all words: Alex Nicholson
all photos: Dakota Fine
You’ve probably already seen them, heard them or at least heard of them. They are four mustached brothers from a magical land called Merlindia. A magical land which listens to Cut Copy, eats Indian food exclusively and likes to party. Sounds a little like Burning Man if you ask me. And in some ways the similarities are there. A whacked out art car pumping music, dudes in crazy costumes, hammered people all around.
In reality, the Fojol Brothers of Merlinida (www.fojol.com) are four guys from DC who had an idea to serve good food in D.C. Justin Vitarello was good enough to meet with me one rainy Friday evening in Dupont Circle and Dakota was able to catch up with the gang at a later date to shoot them in action. We wanted to capture the vibe when they are on the street, but also wanted to look beyond the costumes to the food.
The mission of the Fojol Brothers is clear. They want to bring people together over good food. And they do a good job of it – their van attracts people to it, the music keeps them around and encourages dancing into the wee hours and the food is good enough to make people want to come back.
The van itself was purchased off eBay from someone in New Jersey. It was totally refurbished on the outside and a modified DC flag is the first thing you see on the front of the truck. Like many things with the Fojol Brothers, it’s a unique take on something we’re already used to. The inside of the truck is impressively kitted out. Designed and put together by Justin, he used his love of mathematics and space to create a functional traveling kitchen.
The cooking they do is at a minimum though, they may replenish their rice supply throughout the night, but all the food is cooked offsite. When asked further I was told that a cook who wished to remain anonymous provides all their dishes. He’s known for his Indian food, owns several locations, and when interviewed by the Fojol Brothers seemed the best and most ethical choice. He uses no frozen foods and does not cook with ghee. When I pushed on his identity I was told to do my due diligence, which I’m still a little miffed about.
The food is pretty straight forward, but tasty. It’s all Indian-based, simple cooking. There are meat options and veggie options and multiple portion sizes. A dingo bite for $2, the option to pick two items for $6 or three options for $9. The day I visited they were serving chicken masala, chicken curry, spinach and cheese (sag paneer) and a pumpkin dish. I was lucky enough to sample all four, and was quite full from it. A serving of two items with some rice was more than enough food for a friend who joined me. And it’s good, surprisingly actually. I preferred the chicken masala and would really recommend it to anyone. The spinach and cheese was very good, a stronger option than the pumpkin.
So the food is good, the concept is good, but what else? Well, these guys are doing good too. The back of the truck has a bin for recyclables and a bin for compostable material. Plates, sporks and bags are all compostable. But maybe the most altruistic thing they are doing is using proceeds from food sales to benefit the community. The first Fojol Brothers beneficiary will be Courtney Stewart and his non-profit Mentoring Works 2 (http://www.mentoringworks2.org/home/) on Georgia Ave. With a commitment to young people in the District, expect to see other groups benefit from your night out eating Indian food on a sidewalk.
The Fojol Brothers can be found on the weekends by following them on Twitter @fojolbros (https://twitter.com/fojolbros