The food truck movement is the topic du jour at the National Restaurant Association show happening now at McCormick Place.
And outside of the convention walls, it's picking up major steam.
Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) told me this morning he will submit an ordinance at the next City Council meeting on June 9 that re-works the city's existing regulations regarding street vendors. He wants to make the case for mobile food trucks as "a good job creator and just a good way to showcase a lot of talent that might not otherwise be able to afford a whole restaurant buildout."
In an ideal world, the ordinance would then be hashed out in a joint meeting of the council's health and licensing committees, and then go back to the full council for a final vote. Waguespack expects little, if any, resistance.
"Some aldermen don't want food trucks to be able to pull up in front of someone else's restaurants. And [Alds. Tunney and Balcer] don't want them in front of the ball parks, so there will be some of those restrictions we'll have to pull together," Waguespack says, "but I don't know why anybody would be opposed to it."
Waguespack credits Chicago chefs Matt Maroni and Phillip Foss for making his office and the city sit up and take notice. Maroni had approached Waguespack with a draft proposal, and Foss had done similarly with Ald. Vi Daley. There have been meetings with health officials and others since, and Ald. Margaret Laurino last week put forth a resolution calling for a hearing before her committee on economic, capital and technology development. But Waguespack says there's no need for yet more talk -- just action.
"We just took their drafts and their writing, and we're going to do tweak it so it'll fit into the city's municipal code," Waguespack says.
I hung out with Maroni on Saturday while he checked out the food truck area on the show floor (read more about that in Wednesday's food pages). He came away feeling inspired about his forthcoming venture, gaztro-wagon -- and with a handful of business cards he intends to use, including that of Streetza's Scott Baitinger, who has offered to speak to the council on Maroni's behalf.
You can bet Maroni and Foss will be sitting in on a panel discussion this afternoon on mobile restaurants; star chefs Ludo Lefebvre and Mary Sue Milliken are the main draw. In fact, Foss will be blogging about the session for the association.
And Waguespack tells me "a foodie" on his staff also is checking out the show today.