The food truck scene, like Washington, is vast. Like the city with all the different cultures and nations melding into one area, the cuisine and size matches the city’s profile. I enjoy the entreprenurial spirit of food trucks introducing a new concept and gaining popularity in the wireless universe. And when I visit a city, I want to be sure I capture this pulse. I really wanted to Capitalize on seeing the scene on this visit. With a warm summer Friday, it seemed to be the perfect combination for food truck exploration.
Farragut Square (Metro: Farragut North (Red), Farragut West (Blue, Orange))
As I mentioned in my Wandering Solo in the District of Columbia: Food Trucks, Bikes, and Art post, I headed to Farragut Square in hopes to find a few trucks I was interested in. Thinking I was going to see a few DC Trucks, I was surprised when I stepped off the escalator. A food truck perimeter formed on 17th Street NW and Connecticut Ave preparing for the lunch rush. Immediately, I am overwhelmed. I was thinking two, maybe three trucks would be here. I would try them and move on. Seeing one of the trucks I wanted to review, I began scanning the others. I hadn’t had a full breakfast, so maybe I could squeeze in a few others.
I begin to feel anxious, and my stomach is pleading that it cannot handle trying every truck. So as I circle the square like a vulture on its meal, I begin to ask myself: “How does one tackle this scene?” Everything looked really good and some trucks were in great condition. The decision-making process is harder when given a variety of choices. The typical food truck experience is one or two trucks parked near a brewery or business. The decision is usually between two items on one menu, not the exponential amount in this situation.
Peruvian Brothers – Que Bueno!
After circling enough to where my head began to feel dizzy, I stepped up to Peruvian Brothers (@PeruBrothers). At first I was going to grab just a few empanadas to get a feel for the truck. But when Giuseppe (one of the brothers) described the truck’s focus, I decided to go after a more authentic item. Nervous and trying to reach in the back of my brain for those rarely used Spanish skills, I freeze and point to Pan con Chicharron. In addition, I grab a Chicha Morada to complete the Peruvian combo.
While I waited for my sandwich to be prepared, they alert me on why it takes time. One the bread, which is baked fresh in Manassas, is toasted on-site. Giuseppe describes how they try to make everything match their home’s cuisine. And everything needs to be fresh, as a wholesale club’s bread doesn’t make you feel like you are in the Andes. When the sandwich is ready, I am handed a box with their seal. It’s like a quality seal indicating you are receiving a quality product.
I pop open the box and I get an aromatic whiff of the sweet red onions. I look inside and this a beautiful sandwich. I grab a nice big bite and taste the moist pork and sweet subtleness of the sweet potato. For next bite, I put down the sandwich and grab the chicha to get the full effect. At that point, I might be in Cusco, but I open my eyes and see I am looking at K Street. Hence the comment: Que Bueno! Very rarely do you get a taste of Peru, so set your sights for these hermanos.
Trapping the Lobster Truck
One of the trucks I had my sights on was Red Hook Lobster Pound. My obsession with Lobster trucks started when I happened to watch Shark Tank. I usually watch comedies, but enjoy a little business competition. One episode showed a lobster truck. It never crossed my mind to have a lobster truck. So I immediately searched the DC food truck scene for a truck and found Red Hook Lobster Pound’s Twitter handle (@LobstertruckDC). Found out later that this truck concept originated in New York.
Like sharks circling the schools of fish, I noticed I wasn’t the only one eyeing where the truck was finally going to park. My determination earned me a #4 spot in line, which quickly formed into the high teens within minutes. The menu is a very simple lobster roll, but you can option for Maine-style (Lemon-based mayo) or Connecticut-style (Poached with butter). I went with Maine style, which brought a nice creamy texture. This is my first lobster roll, so I was surprised to find it cold. I wasn’t complaining as it tasted fresh and the mayo gave it a nice zest. I also went with a drink that seemed popular for DC’s summer, Ginger-Mint Limeade. I wanted to try their Maine Root sodas (they have a fountain on the side of the truck), but it wasn’t working at this time. One thing that may deter others from this truck, or stop them from eating it everyday, is the cost of a lobster roll. But you are eating fresh Maine Lobster in DC (No complaints here!)
L’Enfant Plaza (Metro: L’Enfant Plaza (Yellow, Green, Blue, Orange), VRE: L’Enfant)
As I was looking to drop off my bike at the nearby BikeShare station, to my surprise I found more food trucks surrounding the Metro station entrance. I hear the murmurs of the generators, but over all those sounds I hear a familiar tune – is that Candy Rain? (I have to confess I had to Google the song to find out Soul For Rea was the group). Yes, a band was playing Candy Rain. Some of the food truck patronages sat and gnawed on their food while being entertained by this band. I enjoyed listened to a few notes, but kept on. I promised myself not to eat again, but a sandwich board said otherwise: Red Velvet Doughnut Sandwich.
MMMGoodies is MMMGREAT!
Goodies (@goodiesdc) is a custard truck that immediately transports you back to the days of George and Lorraine McFly. The truck plays 50’s music, uses a 1952 van, and the men are wearing era appropriate clothing (like the 1950’s ice cream guys). All of this is awesome, but it wasn’t what attracted me at first. It was the Red Velvet Doughnut Sandwich. I am glad this sign diverted my attention, because I was able to appreciate this truck. This truck also was the cleanest down to the gleaming white walls on the tires. Even before sampling or ordering, the truck looks spotless and you are assured quality is coming your way. And quality does confer with the appearance. As I oooh and ahhh over the rich, creamy vanilla custard with chocolate syrup, people are wondering if Metro Police needs to be summoned for a 5150. As my spoon breaks the plain into the highlight of the sandwich, I find the doughnut. Just as fresh as the custard, so is this doughnut. The Red Velvet doughnut is frosted and surrounded by the cold custard. A few Smithsonian employees scanning the trucks (the Castle and Air and Space are nearby) inform me Goodies makes the custard on-site, and they had sampled it earlier before the food truck hot spot went into action here. Before traveling to DC, add this to your Twitter feed and find where they are. Within their sphere of influence, you’ll forget your modern worries and escape into a temporary custard-influenced nostalgic euphoria. If they are L’Enfant and you are in the Mall area (Smithsonian Castle and Air & Space), make your way to them – worth the walk.
I think I was pretty lucky sifting the ground and finding three jewels. As I continued my wandering of DC, I saw more trucks along the Mall and other museums. This was probably the reason I was given warning on exploring the truck scene. With quantity of trucks, you lose a sense of which are the quality trucks. However, the DC truck scene has great diversity, so take a chance. Some examples of diverse options are trucks by Chick-Fil-A, DC Lottery, and many regional and national cuisines. I do recommend showing up early as lines grow quickly.
Overall, food trucks are trending and DC has a great truck population. So if you are just visiting, don’t be shy and explore. Your taste buds will be rewarded.