A New Series



Join GraciousRoots as we chronicle the culinary, caravans of the Southern Highlands

Taking into account my years spent in Boston, Massachusetts, I like to think I’ve made the varsity team when it comes to Food Truck experience. An ongoing series where we delve into this red-hot phenomenon to bring you the BEST of  Food Truck Fanaticism, but first: 


Let’s consult Wikipedia here as the author(s) hit the proverbial ‘nail on the head’ with the food truck timeline. 


In the United States, the Texas chuckwagon is a precursor to the American food truck. In the later 1800s, herding cattle from the Southwest to markets in the North and East kept cowhands on the trail for months at a time.[5] In 1866, the "father of the Texas Panhandle," Charles Goodnight,[6] a Texas cattle rancher, fitted a sturdy old United States Army wagon with interior shelving and drawers and stocked it with kitchenware, food and medical supplies. Food consisted of dried beans, coffee, cornmeal, greasy cloth-wrapped bacon, salt pork, beef, usually dried or salted or smoked, and other easy to preserve food stuffs. The wagon was also stocked with a water barrel and a sling to kindle wood to heat and cook food.[7][8]

mobile canteen.jpg

Mobile Canteen

Another early relative of the modern food truck is the lunch wagon, as conceived by food vendor Walter Scott in 1872. Scott cut windows in a small covered wagon, parked it in front of a newspaper office in Providence Rhode Island, and sold sandwiches, pies, and coffee to pressmen and journalists. By the 1880s, former lunch-counter boy, Thomas H. Buckley, was manufacturing lunch wagons in Worcester, Massachusetts. He introduced various models, like the Owl and the White House Cafe, with features that included sinks, refrigerators, and cooking stoves, also colored windows and other ornamentation.[9]
Later versions of the food truck were mobile canteens, which were created in the late 1950s. These mobile canteens were authorized by the U.S. Army and operated on stateside army bases.[10]

A pizza truck in New York City, 2009  

A pizza truck in New York City, 2009

Mobile food trucks, nicknamed "roach coaches" or "gut trucks," have been around for years, serving construction sites, factories, and other blue-collar locations.[11] In big cities of the U.S., the food truck traditionally provided a means for the on-the-go person to grab a quick bite at a low cost. Food trucks are not only sought out for their affordability but as well for their nostalgia, and their popularity continues to rise.[12]
In recent years, the food truck resurgence was fueled by a combination of post-recessionary factors. Due to an apparent combination of economic and technological factors combined with street food being "hip" or "chic," there has been an increase in the number of food trucks in the United States.[13][14] The construction business was drying up, leading to a surplus of food trucks, and chefs from high-end restaurants were being laid off. For experienced cooks suddenly without work, the food truck seemed a clear choice.[13][15]
Once more commonplace in American coastal big cities like New York and LA, gourmet food trucks are now to be found as well in the suburbs, and in small towns across the country.[16][17][18] Food trucks are also being hired for special events, like weddings, movie shoots, and corporate gatherings, and also to carry advertising promoting companies and brands.[19]

Taco Truck.jpg

Taco truck

St. Louis, Missouri


  The Maximus/Minimus food truck  

Seattle, Washington, 2010

The gourmet food truck
A modern-day food truck is not simply an ordinary taco truck one might find at a construction site.[20] In 2009, New York magazine noted that the food truck had "largely transcended its roach-coach classification and is now a respectable venue for aspiring chefs to launch careers."[11] These gourmet trucks' menus run the gamut of ethnic and fusion cuisine. Often focusing on limited but creative dishes at reasonable prices, they offer customers a chance to experience food they otherwise may not. Finding a niche seems to be a path to success for most trucks. While one truck may specialize in outlandish burgers, another may serve only lobster rolls. Food trucks are now even Zagat rated.
Tracking food trucks has been made easy with social media like Facebook and Twitter, where a favorite gourmet truck can be located at any moment, with updates on specials, new menu items, and location changes.[21] In fact, it could be argued that social media was the biggest contributing factor to the breakthrough success of the gourmet food truck.[22]

The First Entry

NGN 52

Not all Food Trucks are created equal

First spotted by GraciousRoots at the Sylva, NC Christmas Parade and later found parked in town with a legion of frenzied gourmet, wood smoked pizza lovers creating an impromptu community dinner event on the spot! The proof is on the pizza. A cursory look at the NGN 52 facebook page reveals an outstanding 4.9 STARS by reviewers: 

Finally got to try this today and I loved it! Service was great and super friendly, and the pizza was fantastic. I will definitely be back as much as possible and tell all my friends!

  • We had pizza from here just now and it's fabulous. My kids loved it and so did we. They never eat the crust but they did this time. Highly recommend it for anyone!!!!
  • Delicious pizza, lots of toppings to choose from and awesome scratch made and hand-stretched dough. Great concept with a cool renovated truck...owner is super nice. Support local business!

Food truck success boils down to convenience, super tasty, friendly food. Add in a beautiful, unique vision made real of a classic fire truck sporting  a super hot wood-fired oven (for Heaven's sake) of ooey, gooey cheese, top shelf fixins' and a crust that's perfect by itself, and finally an energetic, happy, engaging owner - J.R. VanLienden and you have Food Truck Nirvana.

Two Sizes: (updated)

  1. 8" pie for $8
  2. 12" pie for $15


NGN 1.jpg
“NGN 52 is a custom-built food truck from a 1952 Ford fire truck. We serve wood-fired pizza from our oven right in the truck. Cook time is only about 2 min. 30 sec.Wood-fired pizza from a 1952 fire truck. Can be found around the Smoky Mountains mostly in Swain and Jackson counties and at events.
Pizza orders only take a couple of minutes, but we can only cook one at a time. I don’t do well with calls or texts when rushes are on; my flour-covered fingers don’t do well with the phone.
We have a single price system for pizza, tax and usually a free can of soda or bottled water to wash it down. Most non-events keep the price at 8.00.”
— J.R. VanLienden - Owner/Chef