Let me tell you about the night I chased a food truck around D.C.
At the end of the summer I got a little bit addicted to The Great Food Truck Race, a reality competition show on the Food Network hosted by Tyler Florence. Food trucks from several cities started out in California and made their way cross country to New York, stopping in six towns to compete for the highest dollar amount sold in a series of challenging situations. The truck that made the least amount of money every week was eliminated.
It was like Top Chef on the road, with an entrepreneurial bent. I loved it.
The week after I discovered the show, I started seeing tweets from D.C. locals about a certain Lobster Truck that was roaming our streets. They were soft-launching, spreading the word about lobster rolls on Twitter, and word had it that the lobster rolls were delicious and the lines were long.
D.C. is late to most trends, so if this city had something as cool as a lobster roll truck, by God, I was going to find it.
And so I did.
I'd been under quite a bit of stress this August, obsessed with work, and so when the opportunity arose to follow the clues to a food truck, I grabbed it. I told no one but my sister, because "I'm going to chase a food truck" really wasn't something I was prepared to share. The people in my life are fairly used to my shenanigans by now, but I was mildly embarrassed by this one.
But really? Girl's gotta eat -- may as well be lobster out of a rogue vehicle on the streets of downtown.
So I drove to D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood on the Saturday evening in question. I wandered around with no idea what or who I was looking for, checking Twitter a little bit obsessively to see where the truck would finally park. I spied a couple who were looking around like I was, and although I didn't have the sense to ask them if I could tag along, I creepily followed behind them, figuring they knew what was up.
Looking back I'm not sure how I identified them as food truck people -- there is no special tattoo or universal gang sign, to my knowledge -- but something about them screamed "dining on the go" to me.
I was correct. By the time the Lobster Truck people broadcast their destination, this couple was on it and I was close behind. The line was already pretty long, but I didn't care. Adventure! Secret food truck action! How often do I live this far out on the edge?
A lady from the Lobster Truck walked the line, shouting out directions. Maine lobster rolls are held together with just a touch of mayonnaise and lemon. The Connecticut version includes melted butter. With a $20 meal deal you get Cape Cod potato chips and a Maine Root soda. The whoopie pies were already, sadly, sold out.
I have never had a lobster roll. I have never been to Maine. I asked Twitter what kind of roll I should get and New Englanders openly scoffed at the Connecticut butter option. The man in front of me, who wanted his girlfriend to know that he knows more about lobster rolls than anyone ever in the history of lobster rolls, suggested they split one of each. I felt vaguely smug that according to the advice of Twitter and through no brain power of my own, I was rejecting the carpetbagger version and going with the real.
I was smart. The lobster roll was delicious.
I parked myself on a curb and ate. People walking by gawked at the truck and at my food. (I told you D.C.'s a little late to trends.) They asked me what the truck was all about and whether the roll was good. I told them what I knew -- that it was a new business in town and yes, it was quite delicious, a one-woman food truck focus group-slash-restaurant critic.
Since then, D.C. has gathered its many food trucks that I never knew existed into a huge event last week called the Curbside Cookoff. Work was too busy for me to take the time to stand in the very long lines to sample all of their goodies, so I'll try them all out like I did the Red Hook Lobster Truck -- on the fly, in their natural roving habitat.
What can I say? It's a hobby! It's a dining experience! It's ... a few very cool things. I'm glad we can enjoy it here.
Do you have food trucks in your town?