Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why did I wait so long?

...Maybe it is the heavy focus on vegetable-based dishes that kept me away from Fojol Brothers of Benethiopia do long.  Or the fact that my prior experiences with injera were unfavorable.  But today I finally visited for a dingo bite and fell in love.  Injera is still "eh" in my book, but totally appropriate to scoff down some beef berbere on my way back down I Street.  I didn't even make it 1/2 way to 18th Street before my little "amuse bouche" was gone, and was instantly wishing I had gotten a whole order.  Review:
Fojol Bros of Benethopia (@fojolbros on Twitter) -- Totally unexpected debut at 4 honks after finally trying Fojol's famous Beef Berbere, but if I measure how much I am craving another serving many hours after trying it, it must be a winner!  Cubed beef with a nice heat in a rich sauce served with injera.  After waiting so long to try it, I'll be back for an Ethiopian "BB" the very next time they come around because I will be thinking about it for that long.  I have no doubt.  Only complaint would be the injera was actually cold... chilled even.  Room temp or slightly warm would have been better because with the first couple of bites, it made the beef even "feel" cool when I ate it.
I got only the dingo bite because I saw a new (albeit pretty ugly) truck lurking, and figured it was small enough to (finally!) sample with a full-sized serving of something else from another truck.  

So, along came Blue Nine with non-curry/sauced-type Indian food.  Review and pic under three honks: 
Blue Nine (Not yet on Twitter) -- Another discovery by stumbling upon a foreign truck during a Farrugut lunch run, serving lamb kabobs, biryani, and a gyro-looking "handheld" of some sort.  I ordered the lamb which had nice flavor, but was quite dry and didn't look anything like the picture on the side of the truck showing large pieces of grilled lamb; my order of more gyro-sized bits of lamb was spooned from a tray with a lid and definitely didn't seem grilled.  The rice I quite enjoyed though...well seasoned and not dry at all. $7. It's his second day; I'll go back when he's had a chance to work out some kinks.
Terrible news yesterday about Sabor'a Street, but a new 4-honker to take its place today.  Heading off on vacation tomorrow, but may try to hit a few Florida trucks while I'm there.  Field trip!!!   Later folks...  Enjoy Truckeroo on Friday.  Go get a $5 1/4 rack of ribs from Che @ BBQ Bus.  Add some extra #5 sauce.  You won't be sorry!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Revisiting Tasty Kabob & Yellow Vendor

The only reason Tasty Kabob didn't drop to 2.5 honks with today's visit is because the gyro meat is still quite good and I don't want to base these reviews only on my most recent experience.  Having said that, I won't be rushing back, even though I know these guys are wicked popular.  It definitely isn't worth the extra $1-2 over what the other halal/kabob trucks charge for (mostly) the same thing.  Updated review with a picture is included under 3 honks in the first post:
Tasty Kabob (@tastykabob on Twitter) -- I prefer the chicken from some of the other halal/gyro/kabob trucks, but the lamb is best from this one.  The meatballs are fine, moist although not much flavor without being well sauced, and the chick peas need help.  It's nice they use romaine in the salad rather than the iceberg most of the other halal/kabob trucks seem to use.  Asking for "extra spicy" doesn't seem to result in a meal with a whole lot of heat.  The white sauce is more "dill-y" than others.  (Not a complaint, just an observation.)  Prices seem to have gone up by $1 as popularity for this (family of 3 trucks in DC and a few carts in VA) has increased.  
I also made it back to Yellow Vendor yesterday.  I didn't get sick and the meat was somewhat less fatty than the last couple of visits, so those are improvements.  But the meat was still a little dry, which frankly I'm amazed by since it was swimming in hot sauce.  Moved the review to 2.5 honks.

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Where's the beef?"

Now that school is back in session, trucks are starting to return regularly to GWU, which was convenient for me today with only one truck tweeting they'd be at Farrugut today, so I thought I'd take a jaunt in a different direction. First review for Capitol Greenz posted in the first post (with pic) and pasted below:
CapitolGreenz (@capitolgreenz on Twitter) -- I'm trying to decide between 2.5 & 3 honks, but will give it 3 because the food was good and I think we need a truck serving panini's. But, can I have some meat please? I ordered a roast beef & cheddar panini with grilled onions & horseradish. The flavor was great, especially the grilled onions which were not too overpowering. However the sandwich only had a slice and a half of roast beef total. I also put a knife through it so it would be easier to eat, and was a little surprised that the sandwich came whole. Salads & sandwiches are $7 each, plus they had a couple of soups, including today a black bean (hot) and gazpacho (cold).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Late Snack Report

Yesterday between my friend and me, we hit 6 trucks at Franklin Square yesterday.  For my 3, in addition to the Far East Taco Grill for my actual lunch reviewed yesterday, I collected a Pollock to take away with me from The Rolling Ficelle for a late day "snack", along with some ribs for weekend noshing from BBQ Bus.  The Pollock was good, but I think I have an idea to make it better.  The idea and updated review is posted below, still under 3 honks:
The Rolling Ficelle (@TheFicelle on Twitter) -- Long, thin sandwiches served/prepared "French-style".  Fairly priced at $7 each.  I had the roast beef which was nice.  It was weird though: I asked first if they put together the sandwiches on the spot or if they were pre-"stacked".  They said fresh, so I then asked for no red onions, and they looked at me like I was green while stating "there aren't any."  For a sandwich posted as "thinly shaved, medium-rare roast beef with aged provolone cheese, red onion, and crushed cherry red pepper relish, draped with a light horseradish aioli", it didn't have red onion or the relish, but DID have lettuce.  So just note you might not get what you're expecting, but will probably be close (if my experience is any indication.)  UPDATE (16Sept): Stopped by to pick-up an afternoon/evening snack in a Pollock.  They are billing this pulled pork & swiss cheese sandwich as a monthly special at the moment, although I expect it to stick around longer than that.  In addition to the pork, it sports an onion-jalapeno relish plus a lemon-garlic aioli, and is topped with cilantro.  I requested provolone instead of the swiss and found the package was quite enjoyable but thought it could use more of a crunch.  Then it came to me ... Take this exact sandwich and add some pickled veggies of some sort and make it a play on a banh mi!  With Phonomenon and Rebel Heroes both out of business, the only close to banh mi's from a truck around here are the turkey banh mi from El Floridano and the sandwich option from Hula Girl.  Keep or lose the cheese for I'm not sure it matters as a "play on".  Call it the "đồ chua ficelle", Vietnamese for 'pickle'.  I'd be first in line to try that!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Competition for TaKorean Opened Today: Far East Taco Grill

And Far East Taco Grill is throwin' it down!  Slow and partially disorganized, but they've just started so hopefully they'll learn quickly.  But, you know me, I'm not shy about sharing my opinion, and with that, I think these guys have it well over TaKorean for taste.  4 honk review included in original post: 
Far East Taco Grill (@FarEastTG on Twitter) -- When I first saw the menu for Far East a few weeks ago, my immediate reaction was "wow, that's exactly what TaKorean serves," but I also was plainly aware of the (now) hoards of halal/kabob trucks roaming DC's streets which all seem to survive, so maybe not such a big deal.  It took a very long time to get served, and when I got my order it was wrong.  But after I finally dug in, I was quite content: marinated & grilled chicken and beef, with a choice of 4 slaw options, options for chopped onions, cilantro, sesame seeds, and a lime crema, plus a choice of 4 additional sauces.  THAT is what gets 'em to 4 honks!  Besides the proteins being juicy and flavorful, the sauces rock, even including the lime crema!  I particularly enjoyed the pineapple sauce although I wish there was also a spicy pineapple sauce to choose from, or at least if I could have sriracha AND pineapple rather than one or the other.  (I'll ask next time.)  Even the kimchi slaw option is better here than TaKorean in my opinion.  3 tacos for $8 is a buck cheaper, but was the starting price when the blue guy started out too, so I wouldn't be surprised if that changed.  Really nice job guys.  Giving you the benefit of doubt that it was one of your first couple of days and service will improve, so 4 honks!
I also stopped at The Rolling Ficelle to check out the Pollock special sandwich today.  Will be chowing down on that later in the day and will update posts accordingly.  Plus made a quick stop to visit Che and grab some ribs for the weekend at BBQ Bus; no need to update that post -- I'm happy to be torturing the people in the office with the AMAZING aroma.  "Too bad for you guys!  You should join me to the trucks more often." ;-)

Who's been to Smith Meadows Grill truck in Arlington?  A friend hit me up on Facebook with a scathing review today, and I'm curious what others think...?

Anyway, Happy Weekend, folks!  Off tomorrow.

P.S. -- Does anyone know what the silver truck on the NE corner of Farrugut Square was today?  I passed by Farrugut walking down I Street but was in a hurry, so didn't make it close enough to check it out.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Graduation from MOCO to DC

Welcome Tops Truck!  Soft opening at Farrugut Square today was a surprise.  There was a hint of being in DC, but I'm not sure anyone got it with a tweet this morning which said "headed to metro station for lunch today".  Apparently that was intended to mean Metro Center, but when they couldn't find parking, they headed off to Farrugut Square.  (No surprise they couldn't find anything at Metro Center.  Not sure if it was because the TV crew was going to be filming the Dangerously Delicious Pie truck today, but it sure felt like a whole lotta trucks were planning on heading that way when I saw the tweets stream in this morning.)  Luckily, they pulled up just as I was crossing 17th Street.

Tops had previously only been operating in Montgomery County, and I think the two quite likable truck operators will find some differences as they get going in DC.  For a simple example, the quantity (up to 60+ any given day) and quality of food bring produced from trucks in the District really is quite astonishing.  I mean, look at how many trucks have risen to "4 honk" status, and a whole bunch just behind at "3.5 honks"... So, while the chili-cheese dog I ordered was tasty, other than the "So Good" there isn't much original about the menu.  Details about my dog are noted in my 2.5 honk review:
Tops American Food Company (@topstrucks on Twitter) -- I want to like this truck so much.  The proprietors are sweet as sugar and don't want to discourage them with a 2.5 honk rating.  However as I noted in my blog post, I think they will find competition here quite different so I'm hoping constructive feedback will help.  Therefore to note before anything else, my chili-cheese dog was good.  It was a Nathan's Famous dog topped with a moderately spicy, award-winning homemade chili, and shredded yellow cheese on a standard sub roll for $4.  Ok, I get that a large sub roll like that can "hold" more chili, but the dog was swimming in way too much bread, which didn't excite in the first place.  My suggestion would be to find some nice local baker for a less generic bread option, and that dog could rock the house.  My other issue is the relatively uninteresting menu, not totally dissimilar than what one can get from one of those nasty carts which have been around for a hundred years and a day.  The "So Good" sounds exactly that, so good, but it's something you've got to be in the mood for.  Make the terrific chili the star of the menu.  How about adding some nachos?  (Get your tortilla chips from District Taco!)  Or chili mac?  Maybe even try a chili dog pizza -- you definitely can't get that off a truck around here!  I will definitely look forward to this truck maturing because I think that chili gives it some distinct possibilities to grow-up quickly.
Sorry guys, but hopefully you like one of my ideas.  I'd really like to try a higher-end variation of that pizza.  :-)

In other news, I was finally able to try Orange Cow yesterday, so look for that update, along with a minor update to Fojol of Merilindia's review highlighting the profile they're getting on Cooking Network's Eat Street.  Plus, we learned yesterday Bada Bing will be serving up cheese steaks and spiedies in Washington soon; I'm totally looking forward to that heart attack!  (Seriously!!!)

Friday, September 9, 2011

The highly anticipated return of Hula to Farrugut

As many folks have noticed, Hula Girl truck hasn't been around to Farrugut for a while. While Farrugut is a very popular stop of just about every other truck, by my count I think this was only the third visit since premiering in July, and the second service never actually happened due to an accident just as they were about to open. We've been wondering what Hula has against us (more on that later) but alas, she finally returned for a soggy Farrugut Friday.

Let me start by saying I really, really like this truck, so much that I've been among the first few folks in line with each of the three visits. However, there are issues. I don't know if they are not prepping enough in whatever commercial kitchen they are using or something else is going on, but it takes forever for the window to open, more than I've noticed from any other truck. I think some combo of more prep elsewhere and/or arriving earlier would greatly benefit Hula so they can open the window closer to the (average) 11:30am the other trucks usually adhere to. This issue was evident for each of the three visits I've been present for. And waiting 30 minutes in a steady rain was not so enjoyable today, plus a good 4-5 minutes for my food after ordering.

Next. I think this truck must be cursed. Farrugut visit #1: flat tire & blown generator. Farrugut visit #2: "surfer boy" suffered a fall resulting in mega-stitches in his face seconds before the window was to open. (Sorry, btw! Looked today like you are feeling better, so I'm glad about that.) Farrugut visit #3: delayed by a day because the truck was in an accident. Plus the power seems to only stay on for a couple of minutes at a time. (Multiple visits!) It's only been about 6 weeks since Hula started trolling the DC streets, but the very cute truck is starting to look pretty beat up ... The door meant to cover the serving window is missing, as is the "trim cover" to one of the speakers, and at one point the cover for the generator door was also missing but may have been replaced by now. (Didn't look this time.) I don't know if other spots around the city carry better juju for Makala, but could this be why Farrugut gets so little Hula love...? :-/

Now, the good stuff. The food is delicious. High quality. Ample portions. Sort of a "mix & match" type creative menu which I definitely enjoy. It isn't huge, but it would be easy to get something different each time with 5 or 6 visits. Plus, the people are very nice. I hope they decide to come back more frequently than they've been coming this way.

Despite issues, it stays at 4 honks for the food with the updated review below:
Hula Girl Truck (@hulagirltruck on Twitter) -- Second in line for the premiere at Farrugut Square and I was not disappointed. I did have a couple of issues, but the flavor of the sandwich truly made up for any detractions. I ordered the teriyaki skirt steak sandwich. The steak was VERY generous (2 small steaks on one serving) and perfectly flavorful, without being salty as teriyaki can be. Toppings were equally generous and well seasoned, especially the carrot+daikon slaw. So, what were my issues? The bread is advertised as "crunchy ciabatta". It was not crunchy by any stretch of the imagination and there actually was too much crumb. (AKA the bread-y part.) The second issue was about the steak itself; while it was PERFECTLY cooked to a medium rare, skirt steaks and other similar cuts with that type of marbling are important to eat against the grain so as not to be chewy. Unless the steaks are aligned properly, you are very likely to get excess chew, which I did initially experience. I'm not sure if a quick slice against the grain is an option for when the sandwiches are served, but I note to be aware to "align" your steak(s) prior to diggin' in. (A friend also noted on a chicken sandwich the chicken didn't sit on the bread appropriately either, so some bites had all chicken & nothing else, while some were all vegetables without chicken.)  Can't wait to try something else! This truck is an easy favorite. 4 honks! UPDATE (9Sept): Mikala almost seemed to be boycotting Farrugut Square for weeks but finally returned for a rainy Farrugut Friday. I got the steak lunch plate. The meat was sliced (so no chewy-ness problem,) dressed with a bit of teriyaki, and served with two scoops of rice, mac salad, and a sample of the picked carrot & daikon slaw. Again, I was very satisfied with my meal, but this truck still has issues. (See blog post from 9Sept.) The slaw is awesome ... the whole reason I ordered the sandwich on my first visit. I would have loved to have had more to enjoy with my beef for a little texture & flavor. With this visit I also tried the "pepper water", or at least that's what I think it was called; it is the thin looking orange sauce in an unlabeled bottle on the counter. Whatever it is actually called, if you like hot stuff, GET IT and gently douse your food with it. (Pics below)
For something sweet, with Sidewalk Sweets still out of the picture despite promises to return to DC this week, I visited Sweetbites for a selection of cupcakes. I had been several times before, but today I was impressed with the 12 flavor options to choose from, particularly the salted caramel. The review has been updated along with a picture and Sweetbites has moved from 3 to 3.5 honks! Woohoo!

Earlier this week I made some minor changes to some of the other reviews as I ate at some of the other trucks, and added more pictures. Check it all out.

Happy weekend, folks. Here's to hoping the rain will stop soon.