From Pushcarts To Chuckwagons: The History Of Food Trucks

Food trucks or chuckwagons have grown in popularity since the Great Recession of 2008 and are as much of a restaurant concept as family-style dining or fast food.

Given the low cost, many would-be restaurateurs opt to open food truck businesses, which now are regarded as respectable venues for starting a career in the food business. Today, food trucks have gone beyond street food cuisine, to cater to all your tastes, offering gourmet, locally sourced, artisan menu items. How did the chuckwagon have a lasting impact on our 21st century culinary and business choices, you ask? Let us look back at history to find out more!

History and origin of pushcarts

The modern food trucks stem from two separate dining traditions that predate even the invention of the automobile itself. Chuckwagons and pushcarts served cowboys and urban workers respectively in the US, all the way back to the years right after the Civil War. Chuckwagons followed trail-driving cowpokes in the Wild West, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner to hungry men across the plains. The wagons themselves were designed specifically for cooking, with separate areas for pot storage, washing utensils, and food preparation. This specialization and the ability to prepare and cook food made the chuck wagon the most direct ancestor of the modern food truck.

Advent of automobile

After the advent of the automobile, pushcarts were soon replaced by food trucks. In the 1950s, ice cream trucks were the first businesses to take to the streets in modified vehicles that looked almost exactly like the trucks today. By the early 2000s shiny, new parks were built especially for the food trucks in major cities, and entire festivals sprung up to celebrate them.

The food truck’s industrial revolution

In the wake of World War II and the baby boom, the 1950s witnessed the advent of the ice cream truck. Then food carts began showing up outside of US Army Bases and construction sites. Chip trucks emerged in the late 50s and early 60s. Taco trucks emerged with an increase of immigrants from Mexico, gaining immense popularity in the 1970s.

The food truck’s technological revolution

Shortly after the smartphone, street food apps were developed all across the globe dedicated to food truck tracking. Numerous TV shows like ‘Food Truck Faceoff’ were produced and entire festivals were organized to allow consumers to indulge in all their food truck fantasies.

Popular sites

Food trucks historically have been associated with quick and easy-to-prepare food such as ethnic street food that can be found in busy urban centers. As menus have expanded and the popularity of such trucks has grown, it has become more common to find food trucks in more locations than just busy street corners in densely populated cities. Food trucks now operate in smaller cities and suburban areas and are widely popular at festivals, fairs, concerts, sporting events, and any place else where people gather.

From humble beginnings to a culinary revolution, it is about time to stop calling food trucks a trend. They have permeated western culture in various ways for well over a century.


Satavisha hails from the city of joy, Kolkata. She took up writing as my profession amid the pandemic when the world was at a standstill. Here, she acquired a balance between her passion for writing and sharing various ideas and facts through her stories.
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