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What Is a Roach Coach?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
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”Roach coach” is a popular slang term for a mobile kitchen or food truck. These trucks are more politely known as catering trucks, or sometimes taco trucks if they specialize in Mexican food. Food trucks are a popular fixture in many urban areas around the world, moving around to various locations where people gather such as festivals, fairs, and construction sites. In some cases, a food truck attains local fame, and may become a permanent and well known fixture.

The trend of calling a food truck a “roach coach” is a reference to the sometimes less than sanitary conditions inside. Many food truck operators strive to maintain cleanliness, but it can be challenging in a cramped, mobile environment. As a result, a roach coach can become quite attractive to cockroaches and other pests which feed on dropped food and appreciate dark, greasy corners. In some regions of the world, food trucks are subject to health department inspection, and results of these inspections are usually available through a regional authority or the truck operator.

The exact configuration of a roach coach varies. Some actually have kitchen spaces for food preparation, for example, while others sell only packaged foods. As a general rule, a roach coach has refrigeration and freezer spaces to keep food preserved, and a small window which opens onto a counter and register. People select their desired foods from racks on the side of the truck or step up to the window to order and pay.

Ethnic food is frequently served from a roach coach, because a catering truck represents less of an investment than a restaurant, making it more affordable for immigrants starting a new business. The mobility is also an asset, as a truck can follow construction workers or other target markets around. Many office and construction workers greatly appreciate food trucks, since they serve food quickly and they do not require a trip far from the workplace.

Many mobile kitchens set up alongside well traveled roads to appeal to people driving by, or they establish themselves on busy street corners in urban areas. Some of them use fresh, wholesome ingredients in things like sandwiches, tacos, and other classic street foods. Others offer foods more along the deep fried line, while some have things like rotisserie roasters to prepare fresh gyros or other roasted foods. Typically, the food is cheap and the servings are often robust, making a roach coach a decent place to grab an affordable meal.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon1007258 — On Jun 23, 2022

Back in the day the truck would play "La Cucaracha" -- a Mexican folk song. Like an ice cream truck, so naturally if you heard "the cockroach song," you knew the truck was in the parking lot. Your definition is wrong.

By cloudel — On Jun 24, 2011

A large family of Mexican immigrants recently moved to our neighborhood. They started a "roach coach" business, and they are making a killing at it.

Their food is very affordable, and they are an ideal lunchtime choice for the factory workers. The family stations their truck in the parking lot of the largest factory we have, and long lines of workers form around noon. Since the factory workers only get 30 minutes for lunch, the quick service they receive at the "lunch truck," as they have named it, makes it the perfect option.

On weekends when the factory workers have gone home, the family positions their truck just outside the big public park in the daytime and near the movie theater at night.

By StarJo — On Jun 23, 2011

You always I get the best food at roach coaches, at least in my city. I always stop by the vendor down the road from my office to pick up some gyros during my lunch hour -- the guy there knows me by name!

I actually like how small and personal the idea of a roach coach is though, since you get more of a sense of community, especially since people tend to go there again and again.

Who knows, maybe roach coaches will be the new coffee shops? I certainly interact with the other "regulars" when I'm waiting for my food.

By Perdido — On Jun 22, 2011

The food from the taco truck down the street from where I work on the town square is just as good as that of a nice restaurant. Our city is pretty strict about health regulations, so that could have something to do with it, though.

I particularly love their fish tacos. The fish is cooked until it is flaky and the seasoning has seeped all the way into its every pore. I'm not entirely sure what seasonings they use, but it definitely has a bit of a kick. I did notice pieces of tomato and onion sticking out of the taco.

By JessicaLynn — On Jun 22, 2011

@Monika - I definitely wouldn't let the nickname throw you if the cart you've been patronizing looks clean. I would be more worried about a hotdog vending cart being dirty than an all natural food cart, you know?

I personally think vending carts are a great idea for starting a business. A friend of mine went to culinary school and is having trouble finding a job. He's a great cook so I might suggest something like this to him.

By Monika — On Jun 22, 2011

I get lunch from vending carts all the time and I've never heard them called a "roach coach". What a horrible nickname!

The ones near my office looks very clean and sanitary though, so I feel pretty comfortable eating at them. The food is also delicious! The cart I frequent most serves a lot of all natural and organic food.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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