Philly’s mobile food scene has exploded of late, with nearly 70 new gourmet trucks popping up in the past few years alone (out of about 300 vendors operating citywide). And we’re actually just catching up to the cities across the country that gave birth to the trend. L.A. counts some 3,200 food trucks and carts; the city of Portland, with just over a third the population of Philadelphia, has more than 700.

The question is whether Philly can ever achieve Portlandia status. Our antiquated laws regulating street vending make it hard to find curbside real estate. Competition for limited sidewalk space is still so fierce — old-school egg-and-cheese vendors locked down most of the good legal spots years ago — that Admana says she sometimes pays one of her six employees to get up early and squat on a desirable location until the truck can arrive.

Still, things are changing. The new guys have organized, forming a trade group that caters to gourmet trucks and drafting legislation that could make Philly the next mobile food mecca. As is the case with neighborhood gentrification, not everyone’s sure that would be a good thing.

If the Philadelphia Mobile Food Association, a trade group founded in 2012, has its way, Torofias will have even more neighbors. PMFA president George Beiber, a clean-cut guy from Pottstown who runs the Sunflower Truck Stop, says his group has already spent years working out proposed legislation that could open up hundreds of new spots for food vendors by allowing vending on private property. “There’s 30,000 vacant lots in Philadelphia. That’s a lot of opportunity,” says Beiber. “Some of those lots sit vacant for years. Why not in the interim, if the owner is willing, get some food trucks in there?”

For Beiber, cracking open these choice districts is the biggest prize of all, particularly the “no-fly zone,” as he calls it, that bars trucks from all of Center City.

Last year, PMFA started getting pro bono assistance from white-shoe law firm Ballard Spahr to draft Council legislation that would strip away many of the restrictions on food trucks.

Related Practice

Pro Bono