Future Looks a Little Less Bright For Street Food Carts

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There’s been some suggestion recently that what Sacramento needs is more street food. Right now, the city has about two dozen mobile food carts in downtown and none in midtown. We should be more like Portland, the thinking goes, a city with a thriving cart culture. (It has more than 400 carts dishing up everything from fish ’n’ chips to Thai barbecue.) There’s only one problem: Last year, the state legislature passed a law making it virtually impossible for a street cart vendor to sell anything other than hot dogs, tamales or roasted corn on the cob. Existing carts that don’t conform—such as Happy Go Lucky Veggie Cuisine, which sells vegan rice bowls at the corner of 8th and I streets—will be allowed to continue operating under a grandfather provision. New vendors can sell nonconforming foods only if they are prepared offsite and sold prewrapped—which works for burritos and not much else. Foods kept in a warmer on the cart and dished up fresh won’t be allowed. That excludes all sorts of deliciousness, from chicken curry to crêpes. “The intent (of the law) was to not have a buffet table on wheels,” explains Mark Barcellos, a supervisor with the Sacramento County Environmental Health Department, which issues health permits to mobile food vendors. For wannabe food vendors, the city will hold a lottery to assign new cart licenses in May or thereabouts. Unfortunately for the eating public, we’ll have to be content with more hot dogs.