Food on the Streets

Not just talking about chicken bones. The push for food carts on Peachtree, launched earlier this year, is still on – Atlanta is home to a movement clamoring for clean, delicious, LEGAL street food in the city.

The conflict is a silly set of conflicting laws – basically, Atlanta thinks people need to be protected from the guys selling purses and sunglasses in Five Points, and thus has a vending ordinance that mandates “No vehicle shall stop or stand [on public property] and do business for more than 30 minutes.” On the other hand, the state is responsible for keeping dangerous or poorly prepared food out of our bellies, so Georgia law dictates that mobile food units can only have a permit for one or two locations (so that health inspectors can easily locate them). So Atlanta says “keep moving,” Georgia says “don’t go anywhere,” and we miss out on taco trucks and falafel vans. Bummer.

Events have special permits for food carts – that’s why we can get greek sammiches at the Sweet Auburn Festival and funnel cake at Dogwood and Cameli’s pizza at Soccerfest this past weekend in the Cabbagetown Park.  It’s also how they are holding monthly Urban Picnics at the Sweet Auburn Market – they took a hiatus due to a permitting issue, but will be back on the 25th and every last Friday of the month thereafter.

Westside Creamery's Maggie

I haven’t made it to a picnic yet, but I sure ate the hell out of some Korean BBQ from a truck at Atlanta Streets Alive and have overindulged on some of Westside Creamery’s ice cream.

I’m a fan of street food. I’m a fan of anything that gets people outside. I LOVE playing outside, and even I’ll find myself sitting at a desk for 9 or so hours without budging. Buying and eating food on the sidewalk is one more little hack at car culture and one more little lift-up to people culture that I love to see sprouting in Atlanta.

From what I understand, this movement was really started during a Pecha Kucha event this winter, when Knife & Fork’s Christiane Lauterbach.  (When Pecha Kucha’s season starts up again, I’ll post about it –it’s a monthly event held at Octane where a dozen people or so people give brief presentations about things they feel passionate about.) According to her site,, at that presentation they “whipped a sizeable crowd into a frenzy by showing them juicy slides of pedestrians buying Thai street food, Czech ‘schnitzelwitches,’ and waffles folded like tacos over bacon and eggs drizzled with maple syrup” … and then contrasted it with pictures of our “bleak downtown with cracked, empty parking lots.” Sensing the support for a movement, Christiane started and started an online petition (see/sign it at Another group, the Atlanta Street Food Coalition, at, is working towards the same end. It sounds like Kwanzaa Hall is in, but I haven’t heard much about how things are progressing – just that they’re getting a lot of good press.  Anyone out there have any updates?

Here’s hoping for more food on Atlanta’s streets!  (aside from chicken bones.  Seriously, people, I can’t get over how much chicken we must eat to have so many wing bones on the roads).

5 Comments so far

  1. Sarah (swampgravy) on June 15th, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

    Woah. Small world- I went to high school with Maggie!

  2. Jason (unregistered) on June 16th, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

    Some rambling thoughts on the subject…

    How does Streatery get away with selling street food? They don’t move their carts every thirty minutes. Is the city just looking the other way? Do they have a special permit that others could also get? Isn’t there also an ice cream cart roaming around? Maybe it does move every thirty minutes but I’m still trying to understand why Streatery is able to do what so many are saying is illegal. Also back in the crazy days of the Buckhead Village, I use to buy food from food vans all the time. Did the cops look the other way? Given the police level there, it seems unlikely though I guess the police may have been focused more on the club goers and those hanging out on the street than how long a food van had been selling in one location.

    Seems odd that these street food conversations always focus on blaming the city when somehow someone found a way to sell street food.

    I hope someday we have a great street food scene like they do in Portland and Vancouver but let’s face it, Atlanta is not either of those livable cities. There are a thousand other things they do right in terms of land usage, transit, road scaling, dealing with panhandlers, etc. that make street food a viable business. Laws against it or not, Atlanta has much to do if we want this to succeed. Focusing on just one aspect is a recipe for failure. As it stands now, there are only a small handful of places where it’ll work and I think Streatery has already staked claim to most of them.

    Are there any street food vendors in Decatur? Seems like a good place to start, around the square. If it is illegal there too, it’s a smaller city and would be easier to get the law changed. It’d also serve as a good example for the City of Atlanta. If street food can’t make it in downtown Decatur, I’m not sure it’ll work anywhere else.

    The special events that have been setup in support of street food are great but anyone with a business can tell you, you need the day to day business to survive. Does that day to day support really exist? Will the people attending these events show up day in and day out to support the street food vendors?

  3. Tamra (unregistered) on June 17th, 2010 @ 1:27 am

    “As it stands now, there are only a small handful of places where it’ll work and I think Streatery has already staked claim to most of them.”

    I can think of several spots that Streatery isn’t in and in which a taco truck/kebab van/samosa wagon/noodle cart are very much needed.

    1. The Forsyth Street side of Five Points – heavy pedestrian traffic about ten hours a day and nothing around to eat but fast food. There’s already a guy there selling everything from sodas to socks. Having some food there would probably help his business.

    2. Right in front of the main library. Another place people come and go almost 12 hours a day. The library is open later than almost anything for blocks and there’s about half an acre of space in front of it being used for absolutely nothing.

    3. Right on Peachtree between Colony Square and 10th Street. There’s no quick food at all in those four blocks. The people in those office buildings are probably pretty tired of the Colony Square food court, Chic-Fil-A and hiking down to Einstein Brothers.

    4. That dead, empty space on the northwest corner of the intersection of Lenox Road and East Paces Ferry Road, right across from Lenox station. Again, a LOT of pedestrians several hours a day, especially on weekends and especially in the summer. Once you’re outside the mall, there’s nothing inexpensive to eat anywhere around there.


    “Does that day to day support really exist? Will the people attending these events show up day in and day out to support the street food vendors?”

    Yeah. That. Will people go out of their way, to another neighborhood or another part of town to patronize those vendors when they’re not at an event? Is this just something that we want because other, “cooler” cities have it? That’s how we ended up with fifty (exaggerating a bit) cupcake shops and expensive frozen yogurt joints.

  4. abby on June 17th, 2010 @ 8:48 am

    Can anyone weigh in on the legality of food carts? I’m basing my knowledge on Creative Loafing articles and blog posts here.

    I’m not sure how Streatery does it. The King of Pops, as I understand it, is on private property AND is not serving anything that is cooked/heated. Also not sure about Buckhead back in the day, but from what I’ve read I think most carts aren’t legal.

    I work in an office building in midtown. Most people in my office leave and buy something cheap in the vicinity for lunch. This ends up being chick fil a, arby’s, varsity, publix, (now waffle house!!) etc. I don’t think embracing street food would require altering existing behavior – we’re effectively talking about cheap fast food joints that can move to where the people are. Hopefully with better quality.

    And finally, though it’s a valid point to raise, I don’t think it’s a “craze” the way cupcakes and frozen yogurt are (though I guess my 12-year old self was on top of that trend in the early 90s with TCBY, bitches!!). I think the things Americans (and Atlantans) treasure more than almost anything are value and convenience, and walking out of your office building across the street to get a cheap delicious meal gives you both of those.

  5. abby on June 17th, 2010 @ 9:19 am

    okay, word on twitter is that the Streatery guys have the only trial/experimental license, and that after their period is up the City will decide on rules. Totally not verified, it’s just what a friend of mine told me. (Thanks Chris!)

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.