Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chicago Street Food: We Keep Baking Till We Get Cake

Posted By on 04.27.10 at 11:53 AM

The mission to improve Chicago's street food/food truck scene has gained a lot of momentum quickly in recent weeks, thanks to the efforts of Phillip Foss, Matt Maroni (proprietor of chicagofoodtrucks.com, and other locals profiled by Mike Sula this week (Heather Shouse's profile of Troy Marcus Johnson in TOC provides another angle on a cook struggling with the city's licensing).

And the issue isn't unrelated to the recent controversy over shared kitchens, which Monica Eng vividly covered and which was a hot topic at the recent FamilyFarmed expo, as were green carts.

The Reader's been writing about the protracted battle to get street food legalized for years now: Neal Pollack's 1997 article "The Pushcart War" focuses on the point where the city really put the final nail in the street food scene, a process that had begun in 1991 with Bernard Stone's ban on street vendors in the 50th Ward. Vendors marched on City Hall and Danny Solis's office.

In 1999 Pollack followed up: Dick Mell was trying to broker a compromise as fissures formed between the eloteros themselves. Ted Kleine covered the subject the following year, by which time the city's proposed regulations had gotten aggressive again.

And in 2009 . . . still no real progress. Claire Bushey pointed out that eloteros, while largely tolerated, still face the threat of fines; the idea then was to have the city adopt an inexpensive Park District license that carries with it moderate requirements.

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