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A taco truck on every corner: Threat or promise?

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After Donald Trump’s hysterical, radical, authoritarian immigration speech this week, it was going to be a challenge for his supporters to defend him in the press. So when the founder of Latinos for Trump went on MSNBC he probably should have avoided calling his culture “imposing” and threatening there would be taco trucks on every corner of America if it weren’t stopped.


If you’re going to fearmonger to try to get American voters on your side, try something other than tacos. Tacos are delicious. They’re quickly becoming America’s favorite food. Salsa has already eclipsed ketchup as the most popular condiment in the country. The main dish can’t be far behind.

Nor should it be.

But maybe that means this Trumpkin is right! Maybe tacos are so popular because Hispanic culture is “imposing” its will (and spectacular food) on us.

There’s a simpler explanation – tacos are delicious. They’re like a sandwich, but with less nonsense and more fun. The lower carb option of a tortilla instead of bread is hard to pass up, as the post-sandwich wrap phenomenon of the last couple decades has shown.

Besides the starch exterior, tacos are superior to sandwiches in every way. Instead of tasteless lettuce, you get flavorful cilantro. You skip the bitter or fattening mustard and mayo and get to indulge in tangy salsa, smoky chipotle, or any number of other festive sauces. No ham or turkey here; I’ll take carnitas, por favor.

But let’s not forget the second most important part of the taco truck menace – the truck. The food truck boom this decade is no accident, nor is it a menace at all.

The restaurant business is notoriously harsh. Starting a brick & mortar restaurant is ridiculously expensive, risky, and has an unusually high rate of failure. We all know at least one local building that has housed a dozen different restaurants over our lifetimes.

Food trucks provide all the flavor of a family owned restaurant with almost none of the overhead. No waiters, no bus boys, no mortgage or lease, mobility to go where your customers are, innate viral marketing. There is almost no downside to the food truck business. It’s the meat of the restaurant industry without the veggies no one likes.

Just like Uber has revolutionized the chauffeur market, and AirBnB has done for the vacationing, food trucks started even earlier reshaping and reenergizing the restaurant space.

There’s also an ironic political lesson to be learned by this kind of demagogeury too.

Trump’s popularity has been described as a symptom of the malaise in the blue collar population as US manufacturing has declined. (Never mind that it has rebounded significantly since the Great Recession.) If we want to be proactive instead of throwing a protectionist tantrum and closing off the borders and job-creating trade, we’d see things like food trucks as an opportunity instead of a threat. But why channel your economic frustration into your own hard work in a new business when you can twist it into xenophobia instead?

So I, for one, welcome our mobile taco-delivering overlords. Along with providing us tasty food, they also help the rubes on TV and in our communities self-identify.


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