Food Trucks

No Kimchi Hot Dogs for Folks in North New Jersey

Anti-food truck attitudes in Bergen County


Off the menu, off the map
credit: bionicgrrrl / Foter / CC BY-NC

Cronyist protectionism in New Jersey? Color me shocked.

The subject is food trucks, and the problem is that towns in Bergen County in northern New Jersey aren't letting them in. Elisa Ung of delves into the all-too-familiar story of a food truck operator struggling to survive not due to lack of consumer demand, but due to government intervention:

Instead, her bright turquoise Rosie's Weenie Wagon is in storage and Rosario D'Rivera, the 53-year-old unemployed corporate graphic designer who turned to hot dogs to pay her bills, sat slumped across from me in a diner booth, talking about scraping out the last of her 401(k) for training to become a home health aide.

And there could go Bergen County's one piece of the gourmet food truck craze that is setting trends elsewhere. While trucks selling ice cream or coffee have always been part of North Jersey's landscape, our towns have inexplicably not welcomed the trucks of today, which offer foods that are so much more innovative and unique.

The full impact of what we're missing hit me a few weeks ago at the Winter Blast festival in Secaucus. An artisanal taco truck hawked slow-cooked carnitas tacos with caramelized orange peel, while across the way, Neapolitan pizzas were being baked in seconds. Trucks sold apple cinnamon empanadas, kati rolls and biryani, fried cheese curds, authentic Thai soup, cake pops, all within feet of each other.

Ung is a restaurant reviewer and seems particularly attuned to the different flavors available from food trucks. In fact, Ung was unfortunately responsible for D'Rivera's predicament. She wrote about the hot dog vendor last fall, prompting the city to kick her out of her parking location the next day. D'Rivera fought for changes in laws in Englewood, the Institute for Justice got involved because the proposed regulations were too restrictive, and then the city shelved them. Now city leaders blame her for fighting against the rules.

Ung makes the notable point, with the help of a local chef, that the low overhead allows food trucks to provide more expensive food choices (fancy some high-end beef in that hamburger?) that don't always make sense for a restaurant:

"Grass-fed, organic beef is a tough sell," [Arthur] Toufayan said, because of the high cost of the product. He said the markup becomes too high for a restaurant, where he has to pay wait staff, servers and rent. But merely handing such a burger to a customer out of a truck? That makes it more affordable.

That's why so many food trucks are able to sell such high-quality, edgy, affordable eats. But customers in Bergen County haven't been able to try Toufayan's burgers. He had to take his truck down to Newark. (He's currently on hiatus for the winter.)

And so the customers lose out. But who cares, as long as those the same old pasta shops who have been around for decades are happy?

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  1. Q) Why are people in NYC so pissed off all the time?

    A) The light at the end of the tunnel is New Jersey.

    1. yeah, and they never get to go there 😛

  2. You lost me at artisanal.

    BTW, you can’t spell artisanal without anal.

    A,BTW, art-is-anal.

    1. art-is-anal

      Ah, another Rebeca Linares fan.

      1. Aren’t we all?

  3. This is somewhat ironic seeing as Bergen County is the home of the Texas Weiner (which has nothing to do with Texas).

      1. You are a truly vile individual. You remind me of ProL.

    1. Weird that they call chili sans beans Greek Sauce, but understand it rightly as the bare minimum qualification of Texas chili.

  4. Yeah, they’re gonna be like that here in Bergen county. I know they’ll try to prevent the food trucks. They’re very… traditionalist? They want everything in the county to be “nice”. Anyway, there is SOME reasonability to it, because we honestly don’t have a lot of good places for food trucks, the way all the towns are set up. They’re all very centralized downtowns, so there’s nowhere you could park without being in the way. And often there’s one big town parking lot in the middle, and that wouldn’t be feasible either, because you’d again be in the way and taking up parking spots. Maybe Lyndhurst and Mahwah, where the big corporate buildings are? Also maybe some spots in Englewood and Edgewater maybe.

    Anyway, did the author mean to write Egdewater or Englewood? Because there is no Edgewood in Bergen county.

    1. They’re all very centralized downtowns, so there’s nowhere you could park without being in the way.

      They seem to do ok in downtowns Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica. Maybe NJ has some super special downtowns?

      1. Yes. Here’s a crazy thought, maybe the urban layout of the Northeast is vastly different than that of California. Huh, who’d a thunk it? (the answer is everyone, and if you didn’t know about this, you’re a moron or have lived under a rock for the past 80 years)

        1. Please explain for us moronic rock dwellers.

          1. I have to explain to you how the streets of, let’s say L.A., are different from those of New York, or New Jersey, or Boston? Really? Have you honestly never heard of this, or are you just being a jerk-off in trying to defend your obviously not-backed-up opinion (in case you haven’t noticed I LIVE here, and know the area thoroughly.)

            Yeah, LA, vast spread out grid pattern, flat, litle centralization, few to no topographical barriers. Northeast is complete opposite, high centralization, no regularity in the roads, because of the old development and the topographical barriers.

            But let’s be honest, you’ve heard of that, and like I said, you’re clawing to back up your lacking claim.

            I didn’t even say it was a huge excuse for the authorities, just that it does matter.

            1. To be fair, if you’ve lived west of the Mississippi all your life, you’ve got no concept of what a New England downtown is like.

              I know because I grew up in the West and was boggled when I saw my first New England downtown. Now they all look the same.

            2. I never made any claims one way or the other but, please, continue your infantile rants.

            3. Food trucks do just fine in Manhattan. But Shitsburg, NJ is too special.

              1. That’s because they don’t park in the street.

                1. That’s because they don’t park in the street.

                  Not true. I’ve eaten at four or five that were parked on the street. Side streets, to be sure, but full-sized trucks on the street and not carts.

                  1. Fair enough. I am surprised I haven’t heard any of the expected shitstorm about PARKING!!1! though.

                    1. Find the Schnitzel truck. It’s awesome.

                      Feh. I work in Jersey City now – lunch is a joke.

              2. Food trucks do just fine in Manhattan. But Shitsburg, NJ is too special.

                I’m trying to imagine food trucks in some of the downtowns I drive through here in Maine. To be honest, in many of these places they simply wouldn’t fit. There just isn’t anywhere to park. I’m not saying that they should be banned. By all means, prove me wrong. But these are some seriously cramped places.

                1. I’m trying to imagine food trucks in some of the downtowns I drive through here in Maine.

                  I can believe it, but if there truly was nowhere to park, there’d be no incentive for the trucks to go there. Despite Edwin’s lurid fantasies, 99.9% of food truck operators know that blocking traffic in a one-road town isn’t a great business plan.

                  1. dude, you guys are jackasses, I actually LIVE here, have my whole life, I actually KNOW what I’m talking about.

                    Yeah, genius, there IS very little incentive for food trucks in north NJ (Bergen county), which is why you rarely see them. Do you really think it’s all just the big bad government? If there were demand, they’d be here

                    1. Except, of course, they are in demand and in this case it is big bad government shutting the trucks down, you illiterate assclown.

                      Learn. To. Fucking. Read.

                    2. I read the article, at least some of it.

                      I live here and I know what I’m talking about, and as I said below, there isn’t any huge demand.
                      I live here and have lived here my whole life, I know where parking and lines would pose a problem, and it’s in most of the county. There isn’t much good public space for food trucks. The parking lots of large corporate buildings are plenty a market for them.

                      Do you realize you’re trying to tell me about MY area? Have you even been to Bergen County? Do you know ANYTHING about it?

                    3. That is, you’ll note the article in question doesn’t show that there’s a lot of demand for food trucks in Bergen County. It was just the one spot that was shut down, after 18 years, which really was odd. The article does not paint a picture of food trucks all over the county being shut down after the fact, it’s just a few incidents

                    4. Cool story, bro. You know everything. Thanks for coming to enlighten us little people.

                      This is sarcasm by the way. Morons like you often cannot recognize it.

                      Have fun fucking your mother, shitstabber.

                    5. Well, I know more than you, since I was born and raised and still live in the area in question. I just read the article, and like I said, there’s very little implying that there’s some huge demand whose supply is being squelched by regulations. Do you understand that ANYONE IN BERGEN COUNTY CAN RUN FOOD TRUCKS ON PRIVATE PROPERTY? Do you understand that? The only thing that isn’t happening is local govt’s opening up their public land to the food trucks with new regulations. Here’s the thing though, THE FOOD TRUCKS AREN’T OWED THE USE OF PUBLIC LAND, WE THE BODY POLITIC ARE NOT OBLIGATED TO LET THEM RUN THEIR FOOD TRUCKS ON OUR LAND WHERE THEY CAN CREATE CONGESTION AND TAKE UP PARKING SPACES. Again, I LIVE in this area, and I’m TELLING YOU, that the area sucks for food trucks to just park on the street. They will get in the way in most places. I even specifically proposed at least one area I know would be OK to do it on (Dean or Engle street in Englewood), if I think about it a while, I could probably pick a few more, but for the most part, the area isn’t built appropriately.

                    6. SPERG HARDER BRO

                    7. So what small restaurant do you own in Bergen, Edwin?

                    8. Yeah. No. I live in Morris County (borders Bergen to the south). While Jersey does have New Englandy type villages as opposed to the wide avenues of the west, food trucks could easily be accommodated in most towns. And, there is a very definite demand. The reality is small retail restaurants fight food trucks tooth and nail and the towns protect those business because they’re more “legitimate”.

                    9. // food trucks could easily be accommodated in most towns.

                      Not on public property/parking spaces. Maybe Morris county is quite different (hint, it is), but it would be a nuisance in most of Bergen County. There are a few streets where it would be appropriate, but only a few

                      //And, there is a very definite demand.

                      But there isn’t really. Again, for the millionth time, the food trucks have no restrictions on private land other than the owners’ permission. There are a few areas of corporate buildings. If there were that much demand, the trucks would already be serving there. But the reality is the demographics of Bergen County aren’t conducive to adventurous eaters. I would know, it’s like pulling teeth to get anyone I know here to try some new place.

                    10. Part of the problem is that even the big office buildings don’t have that many people in them. The big corporate buildings in Mahwah are often manufacturing or engineering firms, so there’s not so many people in there. Ditto the MSNBC and Unilever buildings. Hackensack might have more people, but the walk even in the office building areas would be too far, people would just walk to brick and mortar. The office buildings in Lyndhurst are the best bet, but those corporate parks are so spread out that again there would be a long walk. Secaucus nearby has office buildings, but that’s not even Bergen county.

                      The demand is limited

                      There just aren’t that many spots

                2. I’m pretty sure there is a taco/burrito truck in Bangor.

            4. “I have to explain to you how the streets of, let’s say L.A., are different from those of New York, or New Jersey, or Boston?”

              Except there’s usually a fleet of food trucks parked on Park right off of Grand Central. Go downtown a bit and there’s another cluster. So, there goes that theory.

              Hey, here’s a website:

        2. They are all over the place in New Haven. They just park on the side of the street and put money in the meter. The only lot that has them parked there is Yale’s hockey rink, with permission.

          Besides trucks there are a lot of carts, on the sidewalks.

          1. ehhh… I’ve never been to New Haven, so maybe it works there, but that shit’d be annoying in Bergen County. The sidewalks aren’t that big. You’d screw up everyone’s shopping

        3. It smells like your diaper is full, Edwin. Have your mommy change it.

      2. They seem to do ok in downtowns Long Beach, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica. Maybe NJ has some super special downtowns?

        Bergen County is full of a bunch of 1 sq mile towns founded in colonial times; the “downtowns” typically consist of one single lane street with some shops on either side. I think the laws are stupid, but the idea that these guys would be in the way isn’t too far-fetched.

        1. yes, thank you

          Though it isn’t ONE single lane street, but yeah it’s pretty dense/congested. Like I keep saying, it’s easy for them to get in the way

          Anyway, again, there’s plenty of huge corporate buildings in certain areas

      3. Have you been to any of the Din-din-a-go-go events?

      1. OK. Yeah, there might be some spots along 9W where the corporate buildings are in Englewood (also Tenafly and Englewood Cliffs) that would be appropriate, should they get permission from the owners, and maybe the strip mall with the shoprite at the bottom of the hill in Englewood, but not a lot of public streets where you could reasonably park a food truck. MAYBE on Engle Street? (Or is it Dean street? I always get the two confused. The one that goes TOWARDS Tenafly)

        1. But something tells me the laws prevent them from even serving at the MSNBC building and Unilever and all those corporate buildings, even though it’s private land.

          And yet everywhere in NJ the roach coach manages to show up to every construction site

    2. I don’t get it – why don’t they use those sidewalk trailer-truck things like here in NYC?

    3. Hey, here’s a crazy idea. Just enforce parking regulations like normal instead of banning food trucks.

      1. bullshit. The lines get in the way. You’re not going to get in my fucking way when I’m walking to go shoppping, and you don’t get to take the parking spot of shoppers

        1. Shorter Edwin: WAAAAH!

          1. not really. Public property is public. None of you have yet to even address this issue. Why the hell does the public owe its land to people who want to sell stuff? Even if you claim that the republic political process means the poele haven’t actually chosen and there should be a vote, you’d better damned believe that the citizens of Bergen County would vote against it, like with the Blue Laws. I’d vote for opening a few areas/roads to have their spots open to the trucks, but that’s it.

            1. Why the hell does the public owe its land to people who want to sell stuff?

              Why does the public owe its land to anybody? Because it’s public.

              you’d better damned believe that the citizens of Bergen County would vote against it, like with the Blue Laws.

              Haha, yeah when I think of just laws, I think of Blue Laws.

  5. Also, the Toufayans have a food truck? Damn, those guys are into everything

  6. The real reason is that restaurant owners scare the politicians with the idea that they will lose out on property tax revenue…

    1. +1. Restaurants pay ridiculous start up cost in Jersey and deal with unbelievable regulation. It took 9 months for a Portuguese BBQ shop near my house to get the needed permits. They look at food trucks and see unfair competition. The solution would be to de-regulate both, but that’s not gonna happen here anytime soon, so the eating public looses out on affordable, delicious food, again. 🙁

  7. Food trucks are kind of a hassle (at least in Dallas anyways). The only feasible spot for them is parks or strip mall parking lots where parking is a hassle, sometimes requires paying a meter, can’t order ahead AFAIK, it’s not easy to just pick up and take home, and there’s no guarantee you can sit anywhere to enjoy it.

    That said, their menus are always creative, delicious, they are consistent, and since one of the 2 or 3 guys in the truck is almost always the owner, you don’t get any bullshit or incompetence that only a minimum-wage employee can deliver.

    I wish I supported the food truck movement more since its the future, and nothing makes a statist shit their pants more than things they don’t know how to entirely shake down or usurp their previous bureaucratic efforts.

    1. ooh, parks, we got plenty of those in Bergen County. THAT could be actually feasible.

      But honestly I don’t see it as a big issue. No matter what, the trucks with their lines would inevitably get in the way SOMEWHERE, and the body politic (read: all of us) doesn’t really owe it’s land to the trucks for those purposes. Even slightly adding to the crowd-iness sometimes can be really annoying. Them sticking to private parking lots is sufficient, and probably a better location anyway.

      1. Actually, you know, I’m forgetting that this is in fact what happens (food trucks come) all the damned time, but only when there are events, which is the only time it’s freggin worth it for them to come in Bergen County. Closter every Sunday at the farmers market and I know in Hackensack during events

      2. YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!!!111!!!1

    2. Eh, I’ve seen two former food-truck owners move to storefronts here in Tallahassee. Mobile kitchens are kind of a hassle. I’m sure some people will spring up to take their place, but sometimes its just a lower risk, less capital intensive way of getting into the market and developing a product and a following.

      1. One of my favorite little restaurants (Schnitzel & Things) actually had that trajectory in NYC. Unfortunately, while tremendously successful as a food truck, the store location in midtown didn’t work out for them. They’re supposed to be opening a place in Brooklyn.

        1. Well, I guess I won’t bother going to the restaurant shown on that food truck website then.

          Damn you – out of date websites!

  8. I grew up in Morris County, NJ. Not too far from Bergen. There’s plenty of areas in all of North Jersey. This is protectionism defined.

    1. I live in Morristown and our center green could easily accommodate several food trucks without impeding traffic.

      1. Reading this The Green immediately came to mind.

  9. My city is so fucking retarded, they had to convene a food truck task force and meet every month on it.

    Some of the public comments submitted to the task force are hardcore command/control.

    There is a split personality for upscale tourism and this class of people. Based on personal preference, every kind of cuisine wanted is offered in Old Town. Food trucks are ok at sporting events in lieu of tailgating and at BRAC. There is enough bedlam at the Farmers Market already – do not need food trucks there.

    There couldn’t possibly be an unmet demand that the food trucks would supply.

    I’m going to attend one of these meetings and try to out-communist the communists. I will try to get “final solution” mentioned.

    1. There is enough bedlam at the Farmers Market already – do not need food trucks there.

      Imagine how convenient the farmers market would be without all those assholes selling produce getting in the way.


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