Two years ago, food trucks were a rarity on Boston's streets. But those days might as well be ancient history as the practice of serving up gourmet meals on wheels has virtually exploded since then.
The success of the Hub's food truck industry was not news to the 5,000 foodies gathered at the UMass Boston campus yesterday, some of whom waited as long as 45 minutes to walk away with tiny paper baskets of delicious-smelling cuisine from some of the region's most acclaimed food trucks.
"This is not a fad, it's a trend," said Janet Prensky, a spokeswoman for Food Truck Festivals of New England. "Food trucks are literally hot right now, and I think people are catching on, and it's here to stay."
Prensky said it is not only the convenience of grabbing a bite on the go, but also the quality and variety of truck food that has people drooling.
The food truck festival brought together 27 of the biggest food trucks in the region, from Boston's own Lobsta Love, to Bite into Maine, both slinging cool crustacean meat into toasty buns. To round out the menu, the festival offered other eclectic fare, like crispy cauliflowers, New England pulled pork sliders, grilled cheese, some sweets from Cup Cake Mojo, ribs, and of course, Italian Ice.
For $35, festival goers were able to sample any of the trucks they wanted.
Brian Carey brought his family up from Cape Cod to partake in the festival yesterday, and although he does not typically have access to food truck lunches, Carey said he understands the allure.
"If I worked in the city, I think it would be appealing. Instead of going out to lunch, I wouldn't object to going to a food truck. Especially one of these here today; some of the food on these trucks is fantastic."
Carey's favorite of the day: Big Moe's M&M Ribs.
"When I was living in Arizona, truck cuisine was really popular," said Jill Carreiro, who stopped by the festival with her family. "You could go and get really great, unique food. I've finally started to see that happening here in Boston," she said.
Her family's consensus on the best food yesterday was Lefty's Silver Cart. The goat cheese, truffle dressed greens, and fig jam baguette prove that some of these trucks are rising to challenge of Boston's refined palate.
Joe Cecchinelli, owner of Franca's Wood Fired Pizza, slid a piping hot pizza in and out of his mobile oven yesterday, offering his patrons a glimpse at what the end of the line had to offer.
A long-time pizza professional, Cecchinelli said that selling slices from a truck has served him well.
"After my wife and I retired, I said, 'I don't want to get another pizzeria, I'd rather just put it on the road,'" he said. "It's convenient, and people love to eat outside."
Where to go for some truck grub:
Copley Square at Stuart & Trinity Place
China Trade Building at Boylston Street - next to the outdoor plaza in front of the China Trade building and across from the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Financial District, on the corner of Milk & Kilby.
South End at Tremont Street and Berkeley Streets adjacent to the Benjamin Franklin Institute.
Did you know?
Mayor Thomas M. Menino has been a strong proponent of the food truck movement in Boston. Last summer, he launched the Mayor's Food Truck Challenge, inviting local entrepreneurs to present their food truck menus and concepts for a chance to operate on City Hall Plaza, as well as financial support from the city.
Smithsonianmag.com named Clover Food Lab in Cambridge among the top 20 best food trucks in the nation.