Three Cheers For The Roach Coach!

800px-Food_Trucks_that_are_common_in_Ontario,_CanadaOur editorial meeting was interrupted by the sound of a ridiculous horn from the parking lot. Was it a kid on a bike or a clown car?  Only we knew for sure. Outside the office, a security guard leaned out of his booth and welcomed the visitor with a friendly shout. We squirmed in our seats like children on Christmas morning. My editor calmly paused the meeting, passed us a dollar and told us to fetch him a coffee. The roach coach, steaming bliss from the pavement, had finally arrived.

When man invented the wheel, he surely envisioned a truck that could bring coffee and fried food to the masses. To the working folk in construction sites and factories around America, this is ambrosia from Olympus. Well, perhaps not ambrosia. It’s really breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a truck with heaters and refrigeration. Think mobile buffet. Think street-legal snack time. Food trucks have found customers since before humans learned they had an appetite. One even made daily visits at Cape Canaveral to feed NASA engineers during the Mercury program.

An appropriate definition of the roach coach exists in the Urban Dictionary:

A catering truck, especially one which frequents blue collar places of work; generally a modded pickup truck with insulated diamond-pattern doors covering a refrigerator case and a warmer unit with attached griddle.

Food trucks frequent all the busy places that aren’t served by coffee shops or delis. My first job out of college was at a newspaper office in a busy boat yard. When the food truck pulled into the marina, a crowd of very hungry guys would come out for coffee and food. Some were dressed in grimy overalls and had been welding tug boats for hours. Some were machinists and engineers. Some were desk jockeys looking for a snack. When the insulated doors on the truck flipped open, we were treated to a variety of lasagna, donuts, potato chips, coffee, soda, and hot dogs. These were not the healthiest of options, but they were the best available for where you went to work.

“These helped a lot,” said a friend of mine who used to do union work at a job site. He and his buddies met the food truck at nine in the morning and one in the afternoon.  Lunch was Italian sausage with onions and peppers or slices of pizza. Hot coffee was gladly accepted on cold days.

In other circumstances, food choices may veer into the realm of culinary uncertainty. “They usually pick food up at local places and or grill their own,” recalled another friend. “That’s where it gets dicey. Burgers and hot dogs are usually winners. Sausage and hot pastrami can be sketchy and sometimes it repeats on you and you taste it all week.”

My cousin has also seen the ups and downs of roach coach cuisine on various sites. After bad experiences with cheeseburgers, rice and eggs and breakfast pizza, she sampled an offering of traditional Latin food with fried tortilla, potato and chicken. Did that change her impression of food trucks in general? For many, it’s clearly a love-hate relationship.

Some roach coaches roll into corporate parks and campuses. Larger food trucks provide short-order grilling. Newer services listed on Yelp.com are offering more than the usual fare:  try grilled cheese, cupcakes, rice bowls, BBQ sandwiches, veggie burgers, fritters, and other heavenly goodness. So if you ever swing by a funny looking vehicle and a line of hungry strangers, you know you’ve struck edible gold!

Photo:  Wikipedia

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