Three bowls of street food
Three bowls of street food© von der Weiden

Food Trucks

Fresh, cheap food that is bought and eaten on the street is an international phenomenon. Mobile food trucks are increasingly becoming part of this scene, too. They have been in Germany for quite some time. Sellers tour around in their converted vans offering their freshly prepared snacks somewhere else every day. The street food trend is especially popular with young people.

Food trucks are conquering Germany:

Snacks and fast food from far-off countries taste just as good in Cologne, Munich, Ham-burg and Berlin as they do in their original country. But the idea of developing snazzy trucks is not a new one. Many regions of the world have already seen mobile food trucks before.


Nothing completely new:

In China, for example, food trucks offering a quick breakfast or a tasty sandwich at lunch have long been popular among working men and women. Other predecessors of the modern food trucks are mobile canteens and field kitchens. And there are still a few floating markets in Thailand. These sell fruit, vegetables and other food from boats. This is because the canals of the Chao Phraya River were previously used as transport routes and the goods were directly resold from the river. These “floating markets” are rare nowadays and more of a tourist attraction.

However, this trend for warm, hearty meals from a food truck came from the American “chuckwagons”. These are the horse-drawn wagons that accompanied cowboys and lumberjacks while they went about their hard work in the desert or in the forest.

Street food in a bowl
Street food in a bowl© von der Weiden

High-quality alternative:

Food trucks nowadays are not just about providing a basic supply. More often than not, they are a high-quality alternative to restaurants, cafeterias and canteens.
In other countries, such as America, food trucks are already an integral part of the culinary scene.


In Germany:

Ice cream and sausage sellers were the only ones selling their fayre from mobile stations. Meanwhile, the trend for exotic snacks and a good lunch is becoming more and more popular here and the range of food trucks is increasing.

Food Truck Grill Stand exterior with sign
Food Truck Grill Stand exterior with sign© von der Weiden

Are food trucks the future of lunchtime in German university towns?

The food truck trend has been around in Germany since about 2008. Since then, it has been possible to quickly and easily attract large numbers of customers to the current location of the food truck via social media. Food trucks in Germany are sometimes parked in front of companies during the lunch hour or at busy spots in large German cities. And, of course, they can also be found at street food markets.

Entire food truck markets can mostly be found in the large university cities in Germany, for example, in Hamburg, Stuttgart and Cologne. But Lübeck, Nuremberg and Munich also have lots of modern food trucks. That is why more and more people now enjoy eating lunch at such a stand.

Signs on the counter of a food truck
Signs on the counter of a food truck© von der Weiden

Are the mobile kitchens also a good alternative to the cafeteria?

The food from a food truck is usually slightly more expensive than food in the cafeteria but is mostly freshly prepared. Students can occasionally afford an exotic dish or special treat from a food truck. Every now and again, a few universities and colleges offer a “Food Truck Day”. Look on the university’s Facebook page, for example for up-to-the-minute information.

A hot tip: The trucks are often found on campus, in front of companies with large car parks or on small squares in the city centre at midday. Eating at a food truck is not cheap, unfortunately. Be prepared to pay around EUR 8 to 9 for a burger from a food truck. However, the food is freshly prepared and nothing like the mass-produced offering in the cafeteria.

Poster Street Food Festival
Poster Street Food Festival© von der Weiden

Street Food Festival: The Cologne Food Trucks Test

The best way of trying this trend is at a Street Food Event

There are lots to choose from here. I got together with the Chinese exchange student Yuedi to test whether food trucks in Cologne deliver what they promise.

The Street Food Festival is the ideal place for this. For example, the food truck owners cook, roast and fry their specialities on the grounds of Helios 37 in Cologne-Ehrenfeld. ‘The event represents authentic cuisine from around the world and moves to a different German city every weekend. And the best of it is: a lot of food trucks take part.

This is where I took a culinary journey with Yuedi from China. We noticed as soon as we set off that the event appeals to all our senses: We can see the smoke from a “smoker”– a grill – rising into the air. Colourful menus are displayed everywhere and we can smell the wide range of different spices. The display windows of the food trucks are filled with tasty sandwiches or freshly-made French crepes. Spoiled for choice, we then decided to try out the “fusion food” from the Philippines, a mixture of German and Filipino cuisine.


Cutlery and sauces on display
Cutlery and sauces on display© von der Weiden

Yuedi Zhang from China

Exploring the Food Festival

Yuedi is 20 years old and comes from China.  She already knew food trucks from her homeland and is especially pleased that this relaxed way of eating food on-the-go has also come to Germany. So, the street food market in the colourful and somewhat secluded rear courtyard of the “Helios 37” in Cologne-Ehrenfeld is perfect.


Different dishes of healthy street food
Different dishes of healthy street food© von der Weiden

Just like a real festival

And after talking to Yuedi, we then had a great time together at the street food festival. Not only was the location – the grounds of an old factory – really urban and nicely decorated but our sample meal was exotic and tasted good. Music was playing the whole time just like a real festival and there were huge crowds of people there, all laughing, talking and eating with gusto.Fortified by our exotic fayre, we were happy and full when we left the festival grounds and ready for a stroll through the historic centre of Cologne.