DC’s Food Truck Scene

Did you know that the first “mobile” diner was dragged around town in a horse-drawn wagon circa 1872? One would think that the smell of manure and barnyard would have been enough to shut that idea down for good…but here we are in 2014 and the food truck scene is more happening than ever before. Thankfully in modern times, we have ditched the horse for an engine and traded the smell of manure for the less offensive smell of gasoline. Also, a revelation of modern times – food trucks sell more than hot dogs! Today’s version of the classic meal on wheels includes food choices from tacos to Vietnamese and everything in between.

Luckily, Washington DC has all of those choices and more. After perusing the virtual streets, here are some of the food trucks that deserve to be researched further (read: I want to eat at these places, twice a day):

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Peruvian Brothers – Guiseppe and Mario Lanzone, two Peruvian brothers, own this truck (fitting, right?). Perhaps not as obvious, Guiseppe is a two-time Olympic athlete in the sport of rowing. He executes the business side of their entrepreneurial endeavors while Mario exercises his expertise in the kitchen. The truck specializes in traditionally inspired sandwiches and empanadas that feature chicharron (pork tenderloin), asado (beef), chicken, butifarra (pork loin) and vegetarian options. Everything is served with salsa criolla, a traditional accompaniment made of julienne onions, lime juice and Peruvian chiles. A recent Yelper with a seriously foodie spirit says she “is always sad when (she) is done with her sandwich because she wishes there was more”.

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Dangerously Delicious Pies – I would be lying if I told you that after one look at pictures of these scrumptious creations I didn’t have to consciously remind myself not to drool. That may just be a personal problem, but I’m thinking it’s more so a reflection of some dangerously delicious pies. This food truck is actually the mobile version of two standstill, traditional shops (one on H Street and one in Chinatown). The truck features savory pies, quiches and of course sweet treats. Although the menu changes frequently, some examples of savory pie flavors include Beer Brat Pie, Pamela’s Tofu Curry Pie and Hot Rod Potato Pie. Sweet versions of the truck’s famous pies include flavors such as Caramel Apple Bomb, Pancake Batter, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Pumpkin and more. The shops front man, Rodney Henry, got his mad baking skills from summers with grandma and has grown to have “enough culinary cred to make Martha Stewart blush”.

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Basil Thyme – Now, I love food – all kinds. But when you’re really in the mood for something delicious, it seems as though Italian food rarely disappoints. Basil Thyme describes their food truck as “premium fresh Italian food”, and judging by some Yelpers, they’ve earned the title. They are street famous for their lasagna. They serve up five different kinds, all created with house-made noodles and sauces. Interestingly enough, Brian Farell, an ex-IT guy and Malik Umar, a chef, work this truck together. Brian pursued his ideal food truck after spending time in IT and IT sales, ultimately combining his love of Italian food and meeting people for a new culinary career.

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DC Empanadas – This food truck is “flavor fulfilled” as they quip on their website. They serve gourmet empanadas made with fresh, local and high-quality ingredients. Similar to other food trucks, they rotate the menu regularly. Some particularly delicious items I saw go through their rotation included empanada flavors such as:

South Street: Philly style cheesesteak with wiz, onions and sweet peppers.

The Karate Kid: Oven-roasted pork tossed in an Asian inspired sweet chili glaze with a kick.

Fruity Bottom: Pears poached in sherry and honey with brie cheese.

Anna and Shawn Leis, who describe themselves as a “couple who loves international food from streets around the world”, are the masterminds behind this truck.

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Red Hook Lobster Pound – Although this truck has notoriously long lines, it’s also got (you guessed it) notoriously scrumptious seafood. One yelp reviewer seemed to succumb to the delicious serving of lobster in a frantic review stating, “Oh, Lord have mercy! Lobster, properly cooked and on it’s own is enough to induce a psychotic break from reality and send one to lobster heaven!  Bacon, do I have to say anything more about bacon that hasn’t already been said?  Now, combine those two items together with a homemade chipotle mayonnaise on a buttery toasted bun for the ULTIMATE lobster roll!” The truck is known for just the right touch of lemon mayo and toasted buttery buns.

As you can see from this brief glimpse into the DC food truck scene, there is lot’s to be explored (a.k.a. eaten). If you’re not sure where to start…just start with what is closest! You can track a lot of trucks on Twitter or Food Truck Fiesta, a custom up-to-date map. Fair warning – if you’re planning on looking at pictures, wear a bib.

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