All words: Jeb Gavin — All Photos: Joy Asico & Blinkofanaye
The parking lot at RFK across from the Armory was the place to be Saturday for what is quickly becoming the finest al fresco dining in the city. Around forty of the city’s food trucks all congregated on a slab of cracked concrete in North East outside the stadium, (mostly) free of the concerns of the city council and all manner of restaurants, which treat the trucks like nuisances rather than fellows.
Kids from DC’s School of Rock were set up on a stage, cranking out classic rock staples at one end of the lot, while at the far end, DC United had erected a tent with large flat screens so the crowd could sit, drink beer, and watch the Caps, then the United, and finally the Derby all within staggering distance of the vendors. If this is the DC Food Truck Association’s idea of a block party, here’s hoping they’re planning a
party every weekend.
- Dorothy Moon’s Gourmet Burgers
(photo courtesy of DCTruckReview)
I really need to stop getting my hopes up when I hear about a new burger place. Dorothy Moon’s burgers are decent, though under-seasoned. Not a bad crust on the burger itself, but the cheddar I had on mine is a quasi-processed affair with OK cheddar flavor, but turns into an oil slick when heated, unlike completely processed American cheese (exactly why American cheese is usually used on cheeseburgers.) The cheeseburger reminded me of Five Guys, not terrible, but not one I’d go out of my way to eat again.
- Fojol Bros. of Merlindia
If you don’t like Indian food, well, you’re not going to like the Fojol Brother’s first truck, Merlindia, the only one in attendance on Saturday. If you do like Indian food, you’d have a hard time finding better middle of the road (NPI) Indian fare this cheap. I prefer their butter chicken to the chicken curry they serve, but the real standouts are the vegetarian dishes. As an avowed carnivore, it pains me to admit this, but their stewed pumpkin with fennel seeds is so good, I feel bad finishing it because it means I have no more left. The spinach and cheese, stewed spinach full of turmeric with chunks of paneer (a fresh, Indian cheese sturdy enough to sauté) is rich and flavorful and makes you regret all the times you only ate spinach because you were pretending to be Popeye.
- Tapas Truck
Mojo’s never done me wrong, but that could just be my absurd love of chivito sandwiches. Thus I was pretty bummed when the Tapas truck did not deliver (man, even I’m getting sick of the truck puns.) Their shrimp tapas featured tiny little brine shrimp which tasted old, in a dull tomato sauce soaked into a round of French bread. The fries, speckled with garlic, were room temperature and limp. Most egregious, their chorizo wasn’t even a chorizo. It was either a mediocre bratwurst, or perhaps some sort of breakfast sausage left to wallow in grease, slapped on top of some old Spanish rice. A terrible turn, considering the truck smells like onions cooking in olive oil, as Spanish a smell as I can imagine.
Jose Andres-associations aside, they make unbelievable sandwiches. They come on these narrow, crunchy little rolls that are toasted and slathered with various aioli and sauces. Had the fried chicken sandwich at Sweetlife, but Saturday I had the pork “burger”. The sauce gets everywhere, but there’s no way to complain about it because the damn thing is so tasty.
At this point I had to take a break from eating, so I decided on a little palate cleanser in the form of ice cream. Sinplicity makes some of the best, creamiest, smoothest ice cream I’ve ever had, from a truck or otherwise. The lemon ginger with rum is bright and clean, while the white chocolate raspberry truffle is, for lack of a better term, decadent. The line was so long, chef Leland Atkinson took to walking the line handing out samples of his 70% bittersweet dark chocolate and salted caramel.
- Popped Republic
After my ice cream, I needed a salty snack, and a little walk around the parking lot. I opted for one of the two new popcorn trucks selling flavored popcorn. Probably not the best option for lunch, but Popped’s America’s Favorite tasted just like movie theater popcorn, and really hit the spot.
No one need further laud the boys in the PORC truck. I have now been conditioned to expect amazing barbecue whenever I see that truck, and find myself weeping a little bit the few times I’ve seen it parked, after hours, in an odd, unmarked lot. Their pork barbecue gets most of the attention, but equally deserving of praise are their sloppy Joes and pastrami. The sloppy Joes are more pulled beef than ground and stewed, served in a sauce that would be cloyingly sweet if it weren’t for the smoky, piquant hot sauce on top.
The pastrami, normally served in a Reuben, is ridiculous. As a rule, I am suspicious of pastrami. It is too often sliced thin, served cold, with a weird, chemical flavor that comes from old, processed seasonings. In fact, the only pastrami I’ve ever enjoyed came from Schwartz’s in Montreal. The PORC pastrami is served warm, thick cut, heavily peppered but never obscuring the taste of the meat itself. You can tell how well it is cooked by
pressing it against the roof of your mouth. The meat is cut across the grain and separates into dense little bundles. I want to go back to there forever.
Next up was the TaKorean truck. That’s Korean tacos. Kimchi slaw, sesame seeds and lime crema, fresh cilantro on corn tortillas, stuffed with beef bulgogi; it’s almost aggravating these didn’t exist sooner. Actually, they probably did, it just took time for them to migrate over from LA. Anyhow, I spent 40 minutes in line waiting for these bad boys, and they never disappoint.
- Pleasant Pops
Another truck that was also at Sweetlife, and another truck I could follow around Grateful Dead-style if given the chance. Their Carolina sweet tea pop tastes like eating the most refreshing glass of sweet tea you could imagine.
- BBQ Bus
Hit up Che’s truck last, and was so stuffed I had to take it with me. When I got home, I found a fresh baked, soft roll on top of authentic pork barbecue. I don’t know that was expecting something terrible, but I’ve so often come to expect over-sauced, overly sweet barbecue. Instead, this was large chunks of pulled pork, not shredded, drizzled but not dressed with a simple tomato based barbecue sauce. You could actually taste the smoke and pork! Do you have any idea how rare this is?!? On top of which, it came with these peppery, tomato sauce-rich baked beans, and a fresh, red cabbage slaw. I really don’t want the various barbecue trucks to be in contention with one another, but if you’re looking for a more traditional smoked pork barbecue flavor, BBQ Bus is it.
Editor’s note: shortly after this was filed, JEB exploded.
- Photos by Blinkofanaye
- Photos by Joy Asico: