Seattle’s food carts are making the transition from pie-in-the-sky dreaming to on-the-ground reality. Just today, a new rotating food cart pod opened blocks away from Sightline HQ. While it isn’t the swarm of carts you’d see in Portland, it’s a step in the right direction.
The mayor’s office is pushing hard to take unnecessary regulations off the books and make it easier to operate a mobile food business. Of course, once any idea starts to become concrete policy, we get to feast our eyes on some sausage-making (and not the delicious kind they serve up outside Qwest Field). The current proposal before the City Council is starting to take some flak:
- Restaurant owners, worried that cheaper carts will take a bite out of their own business want carts to get permission from nearby businesses before opening (because of course they’ll say “yes”).
- Some worry that without a setback from schools, vendors will hawk pizza and pop to kids (what next, the Ice Cream Man?).
- City council members have expressed concern at the lack of a curfew on the carts (because street food is a notorious magnet for vampires).
All of that is to be expected; people will take issue with any policy, no matter how well crafted. The good news is that, aside from some restaurant owners, folks are behind the general idea. They agree food carts make for better urban livability and would be a plus for the city.
While it might take a while before things really get cooking, I’m just stoked to see the wheels turning.
(Also worth a read: Sightline alum Roger Valdez’s take on street food. He argues it’s a solution in search of a problem—food carts are a natural outgrowth of density. While I agree with his main point, there are several barriers to Seattle’s street food scene—like the inability to utilize public land—that this proposal does away with. But I love his take-home point: if we want to make it easier, we should stop debating and just do it.)
Photo taken by the author shortly before stuffing his face with bulgogi.