The summer of 2009 was “the summer of the food truck,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Two years ago, many cities in the US, including LA, San Francisco, Austin and New York saw an explosion in new lunch trucks rolling along their city blocks.

But these were no ordinary roach coaches. Call it “Lunch Truck 2.0″—these next-gen hawkers of mobile meals were serving up sustainable seafood, grass-fed beef and authentic international cuisine. Banh mi and bulgogi. Escargots and pavlova. Everything was fair game.

Now, according to the National Restaurant Association, 30% of chefs say mobile food trucks and their slightly-less-mobile counterparts, pop-up restaurants, will be the hottest operational trends for 2011.

So southern Ontario’s a little behind the game when it comes to street food.

Oh, sure, we tried—Toronto rolled out an ill-fated program called “A La Cart” (groan) three years ago to encourage more diversity in mobile food vending. That died a whimpering, limping death this April amidst a chorus of vendor complaints about red tape, mismanagement and poor decision-making on the part of City Hall.

The Golden Horseshoe has fared (another groan) a little better, with El Gastronomo Vagabundo setting up regular shop in St. Catharines and Jordan, and two new trucks—Cupcake Diner and Gorilla Cheese—slated to get rolling in Hamilton this summer.

In a nod to “better late than never,” Toronto is finally on the ball with the city’s first ever food truck festival (called, logically, Food Truck Eats) happening in the rear parking lot of the Distillery District on July 2 from 11 am to 3 pm. And the city may have its own fleet of food trucks rolling soon, with an initial offering from Caplansky’s Deli anticipated for early this summer.

OK—”fleet” may be optimistic. But it’s a start.

Interested in taking the food truck plunge? It’s potentially an energy-saving choice, given that you won’t be running lights, an HVAC system or extensive plumbing. (Yes, you’ll be powering your equipment with a generator, so buy the most efficient one you can.) The energy efficiency gets stepped up if you look at alternate sources of fuel: used frying oil to power your truck’s engine, for example (that’s what Frysmith in LA does), or solar panels on your roof to run your toaster and blender (like Sunny Vibrations in San Francisco).

Want to learn more? Take a look at “How to open a successful mobile food truck” for some practical tips on opening your own meat-mobile or vegetarian vehicle.

Image credit: ricardodiaz11