunch car (which would go on to be the diner) started this trend in Providence, Rhode Island in the late 1800s. He served food out of a horse drawn wagon to late night workers, who had few, if any, other choices at that time. His idea caught on and other imitators followed. With time, these portable “night lunch cars” would evolve into the classic American roadside diner. At first they were just larger versions of Scott’s concept, but soon they grew and morphed into shiny symbols along the roadside that we think of today.
So when you see a food truck in your town or city today, squint a bit, and imagine the millworkers lined up to get a cup of coffee and a hot dog in 1877. The fare is different, the concept lives on!