The Best Way to Find Beavers Donuts

Posted on December 13th, 2016

In the Summer of 2011, I set out to create a food truck website that provided a comprehensive and accurate picture of where food trucks are and where they're going to be. Until recently, I relied mostly on data from twitter and published calendars to drive my daily schedule. While twitter scraping works accurately enough for trucks that operate on a pretty normal lunch schedule, it works horribly for food trucks that move around the city during the day (like donut and dessert trucks).

This fall, I started testing out a live tracking solution that I developed with Beavers Donuts. This solution includes a device that's plugged into the food truck that sends live GPS data to my website. When my website says "Trasmitting from beacon" next to a food truck, you can conclude with a high-level of confidence that the food truck is where it says it is (data is broadcast roughly every couple minutes when parked).

This tracking solution integrates with my social media accounts (all the accounts that start out with chiftf_* such as @chiftf_125clark). Whenever a food truck with a tracker comes within the boundaries of one of these accounts, a tweet gets sent out saying that the truck has arrived.

I do encounter the occasional glitch from these devices (when they are obstructed). I built some code to algorithmically correct these glitches within a 100ft of accuracy, but it's not perfect. That's one of the reasons why requiring these devices to enforce the 200ft rule is dumb - they're only super precise when they can be triangulated without obstruction.

I plan more features around these devices in the future and hope to get more food trucks to use them, so that I can present to you the most accurate view of food trucks in Chicago (and New York, which is in beta).

Chrome Extension Update (version 1.0)

Posted on October 27th, 2016

I updated my food truck notifier chrome extension to support New York City. If you are in NYC, it will notify you of nearby food trucks. If you are in Chicago, it will continue to notify you of nearby Chicago food trucks.

If you have previously installed it, you may need to re-enable it, since I had to add some additional browser access to get it to work in NYC.

Food Truck Finder on Amazon Echo is Here

Posted on October 11th, 2016

My Amazon Echo skill was recently approved by Amazon. You can enable this skill by saying this on your Amazon Echo:

"Alexa, enable Chicago Food Truck Finder skill"

Some things you can try:

"Alexa, Ask Food Truck Finder what food trucks are near Willis Tower today?"

"Alexa, Ask Food Truck Finder to tell me about Doughnut Vault."

"Alexa, Ask Food Truck Finder what food trucks sell tacos"

"Alexa Ask Food Truck Finder what food trucks sell Korean food."

"Alexa where will Cheesies be for lunch?"

The proximity skills such as (where is XYZ for lunch?) work better closer to lunch time when I have a better idea of the daily schedule. If you ask about Doughnut Vault it will give you the daily specials (if it is known at the time).

Also, I appreciate feedback and (especially) good reviews via the alexa app or the Alexa Website.

Illinois Food Truck Association Statement on Recent News Coverage

Posted on August 26th, 2016

Here is a statement from the Illinois Food Truck Association, that I am cross posting on this blog:

Friends and family - A news story that aired recently on ABC 7 news and in the Chicago Sun Times unfortunately painted a picture of the Foodtruck community in an inaccurate and less than favorable light. Our side of the story was not portrayed and we would like to have our voice heard. There are major issues that are impacting the local food truck community and causing food tucks to break some of the rules in the current food truck ordinance. This is because those rules are inherently unjust, are in place only to protect larger businesses from our competition, and are set up to allow our industry to fail. These rules do not exist in most other major cities that have 10 times the amount of food trucks that are peacefully coinciding with a thriving restaurant scene. Specifically these rules are:

-no parking within 200ft of any competing brick and mortar location (includes gas stations, convenience stores, and coffee shops)

-no parking for more than 2 hours in any one location (makes it virtually impossible to prepare fresh food and have enough time to serve enough customers and be profitable)

Due to these restrictions there are few legal parking spots in high foot traffic areas in downtown for our entire industry to operate in. The lack of parking options has trucks resorting to breaking rules, parking within 200ft of restaurants and parking for longer than 2 hours, in an effort to survive.

Our community has always stood behind the mantra that if you can follow the laws, respect Chicago as our home, and treat our customers like family while providing great service and product then we have a successful and rewarding industry worth growing.

Every truck in our association since the beginning, all of our hardworking Foodtruck owners, have always followed the laws in Chicago to the best of our abilities and do not condone the breaking of any Laws. The truth is that some of the laws currently are impossible to comply with or our trucks would all be out of business. These laws have nothing to do with protecting the consumer or the well being of our city and are strictly in place to deny YOU the consumer choice in what you want to eat.

What is adding pressure to these issue is that we have not seen an increase in capacity for parking and yet new food trucks are being licensed every year. The food-truck business is incredibly challenging, a hard earned path to middle income at best, and all we want to do is provide great food and an honest living for our families.

So we ask you all to please continue to support the food-truck community. We are small. We are dedicated. We are hardworking. We are dreamers. We are Moms. We are Dads. We are Sons & Daughters. But most importantly, we are you. Just trying to chase a dream in a City we love that clearly is trying but hasn't figured it out yet. Please go to Twitter/Facebook/Instagram and let everyone know that you stand behind our community. #supportchicagofoodtrucks

We need less restrictions and more legal parking!

Thank you for coming with us on our journey - We are far from done!

Family Safety Fair at Amundsen High School

Posted on July 20th, 2016

The following food trucks will be at the Family Safety Fair this weekend at Amundsen HS: Beavers Donuts, Happy Lobster, Da Pizza Dude, Bop Bar, La Patrona.
See the attached flyer.

Sad News about 600 West Chicago

Posted on May 25th, 2016

Food trucks are getting word that the lot across from 600 West Chicago Avenue (Groupon's Headquarters) will be closing May 31st. This has been where food trucks have parked since Alderman "Food Trucks are a Privilege" Burnett removed the food truck parking zone in 2014.

Some food trucks, such as the Corner Farmacy will try to park on Chicago Avenue near Chase Bank next week. Hopefully this will be successful and food trucks will still be part of the 600 W community.

I will keep you all posted on developments.

New Website Feature

Posted on May 23rd, 2016

You can new zoom directly to Downtown or University of Chicago (which are the most popular weekday locations for food trucks) by clicking on the buttons in the header of the map. To view all spots, just click "Show all Markers".

Lincolnshire Food Truck Fridays Return on May 20th

Posted on May 11th, 2016

The Village of Lincolnshire will be hosting their Food Truck Friday event again this summer.  The event will take place at 300 Knightsbridge Parkway in Lincolnshire every other Friday from May 20th to September 23rd from 11am to 2pm. There are 10 participating food trucks, including city favorites such as Happy Lobster and Yum Dum, and host of suburban food trucks.  

See attached flyer for details.

Edgewater Beach Food Truck Fridays

Posted on May 9th, 2016

Every Friday during the summer, the Edgewater Beach Development Corporation will be hosting a rotating selection of food trucks (with Da Pizza Dude and La Patrona being semi-permanent fixtures). I will be posting the lineup for the week on my website when I know it.

New Website Features

Posted on April 16th, 2016

I've added some new features that hopefully will be useful:

1) For some trucks, I now show their daily specials (both on the truck information page and on my front page). This will be coming shortly to my iPhone app (and to my newly rewritten Android app).

2) For some trucks, I now show their menu (working on getting them all put in, but am not there yet). This feature is also available on version 1.9 of my iPhone app.

Andrew Violette

The Chicago Food Truck Finder is a web site and set of mobile applications that locates food trucks on the street of Chicago. This blog accompanies the website with content about up-coming food truck events and anything else related to the mobile food scene in Chicago The Chicago Food Truck Finder is written and maintained by Andrew Violette.