Your Connection To Jazz, Blues and NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Street food: Coming soon to a Seattle neighborhood near you

Dozens of food carts set up along city streets in Portland help create a colorful cultural experience.

Portland – among other cities – has a thriving street food scene, with dozens of food carts and trucks serving up a wide range of cuisines. Seattle? Not so much …

Now, the Seattle City Council is expected to consider changes to the city’s restrictive food vending laws that would open up the public streets to food-on-the-go. 

The Seattle Times reports that city planning officials are crafting the new rules. They say street food can help bring economic vitality to a neighborhood.

Now, nearly all street food vendors have to set up on private property. They're also mostly restricted to selling coffee, popcorn and hotdogs, because of rules set up in the 1980s.

The new proposal would allow everything from food carts to trucks that are essentially rolling restaurants to set up cubside. in certain areas during certain times.

Some changes likely to be proposed:

  • Curbside vending would be allowed in certain areas during certain times. 
  • Strict food safety inspections
  • Push carts would have to pre-cook raw proteins, for example, chicken skewers

Some brick and mortar restaurant owners are uncomfortable with the prospect of low-overhead competitors setting up on the street outside their businesses. Rules are being considered that may limit how close a street food vendor could operate to an existing restaurant.
The initiative first surfaced last summer when the city held a public forum. Since then, officials have been developing proposed legislation that's expected to be introduced this month.

The hope is that more and better street food will help create vibrant urban scenes that make city living more attractive, and encourage the kind of density that planners are striving for.