Navigating DC’s Best Food Trucks: A Guest Post by Mike Rupert

Every day at approximately 11:30 a.m., my colleague and good friend, Mike Rupert, heads out for his daily dose of food truck.  I never really understood the appeal of getting lunch out of a glorified van – that is until I was exposed to the rather delicious-looking meals that Mike was bringing back.

Naturally, I put him to work and since food trucks are all the fabulous rage in DC, I decided that Mike would have to guest star on Capitol K with his guide to the DC food truck scene.  Since he’s a total rockstar – he agreed.

Ladies and Gentleman, allow me to introduce the food truck master himself, Mr. Mike Rupert.

I’ve Tried Every Single Food Truck. Here is What I Now Know.

By Mike Rupert 

Barring any new food trucks opening in the last 20 minutes, I am pretty certain I have tried them all at least once. Whether or not I’m the only one, I don’t know. But after trying KabobBites last week, that was it from the Food Truck Fiesta list.

Am I a truck stalker? Maybe. But the truth is I’ve worked at 3 different locations over the past 3 years that would easily qualify as food deserts. So when a truck was anywhere close, I was there. Full Disclosure: I also helped create and ran the city’s 1st Curbside Cookoff last year (which drew an estimated 20,000 people to downtown DC) so I got to taste from more than 20 food trucks in just a few days.

So how does one celebrate this extremely significant and somewhat ridiculous milestone? Make a list, of course!

Instead of declaring a single favorite and adding some sort of “If you were stranded on a desert island” scenario, I decided to break them down into some categories. I would love to both know if anyone else tried as many trucks, but also what are some of your favorite trucks or the people running them.

Best Everyday Food Truck

While my “go to” sandwich is always going to be the Fidel from El Floridiano, I have to say I could eat the Korean BBQ-fusion tacos from Takorean every single day. Their selection is simple with a Bulgogi Steak, Tangy Chicken and Carmelized Tofu. The Spicy Kimchi Slaw is always crisp and fresh, the tortilla perfectly warmed and crumbly enough to be fun without totally falling apart before finding a park bench or getting back to your office. I also strongly suggest getting the tacos loaded and ask for an extra blast of the hot Sirarcha sauce.

What I like most about Mike Lenard’s creation is that it is one of the most consistent. You know it’s going to be awesome everytime. You know the staff is going to be excited and helpful. And best of all you don’t feel like a total slob after eating three of these. Whether they actually are or not, they at least feel healthy enough to eat everyday.

Faster Riser on My List

The fastest to rise to my current top 10 list has to be Sabor’a Street. For about $10, the husband-and-wife duo Jorge Pimentel and Christine Sarapu hand you a micro-smorgasbord of Latin street food inspired goodies. Both times I tried the Arepas – little cornmeal buns – once with pork and once with chicken and both were equally delicious. But it’s the slaw – a vinegar salad made of jicama, carrots, fresno chiles, and green onion – topper that serves more as a side salad than a garnish that make the dish. They also throw in perfectly salted Yuca fries. Not enough? Then they give you the most delicious lime aioli and salsa verde for dipping. If I could buy the dip by the gallon I would. Unbelievable.

Most Luxurious Food Truck

At least once every few months, you have to get a Lobster Roll from Red Hook Lobster. At $15 bucks for the roll and $18 bucks for a combo with chips and a drink, it’s a little expensive for everyday. And I don’t know if I’d want one everyday, but it is as good as you’ve heard if not better.

Of all the food trucks, this is the one you that when you’re in the mood, you’ll take cab or drive across town for. And like Takorean, their food is always perfect. This is truly the Rolls Royce of the DC Food Truck fleet.

Best New Food Truck

While food trucks are all the rage, it is easy for many of them to forget that customer service is an essential component of any business. And Basil & Thyme’s Brian Farrell, following in the footsteps of DC Slice’s Tom, is quickly standing out as one of the best.

“You’ve been here before, right,” Farrell asked me last week outside of the Navy Yard Metro station. I nodded. “I’m really trying to learn everyone’s name. Thanks for coming back. We appreciate it.”

He hooked me.

Farrell’s truck offers up some delicious pastas ranging from 3 types of Lasagna – Like Mama’s w/ seasoned beef, the vegetarian Guissepe with Summer Squash and Zucchini, and the Pasquale with salami, Pancetta, pepperoni and Proscuitto. He also offers a pasta of the day that has recently included a Baked Ziti and Manicotti.

I’ve tried “Like Mama’s” and the Manicotti and chef Malik Umar’s sauce was amazing in both and was perfectly balanced with the meat, cheese and pasta.

In the $10 you get a fresh mixed greens salad, lightly tossed with just enough of the vinaigrette, fresh olives, tomatoes, and sliver of shaved Parmesan. (Cue infomercial voice) BUT THAT”S NOT ALL: you also get two homemade canolis. On both trips we had chocolate with a tinge of orange zest. These would make Luca Brasi shed a tear.

This truck will be getting long lines quickly.

Best ‘I Don’t Care How Many Calories, I’m Eating It Anyway’ Food Truck

If you’re in the mood for something a little naughty, you have to try the Poutine – gravy fries covered in Squeeky Cheese – from Eat Wonky or the duck fat fries and a shake from Fry Captain.

These are both meals your waist will regret but it will make you happy for days.

Fry Captain has a monstrous list of dips you can choose from and the duck fat pretty much ensure your fries will always be crisp. Also check out the quirky shake flavors like Honey Lavender, Sea Salt and Olive Oil and Pistachio. I went with a straight up Peanut Butter shake with duck fat fries and roasted garlic aoli. It’s one of those meals where you’ll politely ask people not to talk to you while you’re eating.

Eat Wonky is just plain fun. As they describe themselves: “We’re kind of like that mischievous cousin you see every now and again at family gatherings.  You love him, you’re not quite sure what he’s going to do next, but you know it’s going to be a good time.” It’s difficult to explain Squeeky Cheese in a blog, but it’s simply amazing. Throw it on top of some crispy fries, a scoop of gravy and draw a few lines of harissa sauce. You’ll head back to your office feel a little naughty.

Have your owns favorites? Disagree with some recommendations? Want to just call me a dork? Feel free.

Editor’s Note: Mike’s guide comes just in time for this Friday’s Truckaroo, a monthly festival (June – October) showcasing DC’s best food trucks (Corner of Half St. and M St. SE).  Check it out!

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8 thoughts on “Navigating DC’s Best Food Trucks: A Guest Post by Mike Rupert

  1. Nice write up. I just hit my 20th today. Some of my favorites include DCEmpanada, their jerk chicken empanada was outstanding. Porc Mobile’s home made pastrami (though pricey) was worth it, and I am a pastrami snob. The wraps at Kabob Bites are massive and really good, (Fresh Cilantro and Jalapenos on the lamb wrap). Fojols always make me smile. I also really liked the chicken salad Ficelle.

  2. Love the food trucks and look forward to them coming around so that I don’t have to have a boring lunch.
    I agree that Takorean is consistent in it’s food and service they just really need to kick their flavors up for me. I love their fresh ingredients and slaw, I’m just so used to authentic bulgogi that their version leaves me wanting.
    El Floridiano’s Fidel really disappoints me, it’s only a good sandwich if you’ve never had a Cuban sandwich in Miami or Tampa. The pork provides the bulk of the distinctive flavor for a Cuban, it is really lacking seasoning. Every Fidel I’ve had the pork is also full of hunks of flabby fat not good, I kept trying it hoping I’ve got a bad day but nope. That said his other sandwiches are really amazing and the soups are innovative.
    I really like Captain Mac his chicken meat balls were delish and the Mac and Cheese I have to get two containers one for me and one to take home to the kids. I’m a big fan of the Fojols both on service and food. Really solid food for a good price and love Sabor’a Street, everything I’ve had from them is fabulous including the fish tacos and authentic arepas.
    I have to give an honorable mention to the cupcake trucks Sweetbites is my favorite with the Piña Colada cupcake, it really does transport me to “el Caribe”.

  3. Maria,
    Great comments. I definitely should have added a best desert category into the post. And Sweetbites is excellent. I always ask for the extra spicy sauce on top so my are always kicked up a bit. CapMac is really close to being great but both times I’ve had it, the mac was just a little bit too greasy. Maybe a different type of container, serving utensil or something could help. I had the goat cheese and it was delicious. Thanks again for commenting!

  4. Totally agree Doug. Their bread is really good and meat is really high quality. I also really thought EatStix was a good bargain as well with awesome meat and veggies kabobs. Eating a real kabab, especially with the delicious sauces they have, is a little tricky in a dress shirt and tie, but also a great new addition. Thanks for comment!

  5. OK, Mike…food truck every day? Every single food truck in the city? Do you have a treadmill following behind you for afterwards? LOL

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