Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Holidays

As I get ready to jet away for a long trip, I wanted to take an opportunity to post a couple of updates and ask again, "DUUUUUDE, how many kabob trucks can one city handle?"  It's been about 9 months since I pointed out there seemed to be a really high ratio of kabob/halal/gyro/etc trucks compared to the total sum of trucks at the time.  I haven't done the math again but it's become nearly impossible to make a visit to Farragut Square and not see a new one.  In fact, between Tuesday & Wednesday's visits I saw 4 trucks I hadn't previously seen and THREE of them were of this variety.  Of the ones I've tried, some are obviously better than others, then others have the 'sketchy' factor going on.  So with all that, I offer said trucks all good luck as you are now well over saturated.

Even though I haven't posted in about 2 months, I've continued to try some of the new trucks plus gain a few new regular obsessions.

There is a new Peruvian truck, El Fuego, which compares reasonably well to the local brick-and-mortar Peruvian standby of El Chalan for their (same) specialty of Lomo Saltado.  Super tender beef stir-fried with vegetables and served over rice definitely pleases, particularly when paired with the yellow sauce available in two levels of heat on the counter. (The darker one is the spicier one, and it's awesome to slather over everything.)  The only fault I can find with this $10 (incl tax) steal is the fries have a tendency to easily get soggy -- I've had the dish twice and both times it happened & in very short order.  But it's totally insignificant because I love this meal!  A consistent 4 honks.

Another new truck to earn a few honks is Meatball Nation which serves meatball sliders on fresh bread from Lyons Bakery.  The menu seems to change with some regularity, so you may not find what I had which included a beef Italian meatball, a Thai chicken, and a BBQ pork.  Of the three, the pork one was by far my favorite with a tangy BBQ sauce and a lovely, crisp slaw.  It was followed by the Italian which was about what you'd expect, although I loved the high quality cheese they are serving with this ball.  However the last one I did not enjoy at all.  The chicken was blended with a great deal of a green vegetable (spinach?) which was unexpected based on the description and not to my liking.  I also didn't care for the flavor of the peanut sauce that brought everything together for an odd texture profile when eating.  Balls are also available in a bowl for the same price ($8) instead of on bread if you want fewer carbs.  3 honks.

Now for the obsessions -- specific meals I'm finding it difficult to stay away from if I see the truck nearby.

The Mojito Rito from Rico Loco ... I've tried all the meat-based pressed burritos from Daniel & Co, but the chicken is where it's at as far as I'm concerned.  They all feature a homemade pico de gallo that adds a great brightness to the rolled packages.  Lately I've been asking for my order un-pressed so I can take it home.  The trick to finishing off there is 20-25 minutes in an oven (I use a toaster oven) at 325* to get the insides warm, then press in a Griddler or similar for a couple of minutes.  If you don't have a Griddler, you can probably achieve the same effect in a dry, non-stick frying pan on medium/medium-high heat with a press down with a large spatula and a flip of the burrito.  Make sure to get some of the 2 sauces and mix them up to wrap it all up. (No pun intended.) :-)  Oh, and these guys are moving to 4 honks for the honor of my addiction.

Ribs and more from BBQ Bus ... OK, they're done serving them for the winter, but this is another treat I take home with me if they're available with a side of #5 BBQ sauce.  325* for 25 minutes again in an oven and you'll be a happy camper.  There is also a new special that has made it to the 'obsession' category, but so far, I think the boys have only served it 5 days.  BBQ bacon meatloaf!  The slice comes served on brown butter mashed potatoes, choice of another side (I always go for the fire roasted corn,) and cornbread.  Just after Thanksgiving, it was pumpkin cornbread that was ridiculous.  This meal doesn't make it home for the after-party, and barely makes it to noon on the truck before it's sold out.  Go fast if it's on the menu.

Rob at What the Pho? says I'm one of the only people who get his "vision" of lettuce wraps since I go about once a week when I'm in town to get an order of the lemongrass chicken. The truth is, I mostly get his vision.  I did start out by eating these babies as intended, but found them to be slightly messy to eat, albeit delicious.  It has become another selection I take home and enjoy in the days that follow with a minor modification: I chop everything up to make a salad of the lettuce, pickled veg, cilantro, and chicken, then top it with the spicy mayo plus some hoisin and sriricha.  It's a banh mi in a bowl and so good!  Don't let my concoction sway you from trying this menu item in any form you can.  I'm working to convince my own friends one at a time and they are getting the vision too.

More obsessions another time.  Until then, best wishes everyone a very merry holiday season.  Back again in the new year....

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

PSA: If you find you are going to be short staffed on your first day....

....then DO NOT go to Farragut Square to serve.  Obviously the first day out is tough enough as it is, and even with a truck full of people, working out the kinks at one of the busiest destinations for trucks in the city is just a bad, bad idea.  Sure, we're not the most convenient spot for parking, crowd control along the sidewalks, or much else for that matter, but we're really loyal, reasonably reliable, and know our stuff when it comes to trucks.  While I had been blogging updates only about once a month recently, the new truck I tried today got me so bothered, I felt compelled to draft something while it was still totally fresh in my mind.

Fork & Spade said today was their first day, but it looks from their tweets like they've had a couple of days out in Tenleytown.  According to a City Paper article published less than a month ago, they had planned on having the truck generally focus on that area due to its low volume of mobile vendors.  But alas, a couple of good days out in Tenleytown probably equates to attendance at a weeknight baseball game in April, compared to many downtown locales which would equivalently better resemble what a Cubs game would look like in the post-season.  I'll start off to say the food (what I was able to get) was pretty good with only a couple of issues to be discussed shortly.  Yet my 25 minute engagement with the truck was not limited to food.  Let's start with the menu posted when I walked up...  

After standing at the window as the cashier fumbled with a whole bunch of tickets for what I believe have to be something other than food for a good 5-6 minutes before I could even place my order (and, for the record, it took about the same of time after me prior to the next customer's order being taken,) I asked what form the Sloppy Sue took.  He explained it was "slider-style in a chinese steamed bun," so I ordered one of everything.  Only at that point did he say "we're 86ed on the burger."  Hmmmm, ok.  I'm thinking, "It's still before noon, and it's clearly not because service is so speedy they've run out.  Why is it on a handwritten menu at all then?"  The explanation was they were short staffed, so I ordered a fish taco and 2 sloppy sue's.  Now I understand the menu says $3 each or 3/$8.50, but I must say particularly after not being able to fulfill my original order, when I selected 3 items which cost exactly the same and have equal quantity discount, I for sure thought my bill would be $8.50.  (Just going to assume the tax which has been in place longer than 2 weeks now is included, btw.)  It may be petty, but I questioned him on at $9 tally and got a sharp retort back along the lines of, "WTH would you think it would be $8.50?"  So, I've already waited.  Then my order couldn't be placed.  Now I'm being shortchanged (from what I think would be fair and appropriate.  Granted, it is what was posted, but given the situation, it's the principle of it.)

Following the exchange at the window, I still had to wait about 20 minutes for my 2 bao and 1 taco, along with a number of other annoyed customers -- all were peeved at the wait for food, plus the person who came after me that also tried to order the burger after a long wait for both he and me to place orders at the window, was also quite perturbed when he couldn't have it.  During my wait, the burger was eventually rubbed off the board, but I did see the guy who ordered before me walk away with one.  Just for a clear picture, the wait was not due to a high volume of orders either; trickle would be a strong word to describe the pace at which food left the window.  Not a single "sorry for your wait" was proffered at any point either.  Anyway...

Now, for the food.  The homemade pickles on the bao made the dish, however the otherwise nicely flavored pork was not hot and was excessively salty.  On the other side we have a fish taco so loaded with slaw it was hard to find the few small pieces of fish dredged and fried in a delicate but zesty beer batter. In the photo I think you can discern both the sparseness of the fish, but also the brittleness of the flour taco shell. 

I'll go back, but this truck needs some seasoning, if ya know what I mean.  For the total experience, I'd give the truck 2-2.5 honks, but the food was better than I expected after witnessing the general chaos that I'm inclined to give them closer to 3 honks, giving them the benefit of the doubt as a new truck.  I did get a tweet later which indicated they were a man down AND had a broken fryer.  Not that I'm a food truck owner, but a bad impression is a bad impression and I probably would have reconsidered my decision to launch under those circumstances, particularly at a venue like Farragut.  Good luck, Alex & Renee.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Guess this is becoming a monthly update...

I'm even going to convince myself that's acceptable too, given I've eaten at over 75% (if not more) of the trucks, although, to be fair, it does become hard to keep track with so many coming, going, re-branding, etc.

DC Taco Truck & Best Burritos 
With regular (and early) long lines, I was finally able to make a visit DC Taco Truck (top) for a variety trio when they recently had a rare short line, and about a week later I hit Best Burritos (bottom) for a similar order.  Both serve Mexican-style tacos (as opposed to Asian or some other variety) but prepared differently.  Whereas DC Taco Truck serves their tacos with cheese, cabbage slaw, pico, and a crema-based sauce, Best Burritos goes for a simple onion & cilantro-based salsa along with sides of rice & beans, and both serve each taco with a slice of avocado and lime wedges.  As you can see from the photos, the avocado on DC Taco Truck  really looks like it's had better days while everything looks bright and fresh from Best Burritos.  Personally, I think there is entertainment value in that due to the impressions just looking at the respective trucks make -- Best Burritos looks like kind of a mess and DC Taco Truck has a cleaner and generally 'improving' persona, particularly now they have a professional menu printed and adhered next to the window.  Labeling and/or description of sauces available on the shelf for self-service proves to be a challenge for the pair.  Both trucks earn 3 honks based on the company in that group, yet if I'm comparing them to one another, I'm more likely to go back to Best Burritos before DC Taco, if only because I prefer their more simple preparation and larger menu.  (However, it would be nice if there were pineapple available for the Al Pastor.)

Hula Girl (new item)
After months of maybe's and trying, Mikala finally found some quality Ahi to delight us with some Hawaiian Poke.  Ahi tuna, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, green & white onions, and chili water served with sweet potato chips.  So delicate and so flavorful, and the obviously high quality fish easily warrants the $11 pricetag, or better yet $13 as a plate lunch.  It's my understanding poke will be a special when tuna is available, so you've just gotta ask for it.  And you totally should.

Steak Bites
Cheesesteaks from a school bus, and they are pretty good.  About what you'd expect, although I'd return to this truck before both Bada Bing and Phillies Phamous.  It is also the least expensive of all three.  Chicken steaks are also offered, although when I asked if they could make a buffalo chicken cheesesteak (by adding hotsauce to the chicken while cooking) they didn't understand what I was asking for and replied to say they would be bringing pizza cheesesteaks to the menu soon.  Ok then.  3.5 honks.

Ooh Dat Chicken
Two visits to Franklin Square last week were advertised as McPherson Square, and despite several customers advising them of their error, the operators seemed uninterested in correcting their mistake.  I had been interested in checking this truck out since FoodTruckFiesta first announced they would be joining the ranks, thinking I might be able to get a meal close to what I get at El Pollo Rico without having to go to Virginia.  They don't have a fryer aboard, so I knew I wouldn't be getting fries (as I would at EPR) but they do offer a variety of sides that customers can select two from to go with chicken meals.  From the window, you can see the rotisserie wall and whole chickens happily roasting.  Unfortunately, even though the chicken looked enough the part to be compared to El Pollo Rico, the otherwise juicy chicken sorely lacked seasoning as did the potato salad.  And without any of the Peruvian chicken dipping sauces you might find any of the pollo a la brassa chicken joints around here, nothing could save the plate of value-priced food except maybe the corn which was tolerable, primarily due to the 'gastrique sauce' poured on top.  ($6.50 for a quarter white meat with two sides and a small, dry, mass-produced roll.)  3 honks.  Might try again once they have been in business more than 1 day of service.

What the Pho?

Not much new going on here except the addiction I've alluded to before for the lemongrass chicken lettuce wraps. They make a great lunch, or bring them home for dinner and eat the wrapped chicken cold.  I sometimes cut up the lettuce and vegetables once home and make everything in to a salad, but however I choose to eat it, I have yet to be disappointed.  I still give Rachel of Phonation a slight edge on pho broth  and WTP? on the pho meat from what I've had at both so far, but Rob of What the Pho? should certainly be rated at 4 honks given I don't miss a Monday visit to Farragut Square.  

Popped! Republic
Rich is starting to bring some new flavors to the truck, including an in-season maple popcorn last week along with the launch of the new-and-improved website.  He reports that in the coming weeks he has more flavors coming, many of which would typically not fare well on a hot summertime truck like chocolate drizzle and Reese's.  I said REESE'S!!!  Until they arrive, I can recommend the maple as a less sweet cousin to caramel corn.

New trucks I've noticed out but haven't had the chance to try: Ali Baba Kitchen, DC Doner, India Bytes, and Sassy Sandwiches.  The only strong thoughts I had of any so far was observing Sassy Sandwiches prices are really, really high; a sloppy joe was the cheapest thing on the menu, and it was $10 with chips and a drink.  As far as I can tell, there are some candidates for the Shame List due to the lack of tweets.  I guess you've just gotta stumble.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Back from 2 vacations

Unfortunately they were both pretty short.  When I have actually been around over the last few weeks, I've been enjoying returns to some of my favorite trucks while sampling new-to-me items peppered in between.  Headlines in no particular order:

Kimchi BBQ Taco expanded it's 'Torta' offerings
I hadn't had a sandwich previously from KBT, but wanted a snack for later in the day while I was grabbing lunch last week and saw a 1/2 torta advertised for $6.  Sold!  I'm not sure what a full torta would look like because this was a relatively large portion, making it a fantastic deal at its price-point.  Of course I ordered it with my favorite protein, the spicy pork, and it's described as being served with a choice of two kimchi/slaw options, although it also came with shredded lettuce, sliced avocado, seasoned mayo, and more.  I also asked for some of the spicy special sauce for which I was cautioned by the owner that it was "really spicy".  Eh, I dunno about that, though my sandwich was delicious, even when consuming substantially later than I'd planned.

Badabing visits the District twice in one week
Badabing, an Arlington truck famous for serving spiedies and cheesesteak subs, found themselves in DC for both an "Arlington Invasion" at the Fairgrounds on the 8th, and again for Truckeroo on the 10th.  Braving the occasional sprinkles of rain, I was able to make Truckeroo for a beer and a cheesesteak "wiz-wit" (or maybe it's "wit-wiz" -- I don't have the Philly lingo down.)  Anyway, the wiz obviously refers to the cheese-product I was ordering, trying to be authentic, and the "wit" acknowledges I wanted grilled onions in my sub.  To be clear, I've been looking forward to trying this truck for probably a year and this was the first practical opportunity I had to try it out.  The steak was certainly fresh, as were the pillow-y soft rolls, but I didn't love the sub and I am not sure why.  The best I can come up with is that the steak was so fresh and soaked in to the bread so easily, it was too juicy making for kind of a sloppy situation.  3 honks.

Rito Loco launches
...and didn't do their research on Farragut Friday before making an attempt to make it on to the Square on their first Friday out.  Too bad for them, they ended up across the street on the west side -- not even the back-up spot in front of Subway on the east side.  They are happy to explain to you they serve un-traditional burritos without beans or rice which are grill-pressed before serving.  $8 for one, which did in fact come packed with nearly all meat in my "mojito rito" filled with marinated, perfectly shredded chicken and little pico + cheese.  The chicken boasted huge flavor and was well accompanied by a blend of the two sauces available on the counter.  I've gotta say, I was a little surprised how much I liked the food given I didn't immediately have a great impression when I walked up due to a whole bunch of minor things, but when combined became noticeable: (1) a handful of steps away from the truck one of the employees was smoking as I walked by (see review of El Floridano,) (2) there seemed to be a relatively large quantity of truck staff in and circling the truck with kind of a bit of chaos-feel, (3) there was no menu posted and when it did come out there were no prices, (4) the staff came off a little smarmy, etc.  Despite all that, I'll be back as soon as they come back by my geography for the "unconventional" burrito was really good.  3.5 honks.

Ball or Nothing brings back wild boar
I want to love this truck a lot, and I just can't get there.  The first time there was something off about some of the flavors, and with my second visit, while I was able to get the boar I had been interested in trying, the sides didn't work.  I ordered the marscapone polenta again thinking that would be a no brainer, but it definitely didn't have the same lusciousness as before.  Then the mac & cheese I ordered was, not only cold for both myself and some friends who came back with some about an hour later, another funky flavor was detected here as well, like the dressing last time.  It was almost as if white wine was used in the cheese sauce where the alcohol didn't cook off leaving unpleasantness behind.  The meatballs were fine, topped with a basil pesto which helped a bit, yet I don't see myself rushing back, particularly not for 3 meatballs with fair-at-best sides for $10.  Moving to 2.5 honks.

More drive at Chef Driven
I know I mention this truck a lot relative to other trucks but if you consider there is something different to try every single time I visit the truck, each comment is to mention new menu items (which is the same as I do when I try something new at other trucks.)  With a menu proffered every 3-5 days, by the time I post something at this point, whatever the new item was may be gone.  Luckily, a number of previous items do come back for occasional cameo appearances, so as I try something, I do at least try to mention it.  Last week it was chipotle braised pork tacos served with a garlic aioli, avocado, and cilantro.  I couldn't stuff these bad boys in my mouth fast enough, which wasn't difficult since the taco and fillings combined to a texturally soft offering that was granted better balance simply some fresh chopped green onions.  Even if you don't love spicy food, don't let the word "chipotle" scare you off because they don't have much heat.  Jerry, thanks, as always.  Another winner!

Other tidbits

  • The Serrano-style ham from Surry, Virginia being served from Chef Driven's truck is amazing.  Who knew Virginians could cure ham for 400+ days and make it yummy like its Spanish cousin?  If he's got something on the menu with the Surry ham, you should think about trying it.
  • My friend ordered a trio of empanadas the other day from the Something Stuffed truck.  I personally haven't made it over there yet, but I sampled her chicken and beef selections and would go back on purpose to order the beef.
  • The Sate Truck now seems to be carrying a few more menu items, including toting of both coconut and spicy rice options rather than one at a time.  I actually asked for both with my combo and after tasting side-by-side I decided I prefer the spicy.
  • Other go-to favorites recently enjoyed over the last few weeks include: lemongrass chicken lettuce wraps from What the Pho?, corn fritters from Tapas Truck, churrasco sandwich from Borinquen Lunch Box, grilled chicken pho from Phonation, fish tacos from Surfside, and more.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

So many trucks...

...and so little time to sit down and write about them.  But it's been over two weeks and I'm heading out on vacation soon, so I thought I really need to find the time to really do a quick jot of all new things 'food truck'.  While there were a few re-visits, it was mostly first go's at some of the younger trucks.  In no particular order...

Grilled fish tacos topped with a black bean and corn salsa, lime crema, and guac.  Dry and somewhat overcooked fish well compensated by the creamy guac and bright salsa that made up for it.  I'd actually be exceptionally happy if I could order a 1/4 or 1/2 pound side of guacamole like at a deli to take home and eat with my District Taco chips & salsa. Still nicely placed at 3.5 honks.

Nice Dream
Follow a tweet suggesting "trust me" on a taste sensation of sweet corn ice cream topped with bacon brittle, I ran right out to the truck who happened to be nearby.  As my friends would tell you, bacon is one of my very favorite things, and will hardly ever say no to it.  The brittle was delicious, truly, but I'm not sure I loved it on the ice cream, which on its own was not too sweet, creamy, and yet had a slightly odd texture, I expect from the granules of corn that peppered the chilled cream.  Most of the flavors on the truck are a little away from the norm, but I'll go back and try something else, and whatever it is, I will definitely be getting the brittle to top it.  3 honks.

Ball or Nothing
A stumble across Ball or Nothing at Farragut brought immediate hopes for wild boar balls to be on the menu, but alas I totally understood boar can be difficult to get, so to the standard meatball with marinara it was.  3 obviously homemade meatballs served with 2 sides for $9.  Another ball or two would be nice and on their own they were a bit dry, but blended reasonably with the marinara and my side of luscious mascarpone polenta.  The idea of a wedge salad is welcome, in this case, the avocado based dressing worked nicely with the first couple of bites but got tired after that.  All-in-all the polenta saved the meal for me and I'm curious so I'll definitely be back to see the two charming guys running things.  3 honks.

I commented earlier I was frustrated PhoNation was cooking their beef for pho rather than keeping it thinly sliced and raw, allowing the heat of the broth to cook the meat.  Rachel and I tweeted back and forth a couple of times and she explained they serve "rare beef" (rather than raw.)  Even more than that, they actually serve rare beef, brisket, or chicken.  First go I went for the rare beef.  While not particularly thin slices, the meat was fine, but the broth -- OMG!!!  Even better than I remember from last year.  So good, in fact, the very next time Rachel brought her truck back, I decided to try the chicken pho.  It worked too!  Grilled and gently charred.  Plus all pho orders come with appropriate accoutrements of basil, bean sprouts, lime, jalapeno, and as much sauce as you'd like.  Surely for pho, the best from a truck in the city, although What the Pho? isn't far behind.  4 honks

The Serrano croquettes, despite taking a couple of minutes to receive, are delightful.  Crispy on the outside and pillow-soft on the inside.  5 come in the order, but it's hard not to just scoff them down.  Another winner from Pepe!

Hula Girl
A great sandwich as usual, but note there is/will be a sometimes secret condiment of a pineapple-ginger-habanero hot sauce.  If you like things with some bite, ask for it and gotta give it a try!

I'm not always in the mood for BBQ, yet somehow after my visits to both these trucks in the last week I'm thinking maybe I should push myself to be in the mood more often because both these trucks make me quite content.  Ribs with Number 5 and a side of fire roasted corn from the Bus, and a pulled pork "spectacular" sub from the Purveyors.  For those who don't know what ordering spectacular means, look at whatever the sauce for the resident mac & cheese menu item is and consider the sauce slathered on any of the sandwiches.  For a while it was a gorgonzola bacon sauce, but recently it appears to have changed to a rosemary cream variety.  Doesn't matter -- it adds a lush richness that compliments wonderfully.  Note to self: Visit both these trucks more often.

In my last post about Goodies I commented about the great van and the sweetheart of an owner, and those things both still hold true.  Even my Oreo Concrete was awesome as expected.  However, Goodies is the third truck (that I know of) which is charging customers for using credit cards.  I've ranted about this before, and the $.50 is even more a pronounced rip-off at Goodies.  Square charges 2.75% flat fee, and on a single order of $5 at Goodies, that amounts to less than $.14.  Doing some quick math, you'd have to charge 4 orders to get to the $.50 up-charge.  In this case as the last one at Kraving Kabob, the charge was executed without advising the customer first; at least Goode's Mobile Kitchen makes it a point to be very up front about the charge, but I find the charge itself off-putting and was particularly angry about it this time.  Goodie's is the second most expensive ice cream from a truck in the city (not counting tourist spots on the mall where some Good Humor-ish and pedi-cab type folks go) and frankly the portions on Sinplicity are bigger.  Penalizing for credit to the degree this works out is not good.

DC Greek Food
Not the prettiest of trucks, and first thought is obviously, "just what we need... another kabob/gyro truck" but don't pass this one up just on the saturation principle.  $8 for a combo platter made up of a juicy chicken kabob and a pile of excellent gyro meat, served over rice with a salad.  An awesome deal and certainly better food than a number of the other similar trucks out there.  I wrote a post a bit ago about the relation of halal to kabobs to gyro and so on, and now with 2 Greek trucks in the growing mix, I think the relational train of thought needs to be expanded.  Easy 3.5 honks.

Reba's Funnel Cakes
After what seemed like an extended hiatus from approaching Farragut Square, Reba's finally returned with an updated menu and some lower prices.  It takes forever, but it is fresh and the wait isn't dull given the 'lively' personality of the chef.  Besides funnel cakes and the addition of savory items like hot dogs and chicken tenders, you can also get parfaits and various other fried items like fruit fritters and a variety of fried-other-desserts (oreos, brownies, etc.)  We sampled pineapple fritters and the brownies -- both were deemed big winners, although some folks preferred more than another.  Well priced at $3 each, but you gotta eat 'em while they're hot for maximum enjoyment.  Rating unchanged.

What the Pho?
I guess the folks over at What the Pho? read this blog because every single comment/suggestion about the lettuce wraps was addressed by my second visit.  As noted earlier, I marginally prefer the homemade broth at PhoNation, yet love the idea of the wrap and this one delivers with superb lemongrass chicken as a base.  Thanks for being open to ideas, and I'll be back soon and often!

Grids Waffles
The folks at Grids announced early in the week they planned on attending Farragut Friday and further stated they'd be bringing their pizza waffle with them.  With an inopportune parking spot, they did make it and I made my inaugural visit to try the touted menu item.  Available with or without pepperoni, a fairly gummy waffle was stuffed with canned pizza sauce, mozzarella, and fresh basil.  Obviously the fresh basil was the best part.  Maybe the sweet options are better...?  2 honks.

Chef Driven 
Yet another new item arrives on the menu in the form of Indonesian baby back ribs with a sweet soy glaze.  Jerry can do no wrong.  If you haven't been, you're really missing out.

I've actually been twice in two weeks, the first time to try roasted duck tacos, and the second to grab some pho as it was the last one I hadn't tried of the 4 pho trucks now (recently) on the streets.  About a week or so prior to my first trip, PhoWheels had posted a photo of the duck tacos on Twitter and I wanted to be go to where ever they were planning on being because it looked to die for.  Things didn't exactly turn out that way.  When I did make it, the actual tacos looked about as good as the photo, however enjoyment did not compare.  If I'm gonna eat duck, the skin better be crispy.  Unfortunately the mid-rare duck had flaccid, very not-crispy skin which made the whole thing terribly chewy to eat.  The rest of it was fine -- I mean, it's hard to go wrong topping anything with hoisin sauce, plus the veg and the pancakes were both good.  I ventured back on another visit for pho and it too disappointed.  (At some point soon I'll put together a post summarizing all the pho trucks.)  Broth had little flavor, and other than a few green onions there were no other fresh herbs such as cilantro or Thai basil.  In this case I ordered chicken in my soup -- it was like unseasoned, lightly boiled then shredded chicken breast.  2.5 honks.  Note: The wrap is incredible.  No joke.  Really awesome looking truck!

Now to vacation... Hasta la vista!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sampling 4 More Trucks

It still boggles my mind that I can head out for lunch and have the opportunity to try a truck I've never had before at least once per week.  Good or bad, that fact simply speaks to the volume of trucks roaming the District on a daily basis.  Last week I had the opportunity patronize 4 trucks I hadn't previously, including a rare VA-only truck appearance at Truckeroo of Hot People Food.

As you may have noticed, in the couple of months, the volume of pho trucks went from 0 to 4.  I've mentioned Pho Junkies a couple of times, and noted the new PhoNation truck is from the same proprietor as last year's short-lived Phonomenon.  (Special note--she tweeted me last week to say she's gone to rare steak, instead of the pre-cooked I was so unfond of last year.  To that end, I'll be visiting as soon as I can.)  Meanwhile, last week I was able to give What the Pho? a first go.  Not being able to decide between pho and an option for lettuce wraps, I went for both.  The pho ($8) is essentially what you'd think, homemade oxtail broth with noodles and raw/rare steak served with a "pouch" of accoutrements containing fresh basil, jalapeno slice(s), bean sprouts, and a wedge of lime.  I found the broth to both look and taste a bit fattier than some of the other broths, but still came off nicely smooth as pho should.  Once "prepared" with the whole bottles of hoisin and sriracha available on the counter (as opposed to Pho Junkies,) my self-personalized concoction satisfied.  In addition to banh mi sandwiches, What the Pho? also offers the filling of the banh mi options (chicken, beef, etc) over rice or served with large lettuce leaves to make wraps.  I figured I'd get maybe 2-3 leaves, but the container came with 5 huge leaves of washed red-leaf lettuce.  Both the bowl and box of lettuce came with slices of cucumbers and tomatoes, but minimal pickled veg and no cilantro as would be found in a banh mi.  It would also be nice if the selection of squeeze bottles on the counter included a spicy mayo (or similar) as I'd love to drizzle some, even from a little cup, in my wrap.  The lemongrass chicken, though, was juicy and well flavored.  Overall I enjoyed things for a 3.5 honk rating, although more than Pho Junkies who is still slotted at the same rating.  The other two trucks will be visited soon and then at some point I may try for a full comparison as, so far, they all seem to have their pros with some minor cons.

Thursday I found myself at the glorified Van-a-gon-looking truck dubbed K-bob that never tweets yet has been lurking around Farragut Square nearly every day for months.  They serve about what you'd expect from a truck with such a name: beef, chicken, and sometimes pork kabobs over lettuce, rice, in a combo, etc.  I can't count the number of times I'd walked right by K-bob since they started coming out, but recently I'd seen folks eating in the Square what looked like some pretty good food and when questioned I learned this is where they'd been coming from.  Salad topped with a chicken kabob is on the menu for $7.75 and I asked if I could have beef which was obliged for $1 more.  A single Greek-ish dressing is provided on the side and when asked if one was enough for me, I asked for a white sauce in lieu of a second dressing, and I'm glad I did because a single cup of "wet" was not enough.  It was fine and I would go back to get it again if I were in the mood for a simple salad, but I'm unlikely to be craving it as I do some other truck-food.  At some point I will try a kabob platter as well which is what looked so appetizing on walks by others in the park.  3 honks.

The third Truckeroo of the season brought several non-DC-permitted trucks to The Fairgrounds last week, among others include Hot People Food from Virginia who tout fresh and spicy ingredients "to bring out the hot person in you."  I took advantage of the opportunity and tried a couple menu items: Beef "Chinese" taco and cold spicy noodles.  (And beer.)  Hot People's definition of a Chinese taco ($9) means it is one larger than regular taco (which they also had) served enveloped in a scallion pancake.  Loved the pancake.  Beef was ok.  However, really excessive raw onions/scallions made it not only difficult to eat because of the size/shape and toughness of the uncooked fibrous veggies, but I'm sure I also offended a whole bunch of folks for probably 12 hours after eating.  It was beautiful and if I ever find myself the opportunity to have it again, I'll stick with the onionish-flavor of the pancake and live with just the other toppings.  Having said all that, I was really delighted by the noodles ($5) -- both light and hearty at the same time.  When I get Chinese take-out, I nearly always order cold sesame noodles and these have some of the same flavor but without the weight of the peanut butter.  3 honks.

For those interested in dessert, months ago you may have heard about (or seen photos of) the old-timey frozen custard truck Goodies and have been waiting with baited breath for regular appearances out on the streets.  (And I mean old-timey truck!)  Last week we may have gotten our wish as the new-old truck was out at least 3 times by my count, possibly more.  The adorable gentleman onboard serves up a variety of sundaes and floats for (as best I can figure) $5 each.  I had tweeted him a couple of weeks ago wondering where they disappeared to after scattered appearances; while at the time I received a response back of "soon," when Goodies actually took to the streets, I started getting tagged in every location tweet.  So on Friday when the location was Farragut, I couldn't pass that up despite my attendance at Truckeroo.  Detouring on my way back to the office, I enjoyed a turtle sundae for a cool down on a hot day.  Of course it is tough to go wrong with caramel & chocolate together and this blend with creamy vanilla bean frozen custard & the most perfectly salty-sweet pecans didn't disappoint.  The fresh whipped cream was even just gently sweetened for a lovely afternoon treat.  No truck on DCs streets conjures up a nostalgia factor quite like this one -- I'm not even old enough to remember trucks like this, but appreciate the truly authentic effort.  4 honks.
More later.... Pho Wheels & DC Empanadas' new flavor.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Weather & Holiday Recovery

Due to weather and leave surrounding the 4th of July holiday last week, I was only in the office 1 day but I was able to squeeze in visits to 2 new-to-me trucks in that day.  First up was the few-weeks-old Fire and Rice serving Korean bowls of food ($8-8.50, or veg for $6) which can be served more bibimbap-style with a fried egg for a couple bucks more.  I appreciate that you can pick what vegetables you want in your bowl of rice plus chosen protein and my 'spicy pork' was nicely trimmed and seasoned although not that spicy.  Luckily they had sriracha and a more sweet soy-miso(?) squeeze bottles on the counter for self-doctoring, but the issue both my friend and I had was the size of the portion.  We both found it noticeably small, however I will say after a tweet yesterday I suspect we weren't the only ones who had that sentiment.  If a larger portion size is on tap for my next visit, I'll be back for sure; if not, I'll stick with Kimchi BBQ Taco where I'm always full after my meal (Kogi,) with similar, equally enjoyable food for $.50 less.  3 honks for now until I can make it back.

Fearing I'd still be hungry after my bowl (which I very much was,) I sought a hearty side and remembered DC Ballers has fries on the menu in addition to their balls of falafel.  For $3.50 you will receive a huge portion of fresh cut fries, cooked to order.  They were deliciously seasoned with za'atar and were served with one too small (given the copious amount of fries) cup of dipping sauces.  I ordered spicy chipotle and was also offered a sample of a "fully homemade" garlic sauce at the serving window.  Think a nice smokey mayo with a little heat for the former, and for the later, while quite tasty, was a really pretty thick white sauce; it had an odd-ish texture which was not very "dip-like" at all.  Several other dipping sauces are also available.  In a heartbeat I'd go back for another order -- luckily they have 2 trucks now.  No rating without having sampled on a "main course" yet, but I think you get the idea I at least liked my side a lot.

Today between meetings I squeezed in a quick trip to the Tapas Truck for a sample of the 3/4 new menu.  (The corn fritters remain, which I'm exceptionally grateful for.)  Today's additional selections included a pulled pork slider with mustard BBQ sauce and garlic fries, meatballs in a tomato cream sauce with saffron rice, and fried calamari and shrimp with a paprika sauce.  From the photo you can see I went for the first and second tapas.  There are things I just don't get about this truck because some things are done so very well, and then it feels like corners are cut in other places.  For example, the pork and sauce were awesome but it was on mediocre bread.  Similarly, the sauce for the meatballs was lovely, but I truly believe they used frozen, pre-made, and probably mass produced meatballs.  $9 for all that food which is mostly great is a sound deal, but I think most of us will pay an extra buck or two to savor a completely good, fresh meal rather than a mostly good, partially mass-produced meal.  Keeping them at 3.5 honks.  Am I making any sense? 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Wassup Wassub?

Earlier this week I had an opportunity to try Wassub Asian fusion sandwiches.  I actually intended to try Phonation but quickly learned Rachel is preparing pho in the same way she did for the month last summer she owned Phonomenon: pre-cooked beef.  You may recall (see bottom under Closed) I thought her broth was awesome but couldn't get past the beef being pre-cooked rather than the more traditional way with thin, raw slices which get cooked by the hot broth.  Pho Junkies is doing it the later way, plus the Junkies have far more protein options yet doesn't have the exceptionally flavored broth.  (At least what it was last year.) 

So instead I grabbed a Sweetie Habanero from Wassub -- a sandwich I'd been wanting to try since I realized it had pineapple.  What's the good, the bad, and the ugly?  Let's go backwards.  The ugly: unfortunately, I think that pineapple I was excited about was canned, plus I could only find a couple small chunks.  Please use fresh to avoid that "tin-y" taste.  The bad: ok, so maybe it's not bad bad, but the "Why Wassub is better than sex" poster is full of lame jokes which may not be appropriate for the population en masse.  I think I have a reasonably decent sense of humor and definitely know how to tell a raunchy joke (in the right setting) so guess I just don't get why it's there.  Next, the good: the roasted chicken was adequately moist and it was well complimented by the ham and cheese.  And the roll, while not particularly unique, was fresh and light.  Now, the really good: Hottie Sauce!  When I asked for extra, the guy at the window gave me a look and cautioned me, "It's really hot, so be careful."  I didn't personally find it as hot as I think he thought it was, but it had great flavor and really brought the sub all together.  An orange colored, slightly creamy blend of a little sweet and a nice bit of heat.  Without the sauce, this would have been a 2.5-3 honker, but as served the sub worked at 3.5 honks.  Even though I'd passed by this truck many times previously, I'll for sure be back soon.  As a note to the proprietors, I would be very excited if the contents of this sub were put in a bowl as a salad for I think that hottie sauce would make a really interesting salad dressing. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Acai & Lemongrass

Second day out after a miss yesterday and a near miss today, but I was able to find the new truck Mighty Dog & Acai at Farragut Square earlier to grab an order of their namesake dog.  Really pleasant folks who are very interested in doing their best to accommodate you, but there are a couple things I don't understand here.  The only menu they have (which did appear to be magnetic, so it could be attached to the side of the truck) was being physically held up by a woman standing on the SW corner of the square.  She came over to the truck and stood kind of near it when I wanted to place my order, but even then, trying to show it off to other folks, it swayed and moved, making it difficult to read the fairly small print.  I get she was probably there to generate some foot traffic for the unknown truck, but they desperately need a menu actually attached to the truck that you can look at when ordering.  Buzz needs to be generated another way or with a second sign.

Next, I don't get the price.  It was good with some unique flavors, but $7 for a condimented-up Nathan's hot dog (with cheese in the case of my Mighty Dog) seems pretty steep, especially considering other trucks are serving homemade or artisanal sausages for the same price.  The bread was quite nice and the package of goodies (mashed potato spread and our special “Mighty” sauce, topped with  pico de gallo vinaigrette, ketchup/mustard, kernel corn, Brazilian soft cheese and crowned with tiny fried potato sticks) was pressed to serve.  All the photos came out really poorly, but at least you can get the gist of what to expect, including the amount of filling.  2 for $12, which was also being offered, is closer to a fair price, even with the understanding it is coming from a gourmet food truck, but I'd be challenged to pay $7 again despite enjoying my Mighty Dog.  (Note, other menu options had an additional protein topping the hot dog, so perhaps those should be priced higher than the 'Brazilian Mighty'.)  I'd give them 3.5 honks, but the price really bothers me, so....

As an update to a prior post about Lemongrass truck and my very "chilled" chicken, I was able to catch up with them during a re-visit to National Geographic last week for a pork salad.  The meat was juicy and warm, tasting like tender BBQ pork but without the sauce.  Just a lovely salad, especially that awesome homemade lemongrass dressing that I can't wait to buy in a bottle.  3.5 honks, right where they should be.  And it sounds like we'll be seeing more of them with their second truck starting in DC.

Meanwhile, my love affair with Cirque Cuisine continues, that is when they actually visit Farragut Square for which I had to make a special request to make it happen this week.  So today I grabbed two of the three offerings: Spice rubbed pork tenderloin with cabbage & jicama slaw and a shrimp-grilled pineapple salad.  Both came along side saffron rice, black beans, and a fruit-based salsa, which all certainly pleased, but what remains so impressive about this truck besides quality is value.  While $12 and $14 may seem on the steep side (particularly just after my rant about Mighty Dog) but the pork dish came with 1/2 of a whole tenderloin and the shrimp dish had 6 HUGE shrimp.  Plus we know Chef Jess is using local, organic ingredients.  It's a matter of perspective and frankly, I get it at Cirque Cuisine but don't with the hot dog at Mighty Dog.  Sorry guys.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Chasing a Moving Target

Since Chef Driven changes his menu so frequently, it is hard to catch some of the items folks (myself included) have reviewed in various articles, blog posts, and other publications before they go bye-bye in favor of something else.  The good news is, some items occasionally slip back on the menu for a spell, although usually with a minor tweak or two.  And yesterday, sporting a nearly all new menu, I took the opportunity to sample two more selections before they go away: spinach gazpacho and pork sliders.  

Similar to what I said recently about Chef Jess over at Cirque Cuisine, Chef Jerry appears to be seconding the philosophy of inadvertently getting me to eat more vegetables by producing freakin' amazing concoctions, and today it was with the spinach gazpacho.  Think of it akin to pesto, but a thinner, more pureed texture and not oily like pesto can be.  I could totally get used to eating more vegetables if they're all done as yummy as this!

After downing my sample of the chilled soup, I received my order of sliders and salad.  The two generous mini-sandwiches of herb roasted pork topped with a simple cabbage and carrot slaw and red wine sauce were juicy with a appetizing tang generated by the melding of marinade and sauce.  But in my opinion, the highlight of this order was the corn & microgreen salad -- sweet from the roasted corn, crunch from diced jicama(?), and earthiness from a light sprinkle of truffle.  I'm hoping this is a side that doesn't go in to hiatus too quickly.  (...or EVER as far as I'm concerned!)  Not that the sliders weren't delicious, but I could easily go for a soup and salad with these offerings.  As always, great job Jerry, and thank you!

Meanwhile, I've made several other re-visits over the last week or so, although most notably to Pho Junkies where I learned the trick is to ask for extra sauce, since it doesn't seem like they are going to abandon the plan of pre-packaged sauces.  This time I ended up with two of the sriracha-laced hoisin packs, plus a smaller sriracha-only cup and I was much happier with my "doctoring" of the pho.  However, as promised, this time I did order the shrimp rolls, and let's just say I'd suggest sticking with the spring rolls: inside the perfectly crispy wrappers, the shrimp came out WAYYY over cooked.

Another truck I've visited twice in the last two weeks in Rolls on Rolls.  No surprise to some, it seems I become easily obsessed, because after my return about a month ago where I discovered the kathie rolls had substantially improved and they had become a truck who really knows how to serve up the spicy in their food, I can't seem to stay away.  However last week as I sat in my office enjoying my roll, I had four people standing in my doorway by the end thinking something salacious was going on due my "panting" from the heat.  I quite enjoyed the roll, but let's just say it's a good thing the office was pretty vacant at the time and was populated with friends who aren't easily offended.  Thus, when I went yesterday (in the rain so I for sure had to eat at my desk,) I asked for something "between medium and spicy" -- I was offered "medium-plus".  PERFECT!  Thank you, and I'll be seeing you again soon!

Finally, scheduled for posting later today, my latest Eat Street blog post will profile Cirque Cuisine, where "the food is so good it will knock your socks off."  (Inside joke you will all soon be privy to.  I will link to it when it's live.)  UPDATE: Here's the link.

Happy Eating...!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Another week coming to an end

And while I'm looking forward to hitting Farragut Friday in a couple of hours, on Wednesday I met my prior record of 5 trucks in a single day again: Sate Indonesian Food, Souvlaki Stop, Stella's, Captain Cookie, and Sinplicity.  I won't go in to Stella's or Sinplicity as I've discussed both many times, and will start with my first stop, Sate.  

Two options for sate, chicken or beef (or combo) served with rice and vegetables and Mie Ayam which is described as egg noodles, sesame sauce, chicken, oyster mushrooms, bok choy, and crispy wontons.  Realizing I would be also ordering a beef-something from Souvlaki Stop, I opted to go with the chicken sate.  While preparing the order, one of the two gentlemen on the truck asked if I liked spicy.  When I replied affirmatively, they filled my container with "spicy rice" instead of white rice.  Four skewers of reasonably grilled chicken topped the rice, along with a really tempting, moderately peanut-ty sauce.  On the other hand, the vegetables are described as a stew and they really meant it.  Really mushy carrots, onions, and string beans were also cooked with potatoes (or maybe turnips/rutabagas) but the starch component had broken down to the point it dissolved, making it indistinguishable.  $8.  3.5 honks.  No Twitter yet, but more than some of the other vendors who say they will get on Twitter, I kind of believe these guys.

Rather than going for the platter as I normally would if it were the only lunch I planned to enjoy, I went for a Greek salad from Souvlaki Stop, with beef souvlaki.  Even though I ended up bringing the salad home and ate it for dinner, I did sample the components as served.  It's interesting... I actually preferred everything at dinner far more than the lunchtime sampling.  During the day when I tried the beef, while the meat was heavily seasoned, I found it quite dry.  Later that evening, the (at that point) chilled beef worked nicely against the feta and other components.  The menu has both a green salad ($4) and a Greek ($6) listed, and both are available with a protein for $2 more.  Looking forward to the feta along with the typical herb-heavy oil and vinegar dressing, I asked for the Greek salad, but was disappointed to find a creamy Italian-ish blended dressing.  So, when I ate the salad, I instead dolloped the provided yogurt-based tzatziki sauce, which worked nicely other than being way too thick for that purpose.  I'll go for 3.5 honks on them too.

Later in the afternoon, Captain Cookie and the Milkman truck made its way to Farragut for the later part of lunch service, so I made a quick trip between meetings and ordered two cookies with milk ($4) from the varied options including made-to-order ice cream sandwiches, not too dissimilar from what Scoops2U offers.  Both cookies were soft and the ginger molasses fit the bill perfectly, but between my friend and I we could find only 3 chocolate chips in my entire chocolate chip cookie (maybe 3-3.5" in diameter, for perspective,) and frankly that cookie needed more of that creaminess running through it.  (If you click the photo to the right to blow it up and see the bottom of the lower cookie, you can see no chocolate.)  On a separate note, the size of the milk jug was unexpected to a benefit of 4 ounces.  Well priced menu and owners who are anxious to please.  A trifecta for 3.5 honks.

BTW -- Can I just mention how, at this point, it is nearly a daily occurrence I walk up to Farragut Square where there is another new truck?  Even when I look at the map, if there's nothing that I'm necessarily in the mood for, I am confident I can go and find either a new truck, or at least one from the Shame List.

Off to Farragut Friday soon... 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chinese Food

Since last week when the members of my carpool called ahead on the way home for Chinese take-out last week, I've been in the mood, but was just not hungry that afternoon.  (I'm sure I probably must have hit 2-3 trucks for lunch, and since I'm not a big dinner take-out gal anyway...)  As luck would have it, a Chinese food truck premiered Wednesday at Farragut Square, although I'm not sure they've given themselves any sort of name -- the truck only says "Chinese Cuisine."

There were three items on the menu, and you could get whatever you wanted (including combo) with white rice or lo mein noodles for $8.  The proprietor did say he plans on changing the food options once every 2-3 days, so time will tell how often that may turn out to be.
I opted to try the two chicken options with rice.  Neither were spicy at all, and not a single peanut could be found in the kung pao.  Instead, there were copious chunks of some sort of squash, or maybe it was zucchini; it was hard to tell given the one-note color and texture.  Then for the orange chicken ... do you know how you can sometimes tell if the oil is "new" or "old" when you order french fries at certain places?  Well, besides being fried ahead of service, it would be my guess the chicken was fried in "old oil."  This made the chunks more chewy than crispy, although I give a modicom of credit for saucing each order, so it wasn't soggy too.  Chinese Cuisine fits appropriately with the company slotted at 2.5 honks.  If he actually changes the menu regularly as stated, I might go again and try something else.  No chopsticks, and no Twitter.