Washignton, DC: The 14 Best Food Trucks in D.C.

Photo by Josh Bassett.

By Alicia Mazzara   |  DCist.com

New food trucks seem to sprout up in D.C. like mushrooms after a heavy rain. When the Fojol Brothers rolled out their first traveling circus of curry, we keep our eyes peeled for reports of every new truck rolling down on the block. Now there are so many, we’ve stopped counting. Our lunch options have blossomed thanks to these meal slingers on wheels, and this wealth of choice just keeps spreading into mobile dinners before a concert, Truckeroo before a ball game, or fourth meal after a few drinks. There are even entire smartphone apps and websites devoted to tracking each truck’s movement in real time. Ultimately, it’s a testament to the burgeoning food truck scene that we can even bring you our unscientific list of the best food trucks in D.C.

Photo by Josh Bassett.
Photo by Josh Bassett.

CHAPAT TRUCK: As a South Asian, it would be irresponsible of me to not point people toward the Chatpat Truck. It specialize ins Indian street food with a focus on North Indian chaat and South Indian dosas (paper thin rice crepes folded around various kinds of deliciousness). And the operators avoid the socially uncomfortable camp of Fojol Bros. —Sriram Gopal

DC SLICES: I have a soft spot for DC Slices. The decision to park outside the Velvet Lounge and Dodge City on Friday nights is a genius move considering that pizza is in higher demand when one is inebriated. Isn’t that the business model behind Jumbo Slice? Not that this is a high bar, but DC Slices is better than Jumbo Slice as evidenced by the fact that it’s just as desirable on a lunch break as it is as a fourth meal. Bonus points for the folks running the truck having an amazing memory in regards to the goings on of repeat customers. —Valerie Paschall

FAR EAST TACO GRILLE: We know Far East Taco Grille keeps popping up on various best-of lists, but it’s because it serves totally delicious and cheap street tacos. With four different types of moist, flavorful meat or tofu, flavorful sauces and salsas, and your choice of corn or flour tortillas, the creative combinations are practically endless. No matter what you get, the fusion of Asian and Latin flavors always feel bright and fresh. —Alicia Mazzara

Photo courtesy of the Hula Girl website.
Photo courtesy of the Hula Girl website.

HULA GIRL: Where else can you get Hawaii comfort food in D.C.? While Hula Girl certainly brings the novelty, I’m always impressed by the quality of the food. Bold flavors, tasty marinated meats, and fresh, crisp veggies characterize the sandwiches and teriyaki plate lunches. The line may be long, but your meal is grilled fresh to order, and yes, it does taste better that way. In an added touch of authenticity, the truck serves spam musubi (spam sushi) and Hawaiian soda from Waialua Sodaworks. —Alicia Mazzara

PHO JUNKIES: Pho never seems conducive to delivery when you can dine in, so how could a food truck do this spicy Vietnamese soup service? Maybe its owners ate some genius brains, but the Pho Junkies nail the crisp freshness that’s integral to the soup’s green ingredients while preserving the buttery heart and soul: the meat. The limited menu keeps it simple: steak ($10), chicken ($10), “all the meats” ($12) or a pick-three-proteins option ($10): get the brisket, skirt flank and meatball. Add on some all-shrimp summer rolls ($5) and ask for extra Sriracha with your plum sauce. Here’s hoping they expand the menu this summer to include Vietnamese iced coffee. —Catherine McCarthy

Photo by @MikeIsabellaDC
Photo by @MikeIsabellaDC

MIKE ISABELLA’S POPEMOBILE: This was a one-day thing last August, and it was also a promotion for some startup food website owned the Food Network, but still, the visual was kind of awesome. Mike Isabella, the one-time Top Chef star and now a rapidly expanding D.C. restaurant boss, spent a day riding around in a glass-enclosed flatbedHabemus papem? Pfft. We can’t even habemus reservations at Kapnos! —Benjamin R. Freed

PHONATION: There are several Vietnamese trucks tooling around D.C., and, thanks to my pho addiction, I’ve made it a personal goal to try all of them. It’s currently far too hot to eat a steamy bowl of fragrant beef broth for lunch, but that doesn’t mean you should miss out on Phonation‘s stellar banh mi. Don’t be put off by the $9 price tag—this sandwich is huge. And if it wasn’t so delicious, I’d say you could make a second meal out of it. The massive crusty baguettes are stuffed with sweet, juicy barbecue pork or chicken, along with the requisite crunchy veggies and buttery mayo. The anatomy of a banh mi is pretty similar across purveyors, but the excellent meat makes this sandwich. —Alicia Mazzara

PHO WHEELS: No matter how you pronounce pho, the Vietnamese noodle dish is one of the most satisfying inexpensive meals out there. There’s no shortage of good pho places in D.C., but for a mobile option I recommend Pho Wheels. Ignore the questionable name and gaudy truck: Pho Wheels’ pork belly bahn mi, which can be served on either a baguette or croissant, more than makes up for it. Make sure to spend the extra dollar and get a fried egg on top. You’re worth it. — Sarah Anne Hughes

Photo by Mr. T in DC.
Photo by Mr. T in DC.

RED HOOK LOBSTER POUND: It never ceases to amaze me how many people will wait in a really long line for seafood served out of the Red Hook Lobster truck. But, in the name of journalistic research, I queued up for a $15 Maine-style lobster roll (the line was 10 people deep at 11:40 a.m. on a Tuesday, so get there early). And you know, hype aside, it’s a pretty damn good sandwich. The lobster is very, very lightly dressed in lemon mayo, and the toasted bun is buttery without being too rich. There’s just enough fat and salt to play up the sweetness in the lobster, but not enough to overpower the flavor and slightly chewy texture. Next time Red Hook is in my neighborhood, I’ll be sheepishly lining up with the rest of them. —Alicia Mazzara

SUNDEVICH TRUCK: Yes, it was a sandwich shop first, but that doesn’t change the fact that SUNdeVICHmakes some of the most creative and exciting sandwiches around. If you don’t live or work near its storefront at 1314 9th St NW, the truck is a great opportunity to experience one of its subs. Get there early to snag a Kingston (jerk chicken, spicy pineapple slaw) or a classic Cubano. —Alicia Mazzara

Via Facebook
Via Facebook

GOODIES FROZEN CUSTARD & TREATS: In a city of transplants, it’s easy to pine for your hometown favorites. Until 2012, getting decent frozen custard—the creamy, wholesome comfort kind mostly found in the Midwestern states (nice try, Shake Shack)—was impossible in the District. Then came Gigi—a restored baby-blue-and-white 1952 Metro van that’s the conveyor of Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats, which serves the best custard concretes this side of St. Louis’ beloved Ted Drewes. Also on offer from Goodies founder Brandon Byrd: sundaes, baked goods such as doughnuts and Bundt cakes, and milkshakes, including a seriously addictive caramel flavor. Byrd and his employees go for retro charm, with dapper outfits and an oldies soundtrack. True custard aficionados will seek out Goodies for the cold stuff, but will be pleased that the always friendly Byrd works hard to connect with his customers, too. The downside to Goodies’ custard? The truck tries to serve a wide swath of areas in the District, and it’s frustrating when you can’t get your fix. Tracking down those concretes is about to get easier: Byrd is working on a second truck that will specialize in doughnuts. —Abra Lyons-Warren

TASTY KABOB: Tasty Kabob‘s fleet of three green trucks regularly fan out over the city delivering massive portions of thin-sliced lamb gyro, juicy grilled chicken, and cumin-laced chickpeas. Be sure to get a healthy lashing creamy dill sauce and the newly reformulated chili-garlic hot sauce. A platter of meat or veggies over rice or salad easily doubles as two meals, and if you can’t decide what to get, ask if they’ll make you a combo platter. —Alicia Mazzara

THAT CHEESECAKE TRUCK: I’ll never forget the first time I found That Cheesecake Truck. I was at a Truckeroo event, searching for perfect after-lunch treat. Enter the good people at Sweetz Cheesecake, who sell perfectly portioned individual cheesecakes that are super creamy and just sweet enough. The truck offers a variety of cheesecake flavors, from lemon drop to black raspberry. But for for this human, nothing can beat the plain, delicious cheesecake. — Sarah Anne Hughes

FOOD TRUCK ASSOCIATION OF METROPOLITAN WASHINGTON: Technically, this is actually more than 100 trucks. But in 2013, perhaps the strongest expression of mobile food vending hasn’t been made on the sidewalks of Farragut Square, but in the corridors of the John A. Wilson Building. For several years, as the food truck industry bloomed, all vendors operated under the District’s rules for ice cream trucks, which haven’t been updated since 1984. But the burgeoning fleet of savory conveyances demanded a modern regulatory regime. It took two years and four revisions of draft regulations, but food trucks are now a lobbying force with which D.C. officials must reckon. The Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington flooded D.C. Council hearings,raised money for publicity and social media campaigns, did a mobile-vendor Lysistrata, and out-maneuvered the brick-and-mortar restaurant industry, before finally getting the regulations it wanted. But after four drafts and a final tweak by the Council, the food trucks got what they wanted: the right to sell you tacos on wheels without racking up parking tickets. —Benjamin R. Freed

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