Food Truck Tour, 25 May 2012

Determined to finally jump on the bandwagon of the DC-area food truck craze, on Friday I set out for the city armed with my handy Food Truck Fiesta tracker.

I arrived at the McPherson Square Metro Station and walked over to Franklin Park, conveniently just outside the station.  This is an outpost where a number of food trucks set up shop (see area highlighted in red on map below).

Food trucks set up in the area highlighted in red.

I arrived to the park at around 10:30 and watched the trucks park and set up.  Based on the trucks checked in on Food Truck Fiesta, I was expecting around six to eight total at this location, but by the time 11:00 rolled around there were seventeen around the park.  The people that work in the vicinity to Franklin Park have endless food options…I’m quite jealous (and I might start looking for gigs around this area just for this very fact!)

Food trucks on the east side of Franklin Park

What to choose, what to choose… These were the trucks on the east side of the park…

Food trucks on the north side of Franklin Park

…and these were the trucks on the north side of the park.

For my first stop, I decided to go with Ball or Nothing.  This truck specializes in meatballs of various types, and from what I can tell from their twitter feed (@theballtruck), they get pretty creative (I wouldn’t mind trying out the Tsukune – chicken meatballs in coconut rice that they were serving up on Wednesday).  I’d just like to point out to the uninitiated that these food trucks are not the typical “roach coaches” that you might be familiar with.  This scene has gone gourmet.

Ball or Nothing

Trendy branding and tasty menu on the Ball or Nothing truck.

I tried Ball or Nothing’s Meatball Platter ($9), which consisted of their meatballs on a bed of Mac & Cheese and Yukon Gold Potato, and topped with ghost chili tomato sauce, bitter greens, and local asparagus.  There was a fruit salad on the side, with pineapple, pomegranate seeds, grapes, and strawberries.  The tastes all worked together really well…I was definitely happy with my first food truck meal choice, and I’d hit them again.

Ball or Nothing Meatball Platter

The Meatball Platter in all its glory.

The Meatball Platter was definitely filling.  Normally I wouldn’t need anything else, but since I was doing a food tour, and there are so many food trucks available, I decided to hit one more.  Wanting to see more options (as if I needed to – seventeen in one place not enough?), I walked over to Metro Center, which according to my handy food truck app was another hang out for the trucks (mostly along 12th St NW at the G St entrance to Metro Center Station).  There is a courtyard next to the Metro Center escalators with plenty of seating for those that want to enjoy some time outside while eating their food truck lunches.

Metro Center Food Trucks

Plenty of choices at Metro Center too, and they certainly know how to brand. There’s even Spanish tapas available…that ain’t no “roach coach.”

I decided to go with Mojo Truck (@mojotruck), which specializes in chivito sandwiches (a popular dish in Uruguay).  When ordering from Mojo Truck, you pick a meat (steak, chicken, pork, or vegetarian), and choose the style of sandwich toppings (Classic [$7] – lettuce, tomato, mozzerella, fried egg; Canadian [$8] – same as Classic, but with ham and sauteed onions added; Special [$9] – Same as Canadian, but also includes bacon and avocado).

I went with the Chicken Special Chivito this time around.  Really tasty.  The chicken in mojo sauce, the mozzerella cheese, the egg, and the avocado, and the nice and buttery grilled bread really did it for me.  The sandwich isn’t small either…you’ll definitely be full from this.

It took a little longer to get my food at Mojo Truck, but that’s because 1) it was noon by this point, 2) they seemed like a popular food truck and had a pretty large line, and 3) they grill your sandwich to order.

Mojo Truck and Chivito Sandwich

The Mojo Truck with helpful ordering directions, and the Chivito sandwich before I dug into it.

I have to say that I’m impressed with this food truck explosion, and based on the number of options available, clearly it’s got a decent market in the city.

The mobile kitchen industry faces some issues though.  Apparently, DC police harass the food trucks, and the city has been too slow to change the applicable regulations to take into account this burgeoning market.  Some of this might be attributed to pressure from brick-and-mortar establishments, however the smart and enterprising ones (Pi, sâuçá, among others) recognize that there are different eaters at different locations in the city, interested in different cuisine at any given particular meal.  Some of these food trucks also act as incubator businesses that develop into restaurants, as has been seen in other parts of the country (see here, and here).  Food carts are a cheap way for start-up chefs and gastronomists to test out their cuisine ideas and make cash to fund future hard-walled restaurants.  Overall, the food trucks are probably providing a boost to the economy rather than taking away from it, and DC bureaucrats should recognize this and get on board.

Next, I really want to try TaKorean (Korean tacos?  Yes please!), a shawarma truck (saw quite a few), and an Afghan one (I saw one at McPherson that had some good stuff on their menu…Mmm mantu).  DC is going to be seeing a lot more of me around lunchtime.