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Fondness for creative, diverse foods fuels mobile vendor craze

California gave us McDonald’s more than five decades ago. Now that our tastes have matured way past quick-serve burgers on a sesame seed bun, the Golden State is exposing us to cuisines of all cultures – from a roadside truck.

The food truck trend started in Los Angeles and has spread to the East Coast and points in between since mid decade. Piehole.com reports that Los Angeles County alone boasts more than 9,500 food trucks, offering traditional favorites to vegetarian and vegan offerings, Vietnamese, sushi, and Mexican, among many others.

Unlike food vendors that serve reheated food, sandwiches, sodas and coffee, the new generation of food trucks have mobile kitchens that let vendors prepare and serve directly from the truck.

In Austin, Texas, food trucks have increased by as much as 20 percent annually since 2006 and city officials expect more than 1,600 mobile food vendors by the end of 2011, Piehole reports.

Wired Magazine attributes the proliferation to Austin’s pairing of an extremely creative food palette with a fair share of techies.

Foodies, Wired reports, have relied on word of mouth, Yelp, Twitter, Foursquare and other services “to find the city’s best grub.”

This year, they’ll have some help from Foodspotting, a website–app–visual aid that gives starving diners a peek at the best nearby eats, Wired writes. The peek is literal, as users send in Denny’s-menu-style photo collections of a particular truck’s cuisine instead of just written reviews, the magazine says.

While the mobile food vendors are cheered in Austin, the Texas city of El Paso has decided it doesn’t want the trucks operating in the city — or even stopping within 1,000 feet of a restaurant or convenience store.

As a result, El Paso food vendors have joined with the non-profit Institute for Justice in a federal lawsuit. The institute charges the food truck ban violates the Constitution’s 14th amendment right for someone to “make an honest living without unreasonable government interference.”

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