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Food trucks soon will operate at O’Hare, Midway, but they’ll cater to cabbies

Food trucks are expected to serve up their goods at O’Hare and Midway airports later this year. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

Food trucks are expected to begin serving at Midway and O’Hare airports later this year, city officials said Thursday. But sorry, travelers, the trucks are primarily intended to feed hungry taxi drivers.

The city moved to allow food trucks to serve at airports after talking with taxi drivers who make frequent trips there, according to Lilia Chacon, spokeswoman for Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced an ordinance in late March to allow food trucks to operate at O’Hare and Midway. It passed in April.

Last week, the city started a pilot program at O’Hare to figure out what foods would be most successful with taxi drivers, Aviation Department spokeswoman Lauren Huffman said. It wasn’t immediately clear what food trucks were participating in the pilot, but the staging area for the food trucks is at the commercial vehicle holding area at 5600 Bessie Coleman Drive. That’s across from the strip of rental car lots and not accessible from the terminals.

Food trucks operating at the airports will be exempt from the city’s rule that requires them to relocate after two hours. There will be no time limits, Chacon said.

If a proposal by the Aviation Department introduced Wednesday is approved by the City Council, mobile food vendors will pay $200 a year to operate at the airports. The amendment is tied to federal guidelines that require airports to charge operators using their land for "revenue-generating activities," Huffman said.

Food trucks that prepare food onboard must have a license through the city that costs $1,000 for two years.