Written by Kon-Tiki Taco
It’s true. Those popular event vendors popping up everywhere have found what event planners and attendees want – healthier meals that are fun too.
These are not your father’s mobile food carts.
In cities all across America, the mobile food cart phenomena has taken hold and redefined what we eat, where we eat and when. That might be a worrisome thing if those mobile food caterers were selling what they used to at workplaces, but most are not. Gone are the hot dogs, prepackaged pastries, chips, fries and high-sugar energy drinks (appropriate for football players in Florida, not so much for less vigorous occupations). In their place are much more exciting offerings that are better for the waistline, overall health – and self-esteem.
For example, gourmet mobile taco catering carts have reinvented the category. Tex-Mex style foods in general have historically came with some healthy (tomato salsa, chopped onions, cilantro) as well as less healthy (fried taco shells, heavy sauces laden with fat and salt) ingredients. Lower-quality beef used as a major ingredient were historically mired in fat.
But what may surprise many is how something such as refried beans, despite a fatty-sounding name, have a good protein-to-fat ratio (13 grams protein to 3 grams fat, respectively, according to Self Nutrition Data). And since there is no law from the culinary establishment against changing a few things to raise the nutrient profile of tacos, enterprising gourmet taco cart caterers have done just that in a variety of ways.
What mobile taco carts now offer to customers include above and beyond gourmet tacos are:
- Healthier proteins – This might mean slowly simmered carnitas, Jamaican chicken and Caribbean carne asada, as well as island-style black beans, grilled tofu, shrimp or tilapia. Depending on the vendor used, these might even be organically raised or wild-caught, sustainable fish stock offerings.
- Corn and flour tortillas – While both have their nutritional pluses, the original version was made of corn. Flour tortillas are more protein-dense, but also contain more calories (about 40 percent more), some fat, more carbohydrates and a bit less fiber.
- Sides and appetizers – Taquitos, ceviche, quesadillas and mini bean and cheese burritos, served before or with a meal, can satisfy an appetite with small portions.
What drove this change? To begin with, casual dining has taken on a whole new cast where food trucks and carts now go to the venue instead of the other way around, where the restaurant building is the fixed destination. Now it’s possible to set up an event in a park, near a ball field, at someone’s home, on a film production (studio or on-location) set, as well as a workplace or corporate office environment where more formal dinners would be impossibly expensive to stage. With gourmet, healthy meals provided in turnkey operation, the party or meeting planner’s options are greatly expanded.
It may not be what your father’s generation knew as mobile, quick-service food. But there’s a good chance he and others would take to this new version with enthusiasm.