Curbside Kitchens Serve Up Convenient Cuisine
Food Trucks Deliver Taste Around the District
Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012
Updated: Friday, March 2, 2012 02:03
The District is home to some of the country's best food, but it's not always found in a restaurant. In recent years, food trucks have become more plentiful in D.C., bringing delicious treats to all corners of the city. This small business industry shows real promise and reflects the diverse culture of the area. Their mobility is well adapted to the schedules and palates of D.C.'s busy inhabitants. In recent months, more trucks have made the trip over to campus to feed hungry Hoyas.
Patrick Rathbone, a member of the D.C. Food Truck Association, owns the Big Cheese truck, which offers delicious variations of the classic grilled cheese.
His truck's inspiration is simple: "Cheese, really. Good cheese. Craft cheeses — with a ‘c,' not a ‘k,'" he said. They incorporate artisan cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery and local farmers.
One spicy option at the Big Cheese truck, "Thrilled Cheese," includes chipotle cheddar cheese, jalapenos and guacamole on sourdough. Thrilled Cheese is just one example of their many innovative varieties.
"We like to spotlight selected cheeses by limiting the other ingredients in the sandwich … so the flavor can really stand out," Rathbone said.
To accommodate the burgeoning food truck industry, city council has proposed updates to the 30-year-old regulations on food trucks. The old laws include a requirement for food trucks to move if there isn't a queue, which can hurt business.
Despite this somewhat problematic political scene, food truck owners continue to be optimistic. Rathbone said, "[The changes] aren't perfect, but they're far better than what's there now."
The Big Cheese makes its way to Georgetown when it can, often staying near campus during the late lunch hours.
Another distinctive food truck, D.C. Empanadas, offers innovative fusions of the traditional blend of meat and spices.
"My whole idea was that you can get a world of culinary flavors inside the empanada. We incorporate Thai- and Indian-inspired flavors; one empanada is almost like a samosa, another has Asian sesame chicken with vegetables," Anna Bran-Leis, owner and operator of D.C. Empanadas, said.
D.C. Empanadas also has a weekly special. One of Bran-Leis' favorites includes a Cuban-style empanada with slow-cooked pork, spicy guava sauce and caramelized onions, which was inspired by another food truck, El Floridano.
D.C. Empanadas doesn't often come to Georgetown's campus, but Bran-Leis plans to bring her truck to the front gates this coming Tuesday for lunch. She explained that food trucks would be more likely to come to campus if they noticed there's a good market here.
"[Food trucks haven't] really been a part of Georgetown culture, unlike at GW, where students line up in large groups for lunch," Bran-Leis said.
She believes that if there were more visible signs of student demand, trucks would be more likely to make the trek, and the Georgetown community would come to enjoy the unique offerings of food trucks, like D.C. Empanadas, on a more regular basis.
But, not all food trucks have stayed away from campus — The Fojol Bros. food truck, a self-described "traveling culinary carnival," offers quirky interpretations of Indian, Thai and Ethiopian cuisines. To complement their spicy dishes, they also offer "lassipops," which are frozen fruity yogurt pops.
The owners enthusiastically support environmentally friendly cooking and make sure their meals are delicious and healthy.
The Big Cheese isn't the only truck offering a delectable twist on American cheese. Brian Arnoff, chef and owner of CapMac, a food truck that offers a delectable twist to a timeless feel-good food, mac and cheese, has taken to the streets with this American classic.
"[Mac and cheese] is something everybody loves and something everyone can relate to … it's a great base to play with," Arnoff said.
One of his favorites is the popular "Sloppy Mac," classic mac and cheese with beef bolognaise sauce. Another favorite is the Chicken Parmesan variety, which includes fresh herbs, shallots, Parmesan cheese and Chef Vicky's bechamel served over rigatoni.
CapMac tries to incorporate unique ingredients, sometimes switching up the cheese featured. "It's a fluid menu that changes frequently," Arnoff said.
CapMac plans to make its way to the Lau steps to serve up its hearty, flavorful dishes this coming Monday.
Coming this spring is a food truck for beloved local restaurant Crepe Amour on M Street. Just like in the store, Crepe Love will serve made-to-order crepes in savory and sweet varieties. They also plan on serving freshly brewed coffee, a perfect accompaniment to the melt-in-your-mouth, Nutella-filled crepes.
One thing all District food trucks have in common is their reliance on social media to tell fans where they plan to stop every day. To track your favorite trucks, just follow them on Twitter or check out foodtruckfiesta.com, a website that tracks the Twitter feeds of various trucks and pinpoints them on a live map. The website is also a great resource for finding out who will be participating in Farragut Friday, a weekly gathering of many different food trucks in Farragut Square Park every week.
Trucks also congregate in L'Enfant Plaza and Franklin Square on other days, making these prime locations to visit if you are interested in sampling more than just a few trucks at a time.
Trucks also gather at the Navy Yard and Union Station on a regular basis, but much of the time, a truck's location simply depends on traffic and parking spots, making Twitter a great tool for trucks looking to keep the hungry masses up-to-date.
In the end, food trucks are a great way to indulge in many different cuisines at your doorstep. They provide a unique experience that allows for more interaction between vendors and their customers, and D.C.'s abundance of food trucks is heaven on earth for any foodie. While Hoyas might have to venture away from campus to enjoy these culinary delights, more trucks have made their way to the Hilltop, providing students with a respite from endless Leo's meals.