Friday, May 23, 2008

Save the Taco Truck, Save L.A.?

Taco Truck 1 am, originally uploaded by janelbot.

I checked out Zocalo's panel discussion on taco trucks called "Remember the Taco Truck!" at the L.A. Theatre Center last night. It was all last minute since I didn't find out until half an hour before. Thankfully I wasn't too far from the theater. L.A. Weekly food critic, Jonathan Gold, was part of the panel, as well as Chris Rutherford, one of the guys spearheading the online petition to save the taco trucks. Chris and I went to graduate school together and it was great to catch up with him afterwards and reminisce about the film class we took together--a class with only four students that we took turns teaching.

The panel was admittedly one-sided. Everyone there was in favor of taco trucks, although Barry Glassner was a voice of reason. He viewed the current ordinance as preposterous but believes the ordinance is seeking to address legitimate concerns. But everyone agreed that the one hour restriction is preposterous, not to mention the fine and six-month jail time truck operators might face. Hopefully a compromise can be reached, perhaps one that requires a truck not to park within 500 feet of another restaurant.

I think the discussion could have been better moderated as the moderator tended to draw attention to himself rather than keep the dialogue going. It was basically a taco truck love-in. Maybe everyone just loves taco trucks.

After the panel discussion a reception took place in front of the theater where a taco truck, Gorditas Lupita's, was parked and served complimentary food. I had the torta al pastor with a bottle of Jarritos. Ironically, a cop came by near the end of the reception and ordered them to move the truck. It was a beautiful scene as we all stood on the sidewalk with our food and clapped and waved as the truck packed up and drove off.

I don't eat at taco trucks very often, but I have never had a bad experience. The food is always great. I agree with the panelists that the taco truck helps create a street scene that is sorely lacking in LA. There are few places I can think of where people congregate with the various types of people who inhabit LA and the taco truck do just that. Concerns about safety is silly too. I've eaten at taco trucks in neighborhoods I would be scared of walking around in, but under the lights of a parking lot with dozens of people surrounding a taco turck, there is no safer place to be.

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