The 17 Best Chicago Food Trucks (Updated for 2019)

Photo by Eternal Seconds

They say you can’t fight City Hall, but Chicago food truck owners sure are trying – they’ve been battling the city’s restrictions on their mobile operations for years. Specifically the requirement that food trucks keep a minimum of 200 ft from any restaurant (they’re also required to use a GPS tracking device to ensure they stick to this rule). This makes doing business in neighborhoods like the Loop almost impossible.

Does this mean Chicago doesn’t have a thriving food truck scene? Of course not! It just means our mobile food purveyors have had to get creative. The food trucks in the Windy City have adapted and are ready to pop up at a moment’s notice. You’ll find them staked out at our many summer street festivals. You’ll find them parked in the lots of local breweries. You’ll spy them at wedding receptions and quinceaneras. Many have also opened up storefront locations to offer their loyal fans the best of both culinary worlds.

Inspired and influenced by cuisines from all over the world, Chicago’s many food trucks have a lot to offer a hungry public with choices of banh-mi, tandoori, empanadas, and arepas (along with expertly-done standars like coffee, donuts, pastries, burgers, hot dogs and pizza). Chicago’s foodies will not be denied their mobile delicacies and the trucks on this list do it best!

01. Fat Shallot

(Primary Neighborhood: The Loop)

When the husband and wife team of Sam Barron and Sarah Weitz kicked off the Fat Shallot in 2013, City Hall had not quite warmed to the idea of a food truck revolution. One of the first trucks to get licensed by the city, these culinary school graduates have since earned praise from foodies city-wide.

Taste buds water at the first sighting of the fire-engine-red truck as it makes its daily stops. Truffle BLTs, Buffalo chicken and turkey sandwiches, and grilled cheese are ready to be devoured along with a choice of rosemary, truffle, or sesame fries.

You can catch the truck at various festivals in the city and suburbs. The cheffing duo have also opened two Fat Shallot brick-and-mortars (Revival Food Hall in the Loop and one in Lincoln Park). If that weren’t enough, they recently brought their new veggie-forward concept, Smashed Radish, to the Politan Row Chicago Food Hall.

MUST TRY ITEM

Buffalo Chicken Sandwich — When lunchtime hunger hits, it’s hard to beat this sandwich of tender chicken strips saturated in zesty Buffalo sauce and topped with blue cheese and celery salad.

02. Three Legged Tacos

(Primary Neighborhoods: Various events and locations, city and suburbs)

The chefs behind this spicy food truck do two things exceptionally well: they bring great tacos to Chicagoland and they bring a little extra joy by donating three percent of their profits to good causes. Your heart and belly will appreciate that.

Fans follow the truck on Twitter and Instagram to see where they’ll pop up next. You might find them at a brewery in Sauganash on a cold winter’s night, at a street fair in Andersonville on a warm summer’s day, or on a night of a weeklong residency at a place like the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Wicker Park. In addition to popping up, the Three Legged folks also provide catering services to bring their tacos, salads, and appetizers, which are all as colorful as they are flavorful, to special events citywide.

MUST TRY ITEM

Fried Chicken Taco — Crispy fried chicken provides the crunch; hoja santa (Mexican pepperleaf) provides the warmth; and cucumber and dill cools it all down.

03. Dönermen

(Primary Neighborhoods: Avondale, various events and locations, city and suburbs)

Another food truck that demands to be tracked by culinary hunters is Dönermen(A döner is the vertical spit used for roasting meat). German street food is the concept behind this truck; or German by way of Turkey, as Turkish immigrants heavily influenced this mix of spiced meat, vegetables, and bread.

Perhaps it’s the German influence, but for some reason, this fare just pairs well with beer. That’s why you’ll likely find the Men at various festivals and events around the city where beer flows freely. In addition to serving out of their truck, the owners have opened the DMen Tap in Avondale. The tap keeps the food truck feel by incorporating an order window on the inside where hungry diners order curry fries and sauerkraut balls while waiting in line. The bar’s interior, like the exterior of the truck, features the same horror movie/Dungeons and Dragons mashup mural.

MUST TRY ITEM

Currywurst — Curry and sausage at its best. This German fast food invention features tender, seared pork and veal sausage topped with tangy and sweet curry sauce served with fries.

04. Tamale Spaceship

(Primary Neighborhoods: The Loop, various events and locations, city and suburbs)

Before food trucks came to town, hungry Chicagoans had to wait it out at their favorite watering holes for competing “tamale guys” to show up. Back then the thought of some futuristic tamale spacecraft was too far out. Despite its name, the Tamale Spaceship concept is an earthbound vehicle (though it’s silver, like a spaceship’s supposed to be). The workers wear luchador masks like Mexican pro wrestlers as they serve up their space guacamole and a variety of tasty tamales, which always come in pairs.

Tamale Spaceship is credited with being the city’s longest-running food truck operation. The concept was launched almost a decade ago by Manny Hernandez and Pepe Balanzar, both former employees of Rick Bayliss’ Frontera Grill.

MUST TRY ITEM

Victorious Tamale — You too will feel like a wrestling champ from outer space after you pin down this Yucatan-style tamale filled with roasted pork and topped with tomato-habanero sauce and purple pickled onions.

05. Beavers Coffee & Donuts

(Primary Neighborhoods: West Loop)

It’s not all about wraps, sandwiches, and tacos. Diversity is important to any food scene and that includes food trucks that serve breakfast. Beavers Coffee and Donuts stands ready to deliver those early morning jolts of sugar and caffeine.

A half-awake Windy City workforce lines up for their choice of donuts in four different serving sizes (from four on up to 35 minis). They have a choice of different decadent toppings like Loco Coco or Funky Monkey. They then pick their Metropolis coffee and are soon ready to face the day. You’ll find the Beavers getting busy serving commuters at Chicago’s French Market in the West Loop’s busy transit hub.

MUST TRY ITEM

PB&J — The perfect pairing with a hot cup of morning joe: a delicious donut topped with a combination of peanut butter and strawberry sauces.

06.  Happy Lobster Food Truck

(Primary Neighborhoods: Loop, West Loop )

Illinois is not a landlocked state and Chicago has a gorgeous waterfront–a Great Lake waterfront, in fact. You’ll find plenty of smallmouth bass in Lake Michigan, but lobster isn’t really a part of our culinary history. In 2014, The Happy Lobster food truck saw an opportunity to roll in and change that.

Alex Robinson, Tyler Cullitan, and Neal Bassett, the creators of this food truck concept, are long-time friends. They decided to quit their jobs and start this food truck and the city’s seafoodies love them for it. Their tasty rolls were selected as the “Best Lobster Rolls in America” based on Yelp reviews and they were voted “Best Food Truck” in the Chicago Tribune’s Readers Choice Awards in 2017. That’s a lot of happy lobster fans and they’ll create even more joy with their new shop at the French Market in the West Loop.

MUST TRY ITEM

Happy Lobster — Their namesake sandwich, and staff favorite, features Maine lobster with a drizzle of butter, plus mayo and seasoning, served on a bun.

07. Chicago Pizza Boss

(Primary Neighborhoods: Various events and locations, city and suburbs)

If you’re looking for the boss on a Chicago street, it’s decked out like a giant Italian flag. The menu changes constantly on this truck, but you can still request your favorite pie if it has rotated off (a boss move by itself). The truck is also outfitted with large windows so you can see pies being prepared inside. It’s Chicago’s original wood-fired pizza truck and also the best. Another way to find the Boss is too book it for your private party or corporate event.

MUST TRY ITEM

Classic Sausage — Chicagoans love their classic pies, like the 10” sausage, which features a base of California whole peeled crushed tomatoes, grated parm, fresh mozzarella and topped with double-crushed fennel sausage.  

08. Bombay Wraps

(Primary Neighborhoods: The Loop, Lakeview, Streeterville)

You can put just about any type of food in a wrap and it will taste good. Well, at least it’s a theory. Go ahead and test it if you like, but we know for certain that Indian is no exception to the rule. Mixed in a bowl or with a salad or on a roll, these are all great ways to incorporate the many wonderful flavors and colors of the Indian subcontinent. Their compact pickup truck operation’s ready to serve the multitudes with fare that is also friendly to vegetarians, vegans, and the gluten free. Bombay Wraps has brick and mortar locations in Streeterville, Loop, and Lakeview.

MUST TRY ITEM

Chicken Tikka Wrap — If you are down with Indian cuisine, chances are you are a tandoori fan. This selection wraps it up with grilled chicken breast and tops it off with a delicious tikka masala. Pickled onions and cilantro mint chutney are an added bonus.

09. Chicago Lunchbox

(Primary Neighborhood: The Loop)

Street eats are what Chicago Lunchbox is all about. The menu is full of Asian flare featuring Filipino, Thai, Korean, and Vietnamese inspired ingredients served in the bahn-mi or taco style, salad, rice or noodle box. Spicy rangoons or cool chicken spring rolls are a good way to start off, or as a decent break time snack. You’ll find this rolling lunchbox at Daley Plaza most days, but also at block parties, fests, and even museum parking lots.

MUST TRY ITEM

The Viet — Have a hankering for bahn-mi? Try this tasty sandwich made with grilled pork marinated in Vietnamese-style sauce served on a baguette.

10. La Cocinita

(Primary Neighborhoods: The Loop)

Venezuela represents in Chicago’s Latin-themed street food scene. Here’s how it goes down when you visit La Cocinita (Little Kitchen) food truck: First you pick your “vessel” from a choice of arepas, tacos, bowls, or “burri-taco” (a flour tortilla stuffed with yummy goodies). Next you pick your protein with meat and vegetarian options. Lastly, you top it with a choice of Venezuelan guacamole, roasted garlic sauce, chipotle crema, or other great options.

Benoit and Rachel Angulo are the creators of this mix of Mexican-style tacos and specialties from Benoit’s home country of Venezuela. The couple met while working together at a restaurant in New Orleans where they revved up their first food truck, followed by their Chi-Town operation. If you’ve never seen the truck on the street, you may have caught La Cocinita on CNBC’s Restaurant Start-Up or Food Network’s Eat Street.

MUST TRY ITEM

Pollo Estofado Arepa — Ground cornmeal patties stuffed with braised chicken and cheese. Try it with the roasted jalapeño salsa for the perfect lunchtime treat.

11. Aztec Dave’s

(Primary Neighborhoods: Various events and locations, city and suburbs)

The family-run food truck Aztec Dave’s has been serving mobile Mexican food in Chicago since 2015. The focus is on the family’s grandmother’s recipes but with a modern spin.

Aztec Dave’s prides itself on using the best, freshest ingredients to make delicious Mexican food that is still affordable. They marinate their meat in lime juice (and a secret ingredient) and flame grill it to perfection before serving it in tacos, wrapped in burritos, and as tortas. With a daily choice of four lunch specials, featuring chips and a drink, for not a whole lot over ten bucks, Aztec Dave’s is a truck to keep an eye out for.

MUST TRY ITEM

Taco Azteca — Try this one with flame-grilled steak, topped with cilantro and onions and their signature Pineapple Devil sauce.

12. Yum Dum

(Primary Neighborhoods: South Loop, Hyde Park)

Jeff Wang had a simple idea for his food truck: cook like mom. Jeff’s mother must be quite the culinary whiz, because customers love his food and have rewarded them with their hunger loyalty.

Chef Wang grew up in his family’s restaurant, but even so, starting your own operation is a bit of a gamble. His offerings of steamed dumplings, “baowiches,” kimcheesy rice balls, and sesame cucumber noodles are Asian-inspired street treats which greatly improved his odds of success.

MUST TRY ITEM

Crispy Shrimp — This sandwich stars crispy, crunchy Panko crusted shrimp served with ponzu slaw and topped with jalapeno sriracha mayo and cilantro.

13.  The Corner Farmacy

(Primary Neighborhoods: Loop, Hyde Park)

Farm-fresh food is just what the doctor ordered & that medicine’s easy to swallow when it’s been put together by Corner Farmacy. The menu changes depending on the season and harvest, but breakfast and lunch sandwiches are available to whet whistles on the way to work or on a lunch or study break at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park.

This food truck proudly supports growers throughout Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, and of course right here in Illinois. Try a farm fresh, cage free egg sandwich or some chilled sweet red pepper soup when available.

MUST TRY ITEM

Veggie Burger — Poet Carl Sandburg may have dubbed Chicago the “Hog Butcher for the World” but it’s not all about the meat here. The evidence is this delicious veggie burger made with red quinoa, crimini mushrooms, zucchini, parmesan, spinach and pesto.

14. Toasty Cheese Mobile Eatery

(Primary Neighborhoods: Various events and locations, city and suburbs)

Ask any kid who knows how to make a grilled cheese and they will probably tell you that theirs is a gourmet sandwich. The grilled cheese done up by the Toasty Cheese Mobile Eatery isn’t for the kids menu, however, it’s the real gourmet deal. Cheese may be the star, but there are other players, including an assortment of French fry offerings. A very reasonably priced lunch special makes it hard to pass by this mobile cheese show.

MUST TRY ITEM

Great Dane — Two great cheeses, American and cheddar, are grilled to melty perfection along with applewood smoked bacon, served on panini.

15. A Sweets Girl

(Primary Neighborhoods: Loop)

The cupcake craze is still going strong and the popularity of A Sweets Girls proves it. Pastry chef Anna Wu creates her wonderful, hand-decorated creations from scratch to satisfy your sweet tooth in Chi-Town.

Wu launched her cupcake truck in 2015 to make her mini cakes of German Choco, Matcha Tea, and Carmel Cafe available to the hungry masses. She bakes with no preservatives, no pre-made flour mixes and uses no artificial icings. Does that make her delicious cupcakes healthy? Let’s not get carried away, they’re still as decadent as they are delectable.

MUST TRY ITEM

S’Mores — No campfire is required to enjoy this cupcake made with a Graham cracker crust, chocolate cake, and torched homemade marshmallows.

16. 5411 Empanadas

(Primary Neighborhoods: West Town)

Another early entry in the Chicago food truck scene, 5411 Empanadas offers quite a large variety of reasonably priced empanadas. Empanadas are perhaps the perfect street food. There’s little mess created when eating one of these Argentinian pastries. They’re handheld and easy to grip and eat on the go, even on a bike, although we don’t recommend eating and riding.

Warm, flaky, and stuffed with meat, cheese, or veggie offerings, these terrific turnovers can be dipped in a choice of sauces (red hot or chimichurri). Hot Ham and Cheese, Chicken Curry or Bacon Cheddar and Egg are a few of the great choices of fillings offered.

MUST TRY ITEM

Mac & Cheese — If you really need to carbo load, this empanada may be just the thing. It’s stuffed with elbow macaroni and a melted mix of white cheddar, smoked gouda, and asiago cheeses.

17. Baby Cakes

(Primary Neighborhoods: Various events and locations, city and suburbs)

Pancakes may not be the first thing that flips in our minds when we think about food truck fare, but if cupcakes sell like hotcakes, why not sell some hot cakes too. That’s the thinking behind this gourmet pancake truck.

Chef Leah Wilcox has a mission: reinvent the humble pancake. With a choice of sweet and savory, healthy and decadent, Baby Cakes has something to satisfy every pancake craving. Flavors like Bubble Gum or Chicago Style Hot Dog, may put you off, especially too early in the AM. If that’s the case, Coffee N Donuts and Maple Bacon Magic may be more your speed. While these baby cakes are smaller than a traditional breakfast pancake, they come stacked three high.

MUST TRY ITEM

Banana’s Foster — Bananas and pancakes make a great team. Try a mini stack of these banana-rum pancakes made with caramelized cinnamon bananas.