Category Archives: Food Trucks

Triangleside Kickoff

Wheaton Curbside Kickoff, view from the port-o-potties

Wheaton Curbside Kickoff, view from the port-o-potties

I counted fourteen (out of an advertised nineteen) food trucks in and around the Wheaton Triangle on Saturday for the Curbside Kickoff event.  Were the other five kicked off?  Did they show up later in the day?  Decided they had better places to be?  Between noon and 1:00 the crowds weren’t exactly overwhelming, anyway.  More people later?

Borinquen pork, rice, yum

Borinquen pork, rice, yum

I think DC Ballers, whose falafel was recommended to me, was among the missing trucks, although maybe I just overlooked them.  No falafel in sight, as far as I could tell.  The longest line by far was at Borinquen Lunch Box Puerto Rican truck, so I hopped in line assuming people knew what they were doing.  People did!  Borinquen’s roast pork with onions over “arroz con gandulez” (rice and beans) was flavorful if a bit salty, with plenty of pork, a huge portion overall, solid value at $10.  The empanada de carne ($3.50) was above-average, with a crisp blistered exterior holding the standard beef-pepper mixture. Also, impressive customer service from the superfriendly proprietors, and while I spent probably 20 minutes in line, which I would never do during the workweek downtown, once my order was placed it was ready in just a couple of minutes.

I also tried Lemongrasstruck, which was not among the trucks listed on the Curbside Kickoff website.*  When at Lemongrasstruck, go with the lemongrass chicken, right? It wasn’t particularly redolent of lemongrass, but the chicken was surprisingly moist and tender, with pliant rice noodles and a nice side salad/slaw/pickles.  Another big portion, and this one for $8, excellent value.  Short line, and food here also ready in a hurry.  Another Vietnamese truck, Pho Wheels, was also on site and people were raving about their banh mi, but even I can only eat so much.

Lemongrasstruck lemongrasschicken

Lemongrasstruck lemongrasschicken

* the website also lists one truck as “Danderously Delicious Pies” which might be nice if I were a cat but is perhaps suggestive that sufficient attention to detail has not been paid, by someone.

As I walked to the event I passed numerous Wheaton brick-and-mortar restaurants that did not have many (or any) patrons at noonish on a Saturday.  The one exception was IHOP, whose waiting area was packed.  There is a time for IHOP, and that time is between the hours of one and four a.m., not lunchtime on a Saturday in a town rife with great affordable interesting restaurants AND a food truck gathering.  Get with the ferally urbane program, people.

Seoul Food in Wheaton

Superbowl!

Superbowl!

It’s best, I think, when the restaurant makes the pun for me, so I don’t have to even try.Already operating as a Korean fusion food truck since 2011, Seoul Food opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Wheaton in June 2013, in the gas station on the SW corner of Georgia and University, where the Global African food place used to be.  Seoul Food is an upgrade over Global in all ways: food, service, decor.  Especially service, which was formerly indifferent; the Seoul Food folks are friendly and seem actually happy to be there.  They’re big on locally grown/sourced, organics, etc., all good.

The SF menu includes a bunch of “bowls” of meats (or tofu) and a few other items; the Wheaton location has more non-bowl options than the truck.  The Korean Superbowl is popular: “sticky rice topped with choice of meat or tofu, jalapeno and serrano relish, caramelized kimchi, scallion, queso fresco, cheddar, and Korean salsa roja” (says the menu).  I asked for max spicy and got it, the whole nose-running thing, a good sign.  But the kitchen sink approach to ingredients seems like overkill to me, there’s maybe too much going on, plus the caramelized kimchi is too sweet for my taste.  I would rather just have the spicy meat (excellent pork, in my case) over rice with some (regular not caramelized) kimchi on the side.  I’m not sure the cheese works, and I have rarely if ever been known to turn down cheese.  Having said all that, the flavors all popped, the ingredients were fresh, and I ate the whole thing (except for some cheese and kimchi).

Spicy Tuna Maki (also super)

Spicy Tuna Maki (also super)

Also tried the tuna maki rolls, which the proprietor rolled out as I watched at the counter.  The maki are an unmitigated success: lots of rich spicy tuna puree with slivers of pickled cucumber and arugula (or some other green) in a big rice and seaweed roll.  Almost as good as the one we had at the fabulous Seto Sushi in Richmond BC a few weeks ago, and bigger, for the same price.  Dy-no-mite.  Next time I will try the kimchi bacon omelet (!) and/or the quesadillas.

Seoul Food is on the leading edge of technology by restaurant standards. Their website is miles better than most restaurants websites, and in the store they use Square, which I had read about but never encountered.  The owner threw me for a loop when she asked if she could email my receipt to me.  Once my brain processed the question, I said sure, and it worked like a charm.  I guess it’s time to put Square on my phone.  Does everyone else already use Square all the time?  If I lived on H Street or U Street or something I would probably already know all about this, right?  Or certainly in San Francisco or Brooklyn. Has Huey Lewis’ prophecy come true, and it is now hip to be Square?

Well let’s not get crazy.  But Seoul Food is a welcome addition to the Wheaton food scene, and by the way is totally different from Woomi Garden, despite the fact that both are Korean-focused.  Both are worth a bite.

Food Trucks Poised to Siege Wheaton

We interrupt our parade through Alaska to note the upcoming Curbside Kickoff food truck event to be held in the Wheaton Triangle on Saturday, September 28.   I attended the original Curbside Kickoff in DC in 2010 but despite arriving early, the lines were already so long I walked away empty-stomached.

I’m a bit jaded about food trucks, they’re in the same bucket as Costco gas in the sense of the payoff not being worth the time spent waiting in line.  Exciting five years ago but less so now, and quality is all over the map. Food trucks might be less environmentally damaging than Costco gas stations although maybe it depends on the engine, type of fuel, whether they use biodegradable containers, etc.  I do support and admire the entreprenurial spirit of the food truckers.

Anyway, I will show up if I can. The announcement says “Twenty of the DMV’s favorite food trucks” without really specifying them, but if other sections of the website are to be believed, we know the identity of 19 out of 20:

Feelin’ Crabby
The Cheesecake Truck
Carmen’s Italian Ice
BBQ Bus
Borinquen
Carnivore Barbeque
Ooh Dat Chicken
Pho Wheels
DC Ballers
Dangerously Delicious
Tops
Sweetbites
Scoops2U
Capital Chicken and Waffles
Stix
Tasty Fried
Popped! Republic
Doug the Food Dude
Top Dog

Who will be the mystery 20th truck?  Will there be substitutions? Or was that just a rounding error?  There will also be a “craft beer garden” (Dogfish, Heavy Seas, etc.), entertainment, “truck competitions” (!?) — sounds like a food festival!

Remember also Wheaton’s native food (taco) trucks, Ulizes (on Georgia behind Wheaton Laundromat) and Meylin’s (on Viers Mill between University and Ennals).  Any others?  They’re both good and I bet the lines will be shorter…

Food Trucks: Sauca

Okay, fine, I stand corrected: food trucks do frequent Metro Center these days.  Today I strolled (nice weather!) over to 12th and G, bypassing Eat Wonky, where I would have ordered a dog and poutine but they still weren’t open at 11:45 (fail), and instead ordering a pork banh mi from Sauca. Their slogan is “eat the world,” and indeed they offer a diverse array of dishes, but it turns out the banh mi itself is multicultural, too much so.  It isn’t really trying to be a traditional banh mi, there is no Vietnamese roll, you instead get a choice of rice or naan. So far so good, the naan is fine. Pickled onions and carrots are chunky but less tangy than I had hoped; more spice would be nice; there was plenty of pork but a third of it was fat. Even so, the ingredients themselves were good, and might have meshed well enough except that the whole thing was drenched in cloyingly too-sweet barbecue sauce.  The menu says it should have been a “peanut and Thai coconut” sauce…not even close. I like the idea of a sort of Indian-meets-Vietnamese sandwich, but maybe with curry sauce (or the advertised peanut-coconut sauce — not too sweet though!)  instead of barbecue sauce.  Something sharp and acidic to cut the fatty pork.  Or else just stick with Vietnamese, one culture per dish?  I had to go suck a lime* for dessert to recalibrate my palate. I’ll give Sauca another shot someday but will for sure order differently.

* “Go suck a lime” is not an insult, to me, or a penance of any kind. Lemons too. Lucky for me I keep limes on hand at all times for just this kind of emergency.

Merlindian Cuisine

Metro Center is not ground zero for weekday food trucks but one of my moles went traipsing off to McPherson Square today for Fojol Bros. chow and was nice enough to bring me some.  I’d been wanting to try Fojol food for a while, and was pleased it met expectations: tender chicken; curry had a nice moderate heat (but a little too much something in the flavor profile, cardamom maybe?); butter chicken was rich and above average by Indian lunch buffet standards.  I wouldn’t compare the meal to a nice sit-down Indian restaurant.  And for $7 the portions are large and filling.  Normally Fojol have a 15 minutes line or so, but today thanks to winter’s last gasp plus the Goodness of Friday my mole reported waiting only a few minutes.

Wish the Bros. would come near Metro Center more often.  Come a little closer, said the spider to the fly…

Wheaton’s Other Taco Truck

I knew I wasn’t hallucinating. Wheaton Patch recently reviewed the “Ulizes” taco truck (on Georgia behind Wheaton Laundromat) and I was sure there is a second truck in  Wheaton, on Viers Mill.  And there is: Meylin’s Taqueria y Pupuseria, on VM between University and Ennals, backed up against the south side of Pearle Vision. You don’t need eyeglasses to see Meylin’s brightly colored truck.

Meylin's

Meylin's Taqueria y Pupuseria

What could I do but try a taco and pupusa?

Comida muy sabroso

Taco, Pupusa, y accoutrements

Meylin’s does not appear to have quite as many options as Ulizes, and though combos may be available, they are not advertised on the truck. I figure a larger, multiperson taste test will have to happen eventually, so for my first visit I stuck to just a taco/pupusa combo.  The pork in the taco al pastor was tender and nicely charred; overall good flavor to the taco, which also included onions and a smear of avocado, plus optional radishes, lime juice (from a section of fresh lime) and hot sauce that proved to be quite hot indeed. Pupusa was also good, I got the cheese-pork-beans combo; the balance favored beans, but tasted good, and was less greasy than many pupusas.  I like the little bags of slaw and extra hot sauce that come with the food. Excellent value at $3.50 for both items together.  Ulizes-Meylin’s taste test will happen.

Wheaton Street Food Taco-rama

Wheaton Patch reviews the taco truck that lives behind Wheaton Laundromat (11323 Georgia).  Tacos were the big winner for Patch, and judging by the photos I would agree.  I am remiss in not having tried any of Wheaton’s street food (outside of the annual Taste of Wheaton, which is all street food for a day).  Most days a second taco truck is parked on Viers Mill near the Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center (I’m not imagining that, am I?  Certainly possible that I am having taco truck hallucinations, treatable only by eating more tacos, with maybe a pupusa thrown in for good measure). Not that Wheaton is hurting for brick-and-mortar Mexican/Salvadoran food.  But if the trucks make good comida, then bring it on.