Photo by Evan Sung
Kenny Lao is the cofounder of Rickshaw Dumpling Bar, which operates one of our favorite food trucks. I chatted with him when I was writing a story for our special issue on the food truck fever that's sweeping the country this summer. He had some serious insight on how to eat well from four-wheeled restaurants, including the most common food truck faux pas. Read on for an excerpt from our interview...
Why are people so excited about food trucks?
I think people like that they can stand outside and be in fresh air, which is great for office workers who want a little change of environment on their lunch breaks. Our line moves really quickly, so people aren’t waiting that long. Another advantage is that we bring the food to them. People are always telling us to come here, go there. We pay attention to that. People can rally us on Twitter and we will try out a certain location because of that
What do you like about your restaurant's food truck?
I love that if we get a location that doesn’t work we can just pick up and leave. For us, it was a great way to prospect for new store locations. Plus, our food is a natural fit for trucks because dumplings have really been a street food in Asia. There, dumplings are served from street stalls most of the time, so we figured we could do it NYC-style, in a food truck.
What foods do well in trucks?
I think there are some amazing ice cream trucks. The ice cream truck is a real classic, Mister Softee and all that, but people are now doing newer, exciting things. Coolhaus and Van Leeuwen are doing great things with ice cream in New York City. Mexican food is also really conducive to food trucks. Think about what types of foods can be done really well in a small space. They don’t’ require a lot of technique. They’re casual foods you can eat while standing around.
Okay, so I’ve tracked down a truck I want to try… now what?
Always bring friends, you can get a lot of different things to share. It’s a very social way to eat. Also, if you’re waiting in a long line, talk to other people in line about what to order. Ask the employees—what do they eat on their lunch break? I would also suggest, if you’re eating out on the street, wearing something you don’t mind spilling on because you’ll be eating with your hands. Toss that tie behind your shoulder, you know?
What are some common mistakes people make at the truck?
Not having cash! Most food trucks don’t take credit cards. Also, don’t expect a printed menu. Don’t talk on your cell phone when you’re ordering. And be considerate in line and try not to interfere with people walking along the sidewalk.