02/24/10 10:14am

Sure, Houston has about 1,000 licensed mobile food vendors. (Yes, most of them are taco trucks.) Why aren’t there more? Ruthie Johnson explains a few of the regulations — and other roadblocks:

Most of the standards are a welcome way to ensure food safety, but some are annoying — or downright ironic. Street vendors, for example, must be at least 100 feet from any seating area, yet must have notarized proof of a usable restroom within 500 feet. The tiniest of carts must have a massive vent hood. And vendors are never allowed to be on a sidewalk. Jason Jones of Haute Texan Tacos says that actually “the biggest problem is that there aren’t really any decent pedestrian areas for street vendors in Houston.” Jones, who recently put his truck up for sale, goes on to explain that a fire code which prevents propane-powered businesses from selling anywhere downtown or in the Medical Center takes away a street vendor’s two largest pedestrian areas.

Other obstacles? Powerful restaurateurs don’t want the competition from street vendors, consumers don’t appreciate them, and city officials make it difficult to get questions answered and inspections scheduled. Sean Carroll of Melange Creperie says that “Anyone looking to start a mobile food service business in Houston should expect to be on the sidelines for six months at the very least.

Photo of taco trailer, for sale: Haute Texan Tacos

06/08/09 2:08pm

Bloodhound steward and low-cost-wedding expert Sara E. Cotner discovers that the snoballs at the new MAM’s House of Ice in the Fiesta parking lot at 14th and Studewood reside in the upper echelons of the highly stratified frozen-water market:

The New Orleans-sytle snowball shop has been up and running since Friday, May 29, although it has been “a year in the making.” The co-owner that I chatted with is from England but has lived in The Heights for the past 2.5 years. He quit his job as an architect and decided to “jump on a whim” and “have a go at it” by opening a “cottagey, cutesy, cutesy” snoball shop on a piece of parking lot leased from Fiesta. One of the other owners is in the process of quitting her job as a receptionist, and the third owner works in banking as an accountant.

During their year of research, they uncovered a hierarchy of ice. Apparently, snow cones are on the bottom, shaved ice is the next highest level, and snoballs are at the very top, since they are like “eating snow.”

Photos: Sara E. Cotner (top) and MAM’s House of Ice