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Street Food Friday: A Surprising Taco Truck Scene in Columbus

March 14, 2014 at 11:40 AM | by | ()

In a new weekly Friday column, we'll explore street food and other culinary specialties from around the world. Last week, it was a taste of turtle in Grand Cayman. This week, we head to Columbus, Ohio, to see what's cooking.

Last time we were in Columbus, we set out to investigate what we were told was a budding food scene. We quickly became familiar with areas such as German Village, a historic neighborhood packed with colonial feel and farm-to-fork restaurants.

We drank local gin from the Watershed Distillery (best gin this contributor has ever had... really), and when we started asking around for some local grub, people kept pointing us in the direction of the taco trucks. We thought it was a joke, until we learned that there are approximately 40 of them circling the city.

If we would have asked you to list ten cities where tacos were popular, guaranteed Columbus wouldn't have even entered your brain as a remote possibility. And your thought process would have been right on. A Latino/Hispanic population is barely present in the city, making up only 4.5% as reported in the 2012 census. Even Indianapolis has a larger percentage (7%). For the purpose of perspective, San Antonio is 61.2 percent. Los Angeles is 48.4 percent, and New York is 27.5 percent.

So what's the deal with the taco trucks? Why do 40 trucks serve a range of Mexican and Latin American food from Oaxaca, Mexico City, Michoacán, Jalisco, Honduras, Colombia and Salvador? According to Bethia Woolf of Columbus Food Adventures, a food tour company that offers routes through the city's food scene, says it has more to do with the law than anything else.

“The taco truck scene relates not just to the Latino population size but food truck regulations, openness to food trucks and particularly openness to taco trucks,” Woolf said. “I think one of the joys of the Columbus taco truck scene is that it is unexpected. People don’t expect a vibrant Mexican food truck scene here, but for a combination of reasons there is one.”

If that's not a shoulder shrug response, we don't know what is. We suppose it simply proves once again that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

[Photo: Columbus Food Adventures]

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