Thursday, August 19, 2010

Trendy Tricked Out Trucks

What can I say?  I like a little alliteration (hey, look at that, I did it again).  I also like a trend.  Not all trends, though.  I mean, I haven't jumped on the Bieber bandwagon, I don't watch any of the Real Housewives shows, and I still don't have an iPhone. But one trend I have latched onto with both of my hands (and my teeth) is the food truck.  D.C. has been innundated with them this summer, and I couldn't be happier. We've been introduced to the pizza truck, a curry truck, a "global cuisine" truck, and even a cupcake truck (talk about double dipping in the trend pool -- the only thing trendier than a food truck in D.C. is a cupcake -- heck, there's even a show about it).  And so, while I usually leave the food blogging to my friends over at I Flip For Food (which you should be reading for great recipes and restaurant reviews, by the way), I couldn't resist weighing in on this growing trend.

Farragut Square, near my office, is a prime location for the trucks to park during lunch. According to the food truck tracker (yeah, there's an app for that--or there isn't--I don't know, I said I don't have an iPhone), D.C. currently has 13 food trucks with five more on the way. Today may have been the climax of the food truck fun, with the debut of the lobster truck. Yeah, you read that right, lobster. From a truck. Lest you think the truck is Uncle Bubba's cowboy Cadillac, let me paint a picture for you . . . the lobster truck has an LCD TV and soda fountain mounted on the side of it and it takes credit card payment via iPad. It's one helluva vehicle. (To be fair, the pizza truck has an oven inside, ensuring fresh pizza at a moment's notice. These are not your father's Oldsmobile.)

For weeks, the city (or at least Twitter and the blogosphere) has been abuzz with anticipation of the arrival of the lobster truck.  And I'll be the first to admit I bought into the hype. Last Friday was supposed to be the kickoff, but glitches kept it off the road (and out of our tummies!).  Then we had a near miss on Tuesday, when the truck's Twitter feed declared that they were rolling out only to be stymied by something or other.  Yes, the lobster truck punked us that day and I went sadly back to my desk, lobster-less, to eat a Lean Cuisine.  Yesterday's monsoon did not make for optimal lobster weather, so today was the big day!  By 11:30, the line was down the block. I got a text from my sister saying, "They're selling lobster out of a truck and there are all these people in line."  Clearly she had not gotten the memo. 
Photo courtesy of @davecarson

I had already made plans to eat at 1:00, so when I heard about the lobster rush, I was worried they might run out before I was served.  A coworker headed over to get in line around noon.  Another friend and I went out to join him at 1:00 and the line was still nearly a block long, but he had made a little headway.  Just as we got there, some industrius (read greedy) soul decided to scalp her lobster roll for $20.  Right next to the truck. There's one in every crowd, right? Talk about chutzpah. Fortunately, the hungry mob waiting in line did not pounce on her and beat her to death with her own shoes (as much as we all may have wanted to), and she left with her lobster. 

Finally it was our turn.  Local time, 1:30.  I was handed my fresh lobster roll, with pickle, chips, and soda (to their credit, the truck folks threw in the soda and chips for free--normally an extra $3--as a thanks for everyone's patience).  It looked good, if a little small -- or maybe that was the hunger talking.  Coworker, friend, and I made our way past the line of envious lobster seekers to a bench in the square to sample the sandwiches. One bite and we all agreed that they were good, but we weren't sure they were quite worth an hour and a half wait (or $15).  On the positive side, they didn't scrimp on the lobster -- the roll was full of huge chunks.  And after further thought, I can say definitively, the sandwich is at least as good as something you can get from any sandwich shop in general proximity to Farragut Square (except for the Greek Deli).  For me, at least half the fun was the sweet anticipation and weeks of hype.  Even my slight panic as I heard of the line growing around the corner was enjoyable for me.  It's all part of "the thing."

As far as food trucks go (heck, as far as any sandwich shop goes, too), this was a success of epic proportions (400 lobster rolls were sold today!), and I can't help but think that today's climax leaves a sad denouement for the five trucks that have yet to debut.  But to me, the climax occurred weeks ago when I tried the global food truck, Sauca.  On par with street food from other countries (and as good as food you'd get in a sit-down restaurant), this innovative sandwich truck gets two thumbs up from me (try the pork banh mi -- you won't be disappointed). 

So while I haven't embraced the cupcake craze (yay, alliteration!) that has taken the city by storm, I can get on board the food truck trend.  And if you're looking for lunch in all the wrong places, may I suggest checking the truck tracker or meeting me in Farragut Square for some truly innovative meals on wheels? Happy lunching!


  1. $18 for a roll and soda? No thanks. While I approve of the concept of restaurants in trucks, that's just way too much to spend on lunch. (Also, I've never had lobster).

  2. Here in suburban Chicago, these trucks are known as "roach coaches" and they just pick up items from McD's or a convenience store and show up at break time. The first time that truck pulled up at my job, I was stunned. Then I came to appreciate the ice cold bottle of OJ! lol

    xo Susie

  3. have you tried the pupatella trucks? I can get behind italian noms made of nutella.

    I have to say I don't have enough of sweet tooth to enjoy the cupcake craze. I want to know when tehre will be a dirty martini truck for me and I Flip for Food.

  4. @Susie, that is a hilarious name! I will have to look for that the next time I'm out Chicago way. You wouldn't believe these "luxury" food trucks here!
    @Debb, I could really get behind a dirty martini (or mojito, bellini, bloody mary) truck! Let's start a petition!

  5. I am excited to head back to DC on Thursday and stalk my food trucks. I have the app already and am ready to pounce- especially on the lobster truck. Is it just DC that has these obsessions with food trucks, cupcakes and frozen yogurt? I love her for it though haha

    I just started following your blog, too- can't wait to read more posts!