La Crosse seeing more mobile food trucks

Trucks regulated more than brick-and-mortar restaurants

A new trend is developing in the La Crosse area.

You may have noticed a growing number of food trucks lately, whether it’s downtown or at area farmer’s markets. Since they can move around town, the trucks can set up shop in locations that see a lot of foot traffic, making them a convenient option during the lunch hour rush.

“It’s mobile, and that’s the fun part,” said Maria Norberg, who owns the Apothik Food Truck, which opened on the corner of Third and Main Streets Wednesday. “It’s a great location downtown, but we do intend to take it on the road.”

But since they aren’t traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants, some people may worry about the cleanliness of the trucks. County health officials say not only do the food trucks have to follow the same regulations and laws as regular restaurants, but there are other rules they also have to follow.

“The first thing they need to have is an acceptable trailer, or vehicle which meets the state laws for sanitation,” said Jim Steinhoff of the La Crosse County Health Department. “They also need a mobile base to operate from and that’s a place where they would store equipment, food possibly do equipment washing, so each mobile unit has to go back to its base.”

The trucks are also routinely inspected by the health department on the same scheduled as a regular, fixed-location restaurant.

Norberg says a close eye is kept on all of their equipment.

“Everything that you would expect in a regular resturant absolutely happens in the truck, it just happens to be on wheels,” said Norberg.

These types of restaurants are popular in bigger cities, and Norberg hopes trucks like hers inspires more people to bring them to La Crosse.

“You go to Minneapolis, you go to Madison, you go to Chicago and there’s a whole food truck fair that you can go to and there’s that kind of scene,” said Norberg. “Downtown is growing and things are getting better and better, and we’re just excited to be a part of it and keep it growing to be a better, greater city.”

According to the Health Department, there are 15 registered food trucks in La Crosse County. That number doesn’t include food trucks licensed outside of the county, which are allowed to operate across the state.