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Los Angeles Could Be on the Verge of Legalizing Street Food

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Plus cookie-making for a good cause, and more

Street tacos, Los Angeles
Street tacos, Los Angeles
Paul Bartunek
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

The conversation surrounding street food vendors and the legislative quagmire they often find themselves in continues to heat up, especially with a possibly uncertain political future for millions of illegal immigrants across Los Angeles. And, frankly, it’s about time.

Street vending (particularly street food vending) is something of a civic pastime for the city of Los Angeles. Tamale men and Chinese pushcart vendors have existed on this land since before Los Angeles was even founded, and continue to be an integral part of the diverse culinary fabric of this city.

As Curbed LA noted last week, it seems the City of Los Angeles may finally be ready to step up to the plate and offer a path to street food legalization with the tens of thousands of vendors across the area. According to the Bureau of Street Services, there are upwards of 50,000 vendors selling just about anything (including hot dogs, fruit, tacos, paletas, elote, you name it) on sidewalks, beaches, and elsewhere in LA. That equates to nearly half a billion dollars annually in revenue, the vast majority of which is untaxed and unlicensed.

A new policy letter put forth by Council members Joe Buscaino, Curren Price, and Jose Huizar could change all that, by allowing vendors to apply for and receive status as legally operating vendors on the street of the city. That means they’d be subject to regulation and taxation, two important factors for health department officials and anyone interested in keeping the city’s coffers filled.

Though there are plenty of kinks to work out with regards to vendor legalization, including enforcement and the potential impact on brick-and-mortar restaurants, the letter from the Council members is perceived by many to be a strong step in the right direction. And strong it is: the letter reads in part that the Council has a "moral imperative to decriminalize vending by removing all misdemeanor penalties."

Ultimately nothing is confirmed yet, and there are still many steps to go before street food vendor legalization can truly be achieved. The next is a public hearing slated for December 12, says Curbed.

A cookie swap for a good cause

An awesome cookie swap is happening on Sunday, December 4 at a number of great restaurants around Los Angeles, and it’s all to benefit the LA Regional Food Bank. The idea is that pastry chefs from Broken Spanish, M.B. Post, Rose Cafe, Spago, Sotto, and The Bellwether will team up to individually create a cookie that will become part of a collective cookie plate and served at each restaurant. The one night only affair happens at each restaurant, where guests can buy said mix plate of cookies for $15. All proceeds will go to the food bank.

The next NoMad truck collaboration

Here comes a mini-collaboration effort from the NoMad truck team. Remember: they’re in town doing a series of chef mashups across the city, but for the next two days will be exclusively working a fun menu with the Sweetgreen team, parking at their West Hollywood outlet today and in Hollywood tomorrow.

Cheap old fashioneds everywhere

A ton of places are doing inexpensive old fashioneds around Los Angeles for Repeal Day, including the Eureka! restaurant group. They’ll be dishing out $5 Templeton Rye options on Monday, December 5, whereas the 1933 Group (Idle Hour, Highland Park Bowl, Harlow, etc.) will be doing $1 old fashioneds from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. only.

Verizon gives away free Kogi BBQ

In need of a free lunch next Tuesday? Hit up the Kogi BBQ truck (they’ll be parked by LACMA off Wilshire) on December 6 between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. for a free meal at the truck, courtesy of Verizon. The phone company is handing out as many free meals as they can just for the heck of it basically, so get your free branded lunch while you can.

Salazar starts daily brunch today

It’s lunch/brunch time at Salazar in Frogtown. That endlessly popular evening option is opening up the gates for daily (excluding Monday, since they’re closed that day) brunch service in their all-outdoor dining room. They’ll have heaters for anyone who gets cold, and a bunch of new dishes for everyone to enjoy.