Food trucks are growing in popularity in Baltimore and Washington, but there's no need to take a trip to the city to get street food. Mobile eateries are popping up in the suburbs, too.
Here's a rundown of some of the food trucks in Howard County.
In Columbia, Bennett 5 Star Grill serves up Caribbean dishes from a truck on John McAdams Drive, right off of Columbia Gateway Drive. Open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., visitors stopping by for a hot lunch can order from a menu that includes jerk chicken with mac and cheese, spare ribs, and oxtail curry.
Route 1 in Elkridge is a hot spot for food trucks, particularly on the weekends. Drive down the road and you'll encounter a variety of authentic taco and pupusa joints.
One of these is Pupuseria Las Delicias, located at 8828 Washington Blvd., across from the thrift store and just before the entrance ramp for Route 32. Owner Yesenia Cortez sells pupusas from her truck every weekend from 9 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., Friday through Sunday.
Before moving her business to Howard County, Cortez parked her truck in Bowie, where she lives. But recent restrictions on food trucks in Prince George's County forced her to relocate. She says many of her customers have loyally followed her to her new location.
"I park anywhere and customers follow me," she said. "They find me."
Just down the road, Gilda Lemus and Amanda Lopez park their taco truck in front of Elkridge Auto Auction, 7281 Washington Blvd., every day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The pair serve tacos, fajitas, burritos, quesadillas and other fare from the truck, which they call Milita's Tacos, after Lemus' 9-year-old daughter. They say they get lots of hungry auto auction attendees, as well as people who see the truck from the road.
Ebon Curry, of Baltimore County, came down for the auto auction but stopped to get chicken tacos before taking off. "I can't leave without getting one," he said.
Those willing to venture a little further can drive just over the county line for two more options.
A&W Pit Beef is a barbecue truck at 2846 Jessup Road (Route 175). Owner Andy Franko cooks up hearty, homemade barbecue beef sandwiches year-round. He says all his offerings are fresh, from the french fries to the angus beef. Winter hours are 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and there are outdoor tables to sit and eat a meal.
Across the street is the Jessup Deli Truck, which opened two months ago and serves teriyaki; subs; fried rice; burgers; and bulgogi, a Korean barbecue dish consisting of beef marinated with soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, onions and sugar. The truck is open Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
With a growing list of mobile food options, the next question is whether food trucks can survive in a county where the population is far more dispersed than in the high-density environment of the city. Local food blogger HowChow, who prefers to be identified only by his online persona, thinks there's a good chance they will.
"I do think food trucks can thrive here," he said. "I think there are people here who are interested in all kinds of food and that a truck is sort of a low-cost way for people to open a kitchen."