Food Trucks


Ganging up on Food Trucks


Fojol Bros, a popular D.C. Food Truck.

This is disappointing, short-sighted and a few other words I’m not allowed to type; Councilmember Muriel Bowser (Ward 4) is thinking about emergency legislation to prohibit new food trucks while taxing the existing mobile nom-purveyors who got in while the getting was good. But, wait! There’s more (via WCP)!

Indeed, D.C. Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Janene Jackson confirms that she’s teamed up with the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington and the Apartment and Office Building Association to ask for the cap, as well as a 10 percent sales tax, since proposed regulations that would govern food trucks are unsatisfactory.

“It’s not that we don’t want mobile food vendors,” Jackson said. “We’re in a deficit, and if bricks and mortars have to pay up, then we all have to pay up.”

My colleague Alan Suderman is also hearing that the issue could come up as soon as tomorrow’s Council legislative meeting, where members will be voting on a plan to close the budget shortfall.

I’m reminded of Love Bites, the truck I profiled here which is run by a local, African-American, mother-daughter team, who are using family recipes to create something delightful. It’s unfortunate that the City Council would bow to pressure from the Chamber of Commerce and the Restaurant Association to bully entrepreneurs. Yes, we need to address the budget– but if that’s all this were about, then they’d be talking about just taxes (which is understandable), not taxes AND a moratorium (which is not).

KNS Video: Jack Evans on Food Truck Regulations

Below the jump, you’ll find a video from WAMU’s The Kojo Nnamdi Show, featuring a brief discussion on food trucks. It stars Council member Jack Evans, the Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis and KNS regular/NBC 4 reporter, Tom Sherwood.

As someone who has spoken to food truck owners for this blog, I’m dismayed that “official” D.C. is so inhospitable to them. They increase the diversity of food offerings in this town, trek out to feed under-served neighborhoods and create a much lower barrier to starting a business– which is helpful if you’re young, a person of color, etc. Thankfully, Kojo points out in the video below that if we want “to be considered a major city”, food trucks are a part of that. The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis also thinks that trucks are an asset to D.C.
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Love Bites Food Truck: A Sweet Idea from Native Washingtonians

Remember when I mentioned the Love Bites food truck on Monday? Unlike the majority of trucks I’ve wandered up to, Love Bites is run by an African-American, Mother-Daughter duo and powered by local recipes. I had serendipitously discovered them on U Street, on Saturday, while taking my puppy for a walk; shortly thereafter, I tried my first Sweet Potato cupcake, ever– and I’m a believer. I spoke to Tima of Love Bites, today; she’s the younger half of the team behind the truck. Love Bites will be at Planet Pet’s “Grand Opening Party” in Adams Morgan tomorrow, November 6th.

How did Love Bites get started?

We actually formed the business in April but had to go get the truck, paint it and everything. So we were established in April, but were on the road four weeks ago.

What inspired you to start?

My mom has been in catering and event planning for over ten years, and we always wanted to start a Mother-Daughter business together. First we were going to do cookies, but I said I loved cupcakes. I was going to different cupcake places in D.C., all the time.

What happened to the cookies?

Last May, I went on a business trip and saw a mobile cookie truck in Columbia, South Carolina. It was called Insomnia. They basically go to the nearby colleges and deliver late night cookies to students who are studying. They make the cookies on their truck, so when they give them to you, they are still warm. So we thought of franchising, but we wanted to do something of our own.

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On My Radar: Love Bites

DC Love Bites

The cupcake which made me a fan of sweet potato-based desserts!

On Saturday evening, I took my costume-clad puppy for her usual nightly walk around the neighborhood. We weren’t Trick-or-Treating, but I ended up going home with something delightful and sweet anyway– a free cupcake! Anyone who reads DCentric knows that I love food trucks, and I thought I knew all of the rolling players, from the purveyors of sought-after, coveted Lobster Rolls to the trucks that cruelly aren’t allowed in the city yet.

But as we strolled down U street, I did a double-take at the big red van parked across from Ben’s. I had neither seen nor heard of Love Bites and as we walked up, the owner jumped out and asked if she could take a picture of my dressed-up pup. Flattered, I said, “Of course!” I was shocked when she handed me a free, “signature” cupcake, as a treat.

“It’s sweet potato with cream-cheese frosting”.

…and then I was surprised for the second time in five minutes. Long before I ran around and tried to sample every DC food truck’s fare, I was a cupcake-fiend whose Yelp take on Baked and Wired was once “Review of the Day”. I have a ridiculous sweet tooth, and I thought I had heard of every cupcake variation or flavor possible.

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How to Track Food Trucks without Twitter

One of you asked me how to find food trucks in D.C. without using Twitter, the micro-blogging service which serves up news, views and naval-gazing over-sharing in 140 characters or less; that’s a fair question. Not everyone wants to deal with Twitter, even if it’s the primary way these trucks communicate their locations.

One option is available via the Best Bites blog from Washingtonian magazine, which says “Every morning, we’ll let you know where the area’s food trucks are rolling.”

Handy! The feature even tells you which trucks are taking the day off from slinging treats– today, those would include EatWonky (sure to be beloved at American U), Fry Captain and TaKorean.

Me? I’ll just be happy when the trucks show up near Columbia Heights or Tenleytown, since I tend to miss them because they go everywhere else. Sigh. If only Curbside Cookoff happened monthly. A hungry blogger can dream, can’t she?

Food Truck-palooza ends today, at 8pm.

Gautham Nagesh

You don't even need cutlery for most Curbside noms.

If you were looking for something fun to do today, you may want to head to the Curbside Cookoff at 11th and H Streets NW. Although the “most popular Food Trucks in D.C.” have been serving everything from sandwiches to sweets since 11 am, this evening, from 5-8pm there will be live dance performances and music.

Trust me when I say that you will be grateful for the distraction, as your food is prepared. That’s how I felt yesterday, when I waited for a delicious District Taco.

I was in line for about thirty minutes, which flew by because of all the people watching– the event was packed. Once at the front, I  was told that our tacos would be made to order and considering how slammed they were, that might take a little while. It all seemed so festive, I barely cared. I took my number and wandered over to the stage and watched hand-dancing, break-dancing and finally line-dancing.

The best thing about Curbside Cookoff is how it took on the feeling of a neighborhood block party– in the middle of buttoned-up, downtown D.C. By the time the dancing was over, my tacos were ready– and well-worth the almost year-long wait. I have seen some complaints on Twitter about the lines (true) and the lack of vegetarian options (not true– I could’ve had pizza, Sauca, Indian food and more if I didn’t want tacos). The lines are long; there’s no denying that. But this is a one-off event meant to celebrate Food Trucks, so it’s not comparable to trudging out of your office during a regular work day to grab something portable, to go.
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Curbside Cookoff is a hit.


Several hundred people are still happily waiting in very long lines for grub from D.C.’s 20 best food trucks, as of 6:45. Though some trucks are already out of treats, the event will continue until 9pm, at 11th and H streets nw. If you are busy today, it resumes tomorrow, at 11am.

p.s. Check out our review of the event, here!

Red Hook Lobster Truck: The Interview

So remember way back on Monday, when I blogged about Council member Tommy Wells’ tweet? The one which admonished the red-hot Lobster Roll truck for doing business near Eastern Market without paying a vendor fee? It also mentioned Lobster Roll patrons shamelessly devouring their sought-after seafood at Marvelous Market’s tables. Well, it is irrelevant whether you remember it at this point because I just recapped it all. Handy!

I said I would reach out to Red Hook Lobster Truck to find out more and I did. We eventually connected late Tuesday afternoon, when I had a very long conversation with co-owner Leland Morris about “The Food Truck War”, his business philosophy and whether or not they let people get tacky and mooch Marvelous seating.

The first thing Leland said to me was this, and it set the tone for the entire interview: “We do everything by the book and in the spirit of the community we’re doing business with. We want to put positive energy out there. We do this because we love the positive experience people are having.”

What would you take away from that intro, DCentric readers? Yeah. Positivity. Morris was upbeat and up front. He sounded ready to answer any question I might pose. He also sounded…nice. I found myself hoping that he had a great explanation for Wells’ tweet…
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No Word from Lobster Truck

A quick non-update regarding yesterday’s post about the Lobster Truck doing unfair things this weekend at Eastern Market. I reached out to Red Hook Lobster yesterday and promptly received this tweet:

…as well as two emails to coordinate a time to talk. Nice! The last email said the line had ended early, and they’d call me around 1:30. When they called me at 2pm, they were somewhere very loud AND they were suddenly busy with customers again so I offered to speak to them later in the evening– they said around 6pm. I waited (as did my puppy, whose trip to the dog park was being delayed in the interests of investigative non-journalism)…and waited. No word. At 7:30, I gave up and grabbed a leash. I’ll try again today. I’d really like to hear their side of things; I know some of you would, too.

Word to Tommy Wells

Just saw the following tweet from Ward 6 Council Member, Tommy Wells. If true, this is unfortunate (and I’m usually on the side of Food Trucks):

Via Tommy Wells Twitter account

Considering the heated, ongoing food truck war, this is the last thing trucks should do. The strongest argument that brick and mortar restaurants make against mobile purveyors of noms is that the status quo is unfair, mostly because of the different taxes food trucks pay vs. traditional restaurants. If a truck is avoiding paying a vendor fee, that’s unfair, as well.

Also– allowing customers to cannibalize another establishment’s amenities in order to chow down on $15 lobster rolls? That’s…tacky. One would expect more from both the purveyors and patrons of such a WASP-y concept. My word, I’m clutching my pearls, as I type. I’ve reached out to Lobster Truck DC for comment, will update you all if I receive one.

UPDATE: I spoke to Lobster Truck for a few minutes this afternoon, but they couldn’t hear me/seemed unavailable, so I asked them to call me later this evening. I’ll keep you posted.