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Mobile food attracts upper crust clientele

August 14, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
On a crowded sidewalk in Downtown Los Angeles, hungry diners don't have to wait for a table at a popular restaurant. Instead, they can stand in line for fare from one of L.A.'s newest food trucks."Our most favorite food is when you're in the markets, eating off little carts that have these incredible tacos," said Susan Feniger, co-owner of Border Grill restaurants.

Feniger's restaurants are in both Santa Monica and Las Vegas. However, she says the mobile incarnation of her restaurant is a new and exciting way to connect with customers.

"I think the quality of what we're doing on the truck -- for what we're serving on the truck -- is equally as good as it is in the restaurants ... without a doubt," said Feniger.

What was once limited to construction sites or flea markets has suddenly become the hottest culinary trend in L.A. After all, food trucks of all types are offering high-end cuisine at street-level prices.

"We're charging $2, $2.50, $3 a taco. That's really inexpensive," said Feniger.

The Dosa truck specializes in South Indian street food. The dosa is made of fermented lentil and rice flour, and then cooked to order.

"I'm just really happy that people are responding as strongly as they are to the product and to the food ... and to the concept," said Lenna Deneroff, Dosa.

Even discerning sushi connoisseurs can find their favorite fish prepared inside a four-wheeled kitchen.

The Fish Lips truck features flat-screen monitors as menus. According to the owner, they have some of the freshest sushi in town.

"We don't sell so much expensive one, but more people can buy it with a cheap, reasonable price," said Takeshi Kimura, Fish Lips.

L.A. is well known for its taco trucks, but the next generation of street chefs says the cuisine will only get better.

Whether it's Korean barbeque on corn tortillas, or tamales in a cup, the idea has blossomed during a downturn in the economy. According to Feniger, that shouldn't surprise anyone.

"You've got hundreds of people on the street. We're selling a product that we think is high quality at a great price. So that is a way you can do great volume," said Feniger.

Each city has their own laws regarding the mobile eateries. Truck owners say it can be hard to meet those regulations, but they say ultimately this breed of competition between the culinary cruisers and traditional taco trucks makes everyone step up their game.

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