Food Truck O'Rama (Part I)
Many cities are known for a cuisine. Buffalo is known for chicken wings. Chicago’s got deep dish pizza. If you’re craving a cheese steak, Philly’s your kind of town. But what’s DC known for? Aside from Ben’s Chilly Bowl and a surge in cupcakes and burgers, our Nation’s Capitol hasn’t exactly found its niche.
So why not do a lot of things well? After all, DC is a city of multi-tasking workaholics.
Enter the food truck.
Over the past few years DC’s food truck explosion has given hungry lunch goers more dining options than ever before. Once limited to hot dogs and half-smokes, we now have access to amazing variety such as Korean Barbeque, Falafel and Lobster Po’ Boys. It’s clear that the delicacy-on-wheels is here to stay. And its a brave venture for chefs who choose to focus on serving up a fine cuisine despite the most casual of atmospheres – the great outdoors. Just like the US Postal Service, food trucks deliver - through sun, rain, snow and sleet and yes, even our infamous humidity (DC arose from a swamp, you know).
Therefore I decided that food trucks presented great fodder for another one of our famous food competitions, matching food truck vs. food truck. So a group of us marched down to Farragut Square prepared for battle. With appetites in tow, we arrived hungry and scouted our possibilities, which seemed endless based on what we had heard. We quickly learned that the diversity wasn’t so great. For example, upon arrival we counted up to seven Falafel trucks. Alas our excitement was slowly fading into disappointment.
But we pressed on.
Per past food competitions we tried ranking a handful of contenders. It wasn't so easy; a consensus couldn’t be reached. Instead we elected for food truck anarchy, rating the least disappointing:
DC Taco Truck
Awful Falafel (PTSD prevents us from remembering the real name.)
Here are the results, in our own words.
The tacos looked good. The slice of avocado on top was meaty, ripe and appealing. That’s where the pleasure stopped. I found the steak taco tasted virtually identical to the chicken taco. The meat just wasn’t seasoned in any notable way and the spicy chipotle sour cream seemed only to help keep the taco together, not add any flavor. The number on my order ticket was 86, and I’d 86 everything but the avocado.
I thought they were extremely average tacos, they weren’t bad, and tacos are good in general. But these weren’t anything special. The spicy chipotle sour cream tasted like sour cream, their “mild” taco sauce tasted like mild buffalo wing sauce, the pico de gallo was a bland salsa topping. Overall, on the 1-awesome scale; I would rate them Extremely Average.
I was finishing up my tacos and thinking they were pretty delicious when I started hearing the less-positive reactions from my coworkers. At first I happily reasoned away my outlier experience with, "Well, I'm not a foodie - so I guess pretty much anything is good to me!" Upon further scrutiny, however, I realized that I had barely tasted the shrimp in my tacos, and that most of my enjoyment had come from the toppings (with the avocado, I agree, being a nice touch). The fact that they were sold out of fish when we got there might just be enough to motivate me to give the place one more try, though.
If I actually had a choice for my last meal, it would be a complete battle between a giant hunk of prime rib, Cassoulet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassoulet), or tacos. Let’s just say my standards are extremely high. From the outside, I noticed the missing double tortilla which should have indicated the foreshadowing of an offense that was about to hit my taste buds. The double tortilla has a significant purpose; the inner tortilla should be sacrificially soaked in delicious juices/flavors leaving the remaining outer tortilla to provide the necessary support to make it from plate to your mouth. The avocado was a beautiful hunk of a specimen, and not even brown from being exposed to oxygen! Despite this delicacy the ingredients that lay below were in far worse condition of than the tortilla. What laid beneath was a mix of chicken, unripe tomatoes, chopped iceberg lettuce and some light seasoning. All of which seemed to barely suffice as calories that would continue to power me through my day. Normally when faced in a situation such as this I add hot sauce until it has flavor or I begin to sweat. Yet even the hot sauce which was kept in the typical yellow and red squirt bottles reserved for ketchup and mustard had poor flavor and only provide a moderate heat. The bottom line, my thirst for delicacy on wheels has yet to be quenched and DC Taco Truck (or more like a box van) will not be part of my repertoire or recommendations anytime in the future.
Going against the grain I decided to bypass the tacos and went for a Mediterranean favorite. But alas, what can I say about my falafel pita that hasn't already been said about Afghanistan? The whole experience was wretched from start to finish. Fully expecting the crisp, fritter-like fluffiness that is synonymous with falafel, in contrast these were cold and dense, topped with an insipid yogurt sauce and very few veggies. The pita was dry and flavorless and quickly began to disintegrate around its contents, making for a difficult eating experience. The whole thing barely qualified as food. Had it not been for a lunchtime appetite and a commitment to the food-truck experience, I would've tossed it immediately and went in search for something else. Maybe it's faulty recall or just a selective blocking of painful memories, but I unfortunately can't even recall the name of the purveyor I purchased from. I suppose this is a good thing (for them), since it prevents me from dissuading future customers from making the same mistake I did. 0 stars.
The opinion of the group is relatively apparent, 86 everything but the avocado, including Victor's Mediterranean decision. But to give food trucks a fair shake, since they are so beloved, we are going to go back and try this thing again. Stay tuned for Part II.