Totally Pretentious Food Truck Review: BBQ Bus

It’s a boiling hot Thursday afternoon. I’m wearing a white t-shirt (under a cardigan, so it’s subzero work appropriate). And I need lunch.

So it makes sense that I stopped by the BBQ Bus food truck.

It wasn’t meant to happen like this. I had a dentist appointment at noon, after which I planned on swinging by my favorite deli on the 4-block walk back to the office to grab a salad.

But I was engrossed in a writing assignment at work and totally blew through my dentist appointment. Fifteen minutes past the scheduled appointment time, I called to try to convince them to take me in anyway, but no dice.

So again, what better way to celebrate not getting one’s teeth cleaned than by eating stringy meats guaranteed to get caught in one’s teeth?

It was shortly after 1 pm when I trudged out to Farragut Square. But, since it was so late, a lot of the trucks didn’t have lines. I have seen lines in front of the little yellow BBQ Bus before, so I took this as a golden opportunity to try it without the long wait.

The menu was actually pretty impressive. They had all kinds of plates, sandwiches, meat by the pound, and sides. Some of the sides sounded divine, such as black bean and corn salad, potato salad, and on this particular day, fresh watermelon.

I ordered the BBQ Bus sampler ($9.50), which included pulled pork, chicken and brisket, beans, cole slaw and a roll. I had them add on a quarter rack of ribs for $5 more.

They had an official cash register and took credit cards, which is a plus. The drink selection was pretty standard: coke, diet coke, sprite, water.

The food came right out and I perused the sauce options, carefully reading the detailed descriptions. Finally, I just asked, “Do y’all have anything close to a Texas BBQ sauce?” The answer, “We don’t have Texas BBQ sauce, but the closest would be sauce #5, which is smoky and sweet.” It was described as “our tribute to Missouri” and also won an honorable mention at the 2011 Safeway National Capital BBQ Battle. I put some of that in one corner, and some of the sauce #24 –“a tangy sauce with a KICK”– in another corner.

But I was still annoyed at the lack of Texas sauce. How are you going to sell brisket and not have a Texas sauce??

I also noticed that they didn’t have any knives, only forks, which I thought was supremely confident on their part. You mean to tell me your meat is so tender, I’m not going to have any trouble cutting it with just a fork?

All my annoyances and raised eyebrows were soon sated, however, when the charming cashier handed me a wax paper baggie with two warm chocolate chunk cookies in it. “We want to show our customers we appreciate them, so we’re giving out free cookies today,” he said. Alarm bells went off immediately. “Why would you do that?,” I asked. “What do you mean,” he responded. “Well, if you’re giving cookies away, is that a cover for something else? Like, maybe you’re trying to butter me up because you know the food won’t be good?,” I queried. After assurances that there were no ulterior motives afoot, I warily shifted my hot plastic container of meat to my other hand and accepted the cookies.

I walked the three minutes back to my office, making sure to close my office door so no hapless co-workers would have to witness the carnivore carnage about to commence.

I started with the spicy chicken, which was really good. Moist, spicy, tender and already off the bone – a very good start. I know chicken can be notoriously difficult and dried out from the grill, so I was impressed.

I moved on to the pulled pork, which was also very, very good. It had a bit of smokiness, but probably could have used more. It paired the best with the #24 sauce, which was waaaay more than tangy. It was downright vinegary. I didn’t care for it that much, but when paired with the pork, it worked.

The brisket was just ok, but to be fair, I’m a super harsh judge on brisket (we make the best brisket at home on the Big Green Egg). It definitely could have used a thicker crust, but I like a lot of crust on my BBQ. The fact that they had it at all gave them some points in my eyes, and they included a nice fatty piece, which is where all the smoke is at. The #5 sauce was very good with it.

The ribs were a very mixed bag: they were definitely smoked tender and the meat crumbled under my fingers when I was just trying to pick it up. They were pork, obviously, since you can’t hardly get a beef rib in this area. The meat was really good and easy to eat, but this brown molasses-type sauce they slathered all over the top just killed it. It was too sweet and syrupy.

Awesome fluorescent work lighting.

The sides were a mixed bag as well. The beans were horrendous. Overcooked and sickly sweet as well. Eating a spoonful of those right after the ribs could plunge you into a diabetic coma. The slaw was much better, a nice cool, crunchy accompaniment to all that meat, and you could see the little specks of celery seed in their homemade vinaigrette.

The roll was the worst. We won’t even talk about it, except to say store bought and totally soggy by the time I got back to the office.

But the cookies? The cookies were where it was at! They were amazing. I meant to only eat one and give the other one away, but I could not control myself. All that was missing was a glass of milk, but somehow, I made it through and scarfed down both of them.

So overall, decent BBQ, good portions, pretty good price (as far as food trucks go), and obviously, convenient. There aren’t any BBQ places near Farragut Square, so it’s nice to be able to get that.

On the negatives: I would have liked the option of picking my sides, but honestly, I probably would have picked beans and slaw in any case. It’s just nice to have the option. Also: They should ditch the rolls, and the rib sauce. And keep handing out those free cookies.

(Oh, and I somehow managed to keep my white t-shirt relatively clean, despite everything.)

I’d give BBQ Bus three wheels out of four.

All done.

Previous TPFT reviews:

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Totally Pretentious Food Truck Review: Surfside

Hey, you know what we haven’t done in a really long time? A Totally Pretentious Food Truck Review! (read previous TPFTRs here)

It’s not a secret that I can’t pass up a taco. Being from Texas, I consider tacos a delicious and ingenious art form. They’re endlessly adaptable, they’re compact and they can be held in a hand. What’s not to love?

I still love tacos after my recent visit to Surfside Taco Truck, but they seriously tested the limits of that love.

Unlike most food trucks that start life mobile and perhaps, someday, graduate to a brick-and-mortar location (I’m looking at you decliciously wonderful District Taco), Surfside started as a restaurant and unveiled its food truck last October.

Perhaps that’s why the food was so bad. Perhaps they are leftovers from the restaurant.

Things started off well. I went at 12:25 on a sunny Tuesday, right at the height of the lunch time rush. The food smelled divine, so I had no problem making a decision. The line wasn’t too bad, probably about a dozen or so people in front of me and it was moving. It took me about six minutes to order and it’s a pretty easy ordering process. There’s three types of tacos (grilled fish, grilled chicken and pork carnitas), a burrito option and for those watching their waistlines, a bowl option.

I ordered a combination, opting for one grilled fish taco (with corn and black bean salsa, guacamole and lime sour cream) and one pork carnitas (with guacamole and lime sour cream) and paid $9, which is a bit steep for two tacos. I also bought a humongous water for $2. The other drink options were Coke and Diet Coke. Kinda skimpy on the drink options, in my opinion.

My food came out very quick after, probably just a minute or two. They do take credit cards, which is nice. They had forks and napkins set out in front of the truck, but no other condiments. They do apparently have salsa, but you have to ask for it.

On first impression, the rice looked very unappetizing (and hold up – where are the beans? And what about some tortilla chips?). It looked dry and yellow, which I immediately discovered were both true. There were hard grains throughout, and it was very salty. The yellow color was due to all the butter they had sprayed on it, ostensibly to keep it moist. Fail.

The fish taco was very well-prepared, moist and flaky, but it was also very flavorless. The corn and black bean salsa was also not very memorable – maybe some sort of Mexican slaw would be a better choice. And the guacamole was just mashed avocado – no cilantro or any kick to it. There was also some cream sauce in there, but there either wasn’t enough or it was also flavorless.

My disappointment in the fish taco was about to be amplified three-fold by the pork carnitas. They were totally dry and flavorless. And there was this one giant piece of meat I had to break down into bite size pieces. While doing that, I noticed that it was totally overcooked. It was charcoal. The carnitas taco didn’t come with any salsa or anything and it definitely could have used it.

But the true measure of a taco is the tortillas and Surfside disappointed me there as well. Look, I don’t expect every taco truck in DC to make their own tortillas, but at least get some quality tortillas. These, despite being layered with two tortillas, fell apart. Just crumbled.

So, to sum up: not a lot of drink options, no salsa (unless you know to ask for it), no chips, no beans, no dessert options, dry, salty rice, bland guacamole, and flavorless taco fillings (including one so dry you could chip a tooth on it).

I’m going to have to give Surfside Taco Truck zero out of four wheels.

Totally Pretentious Food Truck Review: Lasagna Plus Gets a Big Minus

Last week, I registered for a super important off-site event. I told my bosses all about it, printed out the agenda, remembered to take my digital recorder and reporter’s notebook home over the weekend and looked up directions for where I was going. I sent a reminder email to my bosses and closest co-workers on Friday afternoon, reminding them that I would be in late on Monday morning because I had a super important off-site meeting.

This morning, I double checked the directions, left the house early and hopped on the metro. Then, I walked around and around the firmly locked (and large) auditorium in the 35 degree weather, trying to figure out how to get in to this super important off-site event.

Finally, after circling the large auditorium three times, I found a security guard smoking a cigarette outside and asked him how to get in. He said he was not aware of any event that day. While huffily pulling out my printed agenda, I caught a glimpse of the date, which was two full weeks from now.

Typical Poe Move (patent pending. Wait, do moves require patents or trademarks? UGH. Intellectual property rights are so confusing!)

And, because I did not want to show up to my super important off-site event carrying my Bloomingdales little brown bag lunch carrier, I did not bring my lunch to work today. So, when my co-worker T2 asked if I wanted to go check out the food trucks and grab lunch, I was on board (even though it was still freezing outside).

And that’s how we ended up at Lasagna Plus.

There weren’t a lot of trucks in Farragut Square. And, from afar, I only saw a small square yellow truck, so for a second, I thought it was my beloved CapMac. But since neither T2 nor I had ever heard of, let alone, tried Lasagna Plus, we decided to go for it.

They had several types of lasagna to choose from, including a Sicilian with ground beef, peas and eggs, and a Florentine with spinach and cabbage. Now, I don’t like eggs, peas or cabbage in my lasagna, so T2 and I split a mushroom lasagna and a classico.

The pricing was straight forward – $8 per lasagna. For $10, you could get a combo which includes your choice of lasagna, salad, chocolate chip cookie and a soda. The sodas were pretty generic, just Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite, I think.  The chocolate chip cookies was the only desert option.

Both lasagnas were horrible. Overcooked and mushy. The mushroom version reminded me of mushroom stroganoff, which I do like, but I don’t want my lasagna to pass for stroganoff. And the classico, which had beef, was slightly better, but tasted like bad buffet lasagna. The parmesan and the tomato sauce both tasted like they were out of a can.

Both lasagnas were oversalted, and I swore I reeked of garlic for the rest of the afternoon. Nothing fresh, appetizing, or good here.

T2 was similarly unimpressed. She said she would guest blog a review and it would say, “Don’t go to the Lasagna Plus food truck. Terrible. Ugh.”

I’d have to agree. The guys running it were very nice and the service was fast and friendly, but none of that can make up for the awful food.

I have to give Lasagna Plus zero tires out of four tires.

Totally Pretentious Food Truck Review: Sol Food in Vieques

Let’s go international for this Totally Pretentious Food Truck Review! Actually, Puerto Rico isn’t international, but whatever. It was tropical, and so was the food at Sol Food in Vieques.

Sol Food is on the corner of a busy intersection on the road to the National Wildlife Refuge. Now in its third season, Sol Food is open Thursday through Sunday, from 11 am to 4 pm. Nice hours if you can get them. We went on a Thursday at around 1 pm.

For this food truck meal, I had a very special guest, fellow food critic and lover of all things pork, XFE humored me by ordering a few things for scientific and journalistic purposes.

The menu was quite varied and reflected the aesthetic of the island. There were sandwiches, wraps, vegetarian dishes, empanadas, as well as baked goods in the form of brownies and gingerbread.

XFE, of course, ordered the pork carnitas ($6), which came two to an order and included tomato, lettuce and a sour cream sauce. I ordered the Bob Marley ($9), a jerk chicken sandwich with pineapple chutney. We also ordered a ham and cheese empanada ($3) to share. I ordered a guava sun tea ($1.50). They also had a huge selection of exotic sounding and colorfully labeled island sodas, including a coconut soda, but despite my pleas, XFE ordered only water.

Unlike previous TPFTRs, I did not rush back to my cubicle to partake of this island feast. Instead, XFE and I retired to the area behind the truck, which was replete with white plastic patio furniture. While we waited for our feast, we were regaled by the sound of barking dogs and crowing roosters. Finally, after about a five minute wait, our food arrived.

The empanada was gorgeous, fried to a dark golden crust, with huge chunks of ham and gooey cheese inside. A few dashes of Wiley’s Essence of Chernobyl hot sauce (named after the proprietors’  Siberian Husky) was the perfect vinegary complement.  It was a great start.

XFE’s carnitas were delicious and generous. The hearty flour tortillas strained under the juices of the smoky meat, but held impressively strong.

The chicken in my Bob Marley was tender and juicy, but my bread had a bit harder time holding up to the juices. And, there wasn’t enough jerk spice to stand up to the sweetness of the pineapple chutney. I liked it, but I would willingly try something else next time.

It was a solid lunch. $20 is not bad for two people, including drinks. They had friendly service, good flavors and selection, and a convenient location with plenty of parking and seating. I’d give Sol Food a strong two out of four wheels.

Totally Pretentious Food Truck Review: CapMacDC

Hey, you know what we haven’t done in a long time? A Totally Pretentious Food Truck Review!

Don’t get me wrong….I haven’t stopped eating at food trucks. Don’t be silly. Of course I have been. I’ve just been writing about other things.

But, I’m in Puerto Rico this week, swimming with fishies (mmmm, fish tacos from Surfside. A future TPFTR, for sure).

So, this seems like a perfect time to bring back TPFTR and do a review of my very, very favorite, hands down food truck: CapMacDC.

I love these guys. I love these guys like Jessica Simpson loves being pregnant. I love CapMacDC like Kardashians love attention. I love CapMac like Real Housewives love bling, wine and cat fighting. I want to marry them, divorce them and then marry them again.

Yeah, I’m kinda obsessed with CapMac.

Let’s just think about this: It’s macaroni and cheese. I mean. Come. On! Who doesn’t have memories of making macaroni and cheese. My sister and I loaded it with butter, a tiny splash of milk and that wonderful orange cheese powder, fighting over who got to lick the inside of the packet. And these guys are doing that childhood favorite and making it all fancy, huh?

It’s fancy because the chef is straight up official – Chef Arnoff worked at Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak at the Four Season’s DC and for James Beard Award winning chef, Barbara Lynch.

I’ve eaten at CapMacDC a number of times, over a variety of seasons. I’ve stood impatiently in many, many lines, under blazing sunshine and in cold temps, and as a result I’ve sampled many of the delectable items on the menu. Because the lines are always so, so long, I usually order two items and then eat them over several days.

And I’ve discovered that CapMacDC is good fresh. And they’re good leftover. They would be good off the damn sidewalk, probably.

We’ll start with the obvious: the $6 Classic CapMac’n Cheese. You can get it one of three ways, plain (as if anything from CapMac could be considered “plain”) with cheddar, pimento and Cheez-It crumbs on top; “sloppy” with a meat sauce for $2 extra; or “balls out” with meat balls for $2 extra. We’re not talking side portions either. These are nice, large brown cardboard containers of delicious, cheesy, gooey goodness.

The macaroni is al dente, topped with a gooey orange mass of cheese and topped with crushed Cheez-Its. I get mine sloppy, and the texture of the meat, Cheez-Its, and pasta is rich and satisfying.

I’ve had the Chicken Parm Meat Balls ($9), a revelation of house ground chicken and parmesan meat balls, rigatoni in red sauce, topped in provolone béchamel . The quattro of tiny meat balls gets a nice boost from its tart-sweet tomato sauce and the creamy bechamel.

This last summer, I was quite disappointed by the menu (they actually didn’t have the classic, I think) but I went ahead and tried the Weiner Mac ($9). Oh. My. Sausages. It’s basically the classic CapMac’n Cheese topped w/ locally made all beef brat and caramelized onions and crushed Lays potato chips. And it was served cold. The pasta was soft and creamy, the brats were plump, and the entire entrée was complemented by a tantalizing cheese sauce. I did not think I would even like it. Now I’m starting a one-person Occupy CapMac Movement to try to get it back on the menu.

My most recent visit I got the Classic CapMac and the Marco Bolo ($8), a traditional Italian beef Bolognese with fresh herbs, parmesan and a touch of cream. The pasta was excellent – smooth al dente ribbons in a portion that was just the right size. I enjoyed the spiciness of the Bolognese sauce and could see all the fresh herbs in the dish.  And despite the cold weather (it was mid-November), the pasta was still piping hot when I got it back to the office.

There are still a few things I haven’t tried, such as the goat cheese mac. I also regret not trying the rice pudding when it was on the menu last summer. I think having a desert option (which they don’t currently have) is a very smart move.

Couple of other things: Bring cash, they don’t take card. Soda/water selection is basic and limited.

And the lines are generally long. That’s just the way it is. Don’t expect to just walk up to the window. Don’t go there if you have an important conference call in 15 minutes. But once you put your order in (and I do suggest you order multiple items), things move along pretty quickly.

I have to give CapMacDC a resounding four out of four wheels. Hell, I might bump them up to a Doolie and give them six out of six wheels.

NOTE: I wrote this review right around the time of CapMacDC’s first anniversary (November – hence the sweet CapMacDC tote bag you see in the pictures).

But I have recently been contacted by CapMac’s Chef Vicky, who says she’s a fan of the blog and has offered me a free lunch. I have not taken her up on it yet (but you bet your sweet ass I will), but I just wanted to disclose that so no one thinks that influenced my review at all.

My love for CapMac is well documented throughout the blog here and here, for example. But I still wanted to publish my review without the graft influence. Not that I’m above some graft, wink, wink. OK. I will shut up now.

Happy eating fools! Hopefully I’m on a beach in Puerto Rico somewhere eating some lechon!

Totally Pretentious Food Truck Review: Sixth & Rye

I’m not trying to alienate people or anything, but I just don’t get corned beef.

Being from Texas, I just don’t understand how anyone can do that to a perfectly good brisket. In my opinion, brisket is made to be smoked, not soaked in salty liquid.

So perhaps, Sixth & Rye was not a good choice for me on a Friday about 2 weeks ago. To be fair, I wasn’t intending to go to Chef Spike Mendelson’s kosher deli food truck. I haven’t been too impressed with his other endeavors, We The Pizza and Good Stuff Eatery (lackluster except for the amazing marshmallow shake). But, the line to my favorite truck Cap Mac was, per usual, ridiculously long, despite the fact that I had waited until after 1 pm in hopes that the line would have died down. Alas, alack, no.

There was, however, a short line of about six people at Sixth & Rye, and a two earnest young people on hand to help you navigate the vast menu. When I say vast, I mean a grand total of two types of sandwiches – the “signature” smoked corned beef ($9) and the seasonal grilled veggie wrap ($7). TWO.

Nevermind, I thought to myself, there are some intriguing side dishes to spice up the over-priced sandwiches. I was immediately informed that they were out of the fresh-cut chips. Bummer, but understandable since I was there at 1:15. Hey, I get it: I’m late to the party.

I’ll save my $2 and put it toward something else, perhaps the Israeli Couscous Salad ($4). The helpful young girl guiding the line suggested it was quite delicious. Ah, nope. Too late. During my short stint in the line, they had also run out of that.

OK, well, surely there’s the Sixth & Rye slaw to look forward to. I’m next at the window and they haven’t run out yet. And, how can you run out of slaw, for crying out loud. Eeep. Spoke too soon. They inform me as I get to the head of the line that they are indeed out of slaw. No $3 cool cabbage and carrots to counteract my salty sandwich.

But…they’re happy to inform me that they do still have pickles available. For a dollar. Now, I’m off the opinion that sandwiches, especially deli sandwiches, should just come with a pickle, no? Is that too much to ask when I’m forking over $9 for a deli sandwich?

I noticed (quite excitedly) that they had Dr. Brown’s sodas. But, as was the theme for the day, they were out of the advertised diet crème soda. Fine. I’ll take regular. Only, when I got back to work, turns out, it is diet. Okie dokie then.

The website says they have desserts, but no one was pushing them that day. If they had been, I probably would have bought some challah for $5.

I helped the young man do the math on my order of a signature corned beef sandwich, an overpriced pickle and drink. I paid $12 for a signature corned beef sandwich, (the only other option was a vegetarian sandwich), a pickle and a drink. I guess I should be glad they ran out of sides, otherwise I’m pretty sure I would have gotten out of there $20 lighter.

The sandwich itself was a bit messy and very salty, and yet, surprisingly bland at the same time – truly odd. Perhaps that’s the “signature” they speak of? The meat texture was chewy and stringy – very hard to eat. And the spicy mustard was overpowering. I thought corned beef was served with Russian dressing. The rye bread was very light, not the traditional rye, but I don’t mind that so much. Like I said, the mustard overpowered everything. I also feel like a slice of cheese would’ve gone a long way in evening out the saltiness.

The pickle was awful, totally lacking in flavor. Not the nice crisp kosher pickle I would expect.

I admit, some of the shortcomings I’m complaining about are all my fault — I was very late. But the items they did have, just weren’t very good. And while I appreciate the fact that Sixth & Rye is made possible in part by a grant from The Natan Fund, which supports innovative projects that are shaping the Jewish future, I’m not on board with this food truck.

I give them two out of four wheels. Grudgingly at that.

Funny side note: when I was throwing out (most) of my salty lunch, I noticed the name Nancy Brito stamped on the bottom of my deli bag. I’m intrigued…..who are you Nancy Brito? Are you endorsing this sandwich? I’d like to know more. Where are you from and why is your name on my bag? What are your dreams, your goals, your ambitions? Do you like corned beef?

Totally Pretentious Food Truck Review: Eat Wonky

Eat Wonky is the self-described “Best Food Truck Ever.” You have to give it to ‘em — they’re a confident bunch. And judging by the line I see most days when they come to Farragut Square, I thought they might just bump my personal favorite, Cap Mac, off its’ mighty perch.

But alas, alack, no. Cap Mac is safe, high up on the Mount Food Truck Olympus.

The truck on a sunny day.

I came across a Wonky truck with no line on a recent Thursday when it was pissing down rain and I was running an errand. Seems no one wanted to venture out. The bright blue and orange truck was parked across the street from Farragut Square and directly in my path. So, even though I was juggling a very large, framed wedding gift and an umbrella, the lure of no line at one of the most popular food trucks was too much to resist.

Now, not only was I a Wonky virgin, but I had never had poutine. Or this “squeaky cheese” business. But I know a lot of good folks from Wisconsin, land of the squeaky cheese, so I had pretty high hopes. For those who don’t know, poutine is a dish that originated in Quebec and consists of french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy.

The menu was quite varied in price and range, and hit all the culinary highlights: they had Wonky dogs (all-beef frank on a warm toasted roll topped with fries, squeaky cheese and gravy), Poutine fries (natural cut French fries topped with squeaky cheese and gravy), regular fries, grilled cheese (squeaky cheese with crushed red pepper and basil on a Panini-grilled hoagie roll). For dessert this day, there were two types of whoopee pies – traditional chocolate or lemon raspberry.

The grilled cheese sounded delightful on a blustery day; and of course I had to go for their signature dish, the poutine fries.

My total for poutine fries ($5.50), a grilled cheese ($5.50), a chocolate whoopee pie ($3) and drink was $15.50. It was a tiny bit expensive, I think. No matter, I handed over my rain-sodden money and waited expectantly.

The fries were assembled right away, but the grilled cheese was cooked to order. Still, I had to wait only a few minutes for my grilled cheese. The transporting system was a bit dodgy. It was comprised of little cardboard food boats covered with foil. Could be a big problem if you had your hands full, which mine were. Nevertheless, I got back to the office safely and tucked in.

Wimpy food boats can't stand up to the assault I'm about to lay down on this lunch.

My initial thought was: hmmm, this sandwich doesn’t seem very warm. And yet, the bread is kinda soggy. Not the toasty hoagie roll I had envisioned. Maybe the foil trapped in the moisture? But keep in mind, I walked about 3 blocks back to my office with my lunch. Hardly a marathon.

I think if you look through my huble telescope here, you can juuuuust make out the red pepper and basil.

The cheese was definitely melted, just not hot. But most disappointing was the fact that there was no sign of either basil or red pepper, which I had been excited about. It looked like there might have been a scattering of some kind of seasoning mix, which I’m guessing is the Wonky version of basil and red pepper? Very disappointing. It’s rare that I think, “I should have had the food cart hotdog,” but that was my sentiment upon ingesting this sad sandwich.

The fries on the other hand were a wonder, and appeared to come out of an entirely different kitchen. A regional classic of hearty golden fries, layered with a complex and pungent cheese and finished with a silken brown gravy to offset the creamy cheese and earthy potatoes, the poutine left me wanting more.

Yes my lovelies, bring your delicious saltiness to me.

Another slight culinary miscue was the whoopee pie. When I opened it, I noticed it had that lovely sheen that well-crafted and moist cakes often have. But when I bit into it, it was a little crumbly (ie: dry), making it very difficult to eat at one’s desk without wearing it on one’s professional attire.

The cream filling was light and plentiful, good cake to filling ratio. All in all, still satisfying, if a bit large. I couldn’t finish it. You can’t hate on a whoopee pie: it just didn’t overwhelm this reviewer. I know it might get guffawed, but I wouldn’t mind a half whoopee. Then I might also have the option of trying more than one, as an added bonus.  

As I said, Eat Wonky had a lot of menu choices, including different sizes, and they had all the standard Coke drinks. Drink options are huge in my book. And, they had a dessert option which was very, very smart. They’re also big supporters of the community, including the DC Roller Derby and lots of local bands, which I respect.

Overall a mixed bag. I’d give them 3 out of 4 wheels, and I’d definitely try the hot dog the next time. And bring lots of cash.

Totally Pretentious Food Truck Review: Fojol Bros. of Merlindia

One of the forefathers of the food cart revolution here in DC, the Fojol Brothers began serving their unique travelling culinary carnival to hungry masses during the Obama inauguration. Pure genius. I don’t know if you remember the inauguration, but it was freezing cold. And crowded. And people needed to eat. So good on the Brothers for being innovators.

Also: The Fojol Brothers and they’re truck are fun. Delightful even. They wear bright and colorful costumes, fake mustaches. They play music and put quilts out in the park on which they invite patrons to sit and eat their lunch.

I partook of the Fojol Brothers repast once last summer. I remembered two things: the service was pitifully slow and the food was quite messy. They improved on one area, but alas, not the other.

On the service, I’m relieved to see they’ve gotten their act together. I got there at 12:30 on a Tuesday afternoon. It was a fine, if sunny day, and I picked Fojol’s because the line was in the shade. There. I said it. It wasn’t because I wanted to give them another chance at impressing me. It was because my comfort had beaten out my stomach.

Despite the presence of a fairly substantial line, Fojol’s was fast. Harkening back to my previous messy experience, I bound back to the office with my food in hand 10 minutes after my arrival.

On to the menu: Fojol offers entrees in 3 sizes – an amuse bouche size that they call, “dingo” ($2), a plate with two choices ($7) and a plate with three choices ($9).

They offer two meat dishes – this day, it was butter chicken and curry chicken, and three vegetables – the mysterious “mix,” pumpkin and lentils. They also have lassipops for $2 but the only flavor left when I got there this time was ginger.

I picked the three choice option, and was served multiple dishes that evocatively showcased the culinary expertise of said Brothers. All of this bounty was resting on a bed of fragrant basmati rice. An awful lot of rice – too much, actually.

My first impression when my food was handed to me was that this biodegradable hippie container is not equipped to handle this saucy food. It felt quite unstable.

Upon opening said container, I was presented with a large mound of food that looked rather the same. I could hardly distinguish between the lentils and the pumpkin.

Let’s start with our meat course, in my case, the butter chicken. Butter chicken is Indian dish where chicken that is marinated in a yogurt based marinade filled with aromatic spices is served in a buttery and creamy tomato based sauce. Fojol’s butter chicken was a full flavored dish that was uncompromisingly meaty with more than a hint of creamy spiciness.

The lunch went a bit downhill from there. The lentils (green) were swimming unabashedly in liquid. They were overcooked and mushy, making each mouthful a painful exercise in mastication. Maybe the choice of a different, more complexly textured lentil would have provided the saving grace.

And what of the pumpkin, you ask? The overall texture of the pumpkin side dish was a bit off-putting. I felt like I was partaking of some fine foods from the Gerber collection. The pumpkin was very baby-food-ish. Only a couple chunks of recognizable pumpkin in this sad little dish.

Overall, I was not impressed with my two visits to the Brothers Fojol. Despite their illustrative history and their joie de vivre, their dishes remain chaotic and uneven.

Coupled with the fact that they offer no naan (my favorite part of an Indian meal) and no drink options (No fine wines or delicate sparkling waters to cleanse the palate!), I’m afraid I can only muster two wheels out of four.

Totally Pretentious Food Truck Review: Pi Pizza

Pizza. Is there any other more controversial food product? On the face of it, this should not be the case. It’s nice and round, no sharp edges. It’s made to be shared with friends and loved ones.

However, pizza is also a distinctly individual thing. Thick or thin crust? What toppings? Can you just put onions on one half? Crumbled or patty sausage? These are the things that cause fights to break out.

Since pizza is such an individual thing, Pi Pizza isn’t going to appeal to everyone. They did, however, appeal to my friend and reader T2, who suggested I do a TPFT review for the blog. She’s a notoriously picky eater, so I knew it must be pretty good.

Like many in DC, Pi Pizza is a transplant. They have a restaurant and truck in St. Louis, and began rolling here in DC at the end of February. And they’re opening a restaurant in Penn Quarter this week called District of Pi. www.pi-dc.com/

Pi Truck specializes in deep dish pizza pies, your choice of 4 types for $12 a pop. Pi serves up Chicago style pizza, deep dish crust, lots of toppings, and covered in tomato sauce. What Pi does differently is the crust. They make it with cornmeal, which gives it a distinct nutty flavor.

I let my nose lead me to Pi Truck on a recent Tuesday, the smell of garlic and marinara drifting through Farragut Square. I perused the menu, which is not expansive. There was a vegetarian option, the Western Addition, which contained spinach, feta, mozzarella, mushrooms, onions.  There was also a plain cheese. Unfortunately, Pi’s meat option with pepperoni, sausage, salami and meatballs was just down to pepperoni. So, I went with the Southside, which contained sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions.

Pi also had better than average drink selection, with sparkling water options. I ordered a Pellegrino Orange for $1, gave the young man my money and waited 8 minutes for my pizza. As advertised, my pizza came out right on time.

The pizza was individually-sized but large enough for two lunches. The crust was nice and crunchy and topped with a layer of cheese, a layer of toppings and then topped with marinara. For me, there was not enough cheese. The Chicago style pizzas I’ve had all featured a big layer of ooey gooey cheese. The marinara was very good, pure tomato sharpness, great paste-like texture and definitely fresh. However, it overwhelmed the other toppings. I could barely taste the sausage and onions, and couldn’t at all taste the peppers and mushrooms.

The crust and the sauce really made the pizza. The cornmeal crust was sturdy enough to let you stuff your face without spilling toppings everywhere, which was much appreciated when you’re trying to eat in professional clothes.

I appreciated the pepper and Parmesan cheese packets they give  you but it would have been nice if they also gave out napkins. I also really appreciated the fact that they posted their schedule up on Mondays, so you can plan ahead. And, they take credit cards, which is always nice.

I’d give Pi Pizza Truck three out of four wheels. Overall, it was a pleasant experience, at a very good price, and a good, not great, pizza. I would try it again, hopefully on a day when they had a meat lovers option, so I can see if the meat stands up to the sauce. I don’t want to recommend they tone down the sauce, but maybe amp up the cheese and fillings. Also, maybe some other options, like a couple of salads or something might appeal to folks.

Totally Pretentious Food Truck Review: Sol Mexican Grill

This was supposed to be for last Friday, but my brain-eating amoeba fear took precedent. I’m still here, thank goodness.

Sol Mexican Grill has been described repeatedly as “Chipotle on wheels.” This is pretty accurate. The distinctive black truck with the red and yellow flame design began rolling in March and was at Farragut Park last Thursday. I went out in search of sustenance at 12:25. The line was fairly long, but not super long. Probably about 8-10 people in front of me.

The menu is simple: tacos, burrito or a bowl, all for $7 each. I went with the bowl. There were four protein options: chicken, steak, carnitas or veggies. I went with the carnitas. There were tons of toppings – sour cream, lettuce, corn, rice, beans, cheese, pico, green (medium) or red (hot) salsa, all free. The guacamole was $1.50 extra. There were no chips, however, a bit of a disappointment. They also had Jarritos sodas for $1.50. Bonus points for opening the drink for me. Theres’ nothing worse than getting back to work and realizing you need an opener.

The wait went fast: I had ordered, paid, picked up, and was on my way by about 12:35.

Upon first presentation, I worried that my carnitas bowl woudl be too small, but it actually turned out to be quite filling. In part because there was quite a bit of rice, which was not very flavorful at all. The carnitas were good and smoky, but it was kinda clumped on the side. I prefer a bit more even distribution. Overall, the bowl was good, if a bit watery toward the bottom. I would have liked a bit more cheese as well. And the salsa was a bit unremarkable. It wasn’t exactly bland, but it wasn’t life-changing either.

I give it 2 out of 4 wheels. It did the job, but I’m not sure I’d go back anytime soon. Areas of improvement – How about some chips? Also, better straining of the liquid toppings. Better, more careful distribution . Also: would a little cumbia music hurt? Maybe a second bean option – not everyone is into black beans. And maybe a dessert option, like a churro. Man, I totally would have bought a churro.

Any DC folks out there with recommendations for Totally Pretentious Food Review? Is there a truck you’ve been curious about? Folks from outside DC: are food trucks popular in your town? Any unique ones? Tell me about it!