D.C. Trend Trucks Into Georgetown

Suzanna Nelson

Strolling down the brick-laid sidewalks, weaving in and out of the usual crowds, one large gathering stops you in your path. Quickly planning a scheme to maze your way through the group, a savory smell of mouth-watering food triggers a growl in your stomach. Much to your surprise, the crowd that was once in your way is now the crowd you want to be part of: a gathering of hungry Georgetowners waiting for fresh-made food from one of D.C.’s renowned food trucks.

A classic scene at Farragut Square, Franklin Park, L’Enfant Plaza, and Metro Station, D.C. food trucks have made a name for themselves and now are beginning to adventure into Georgetown. D.C. Food Trucks Association, a group of more than 20 local food trucks banding together to improve and develop the food truck industry, is actively seeking out new and beneficial places for food trucks access a greater D.C. audience.

A member of D.C. Food Truck Association, Big Cheese Gourmet operated by Patrick Rathbone, traveled to Georgetown two weeks ago, and got a great reception from locals.

“People were very appreciative that we actually came down there because they don’t get very many food trucks,” commented Rathbone about his premier Georgetown experience. Discussing competition with fellow food trucks, he said “we talk about how good different spots are… [we] pass along if someone is looking for a food truck in particular.” Rathborn sees a great potential market for their business in Georgetown, and plans to use his connections with the Association to get more trucks to the area.

Not only does D.C. Food Truck Association help organize and promote the mobile business, it also legally fights for better and improved legislation to help the industry thrive. A common misconception is that, like street food vendors such as hot dog stands, food trucks need site permits. In reality, since they have stationary kitchen property where the food is prepped and stored, they do not need site permits. Mike Lenard, owner and operator of TaKorean, encountered this issue on May 22, according to Prince of Petworth, a local D.C. neighborhood blog site, and almost had his truck shut down because of this misunderstanding.

Following the trend filling the nation’s sidewalks and streets, D.C.’s food trucks offer a variety of foods and treats. From Scoops2U, a not-so-classic ice cream truck, to CapMac, the bearers of some incredible macaroni and cheese, these trucks are bringing the restaurant scene curbside to people who only have a 20 minute lunch break to enjoy the savory and sweet sides of life. Even celebrity chefs are partaking in the mobile business. According to Zagat.com, Bravo’s Top Chef contestant and Good Stuff Eatery co-founder and head chef Spike Mendelsohn partnered with Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. Together they will launch Sixth & Rye in late May, a kosher food truck specializing in the classic corned beef sandwich.

“It’s not really about competition… it’s about bringing everyone together, the more trucks the merrier,” says Bapu Fojol, a founding brother and operator of fojol bros. Food Trucks, serving Merlindian food – their take on Indian – from one truck and Benethopian food – their take on Ethiopian – from another. fojol embraces similar concepts that the Association and Rathborn represent, one that sees food trucks as “more of a togetherness than a competition feeling.”

This “togetherness” is best represented with food truck’s use of social media. Constantly Tweeting to their customers and fellow colleagues, food trucks have mastered the craft of building community through social media. Websites such as FoodTruckFiesta.com use truck’s Twitter feeds and geo-locating social media to track locations of trucks, supplying customers with updated information every 60 seconds on where to go for their favorite mobile meal. Also, this aggregator site compiles the tweets, locations, blog posts, and reviews of the food trucks in D.C. and the greater Metropolitan area.

Constantly updating tweets from trucks discussing deals and locations to announcing launchings of new trucks, FoodTruckFiesta.com (also available in App form) centers this portable industry by getting truck operators and customers to come together to keep the business going. This keeps the somewhat scattered and on-the-go companies connected to one another and their customers.

“It’s less expensive to get into the [food truck] business,” comments Rathborn, when comparing food trucks to regular restaurants. “Customers bundle up [in the winter months] and wait in line… in the summer months they can’t wait to get out of the office into the sun,” he continues.
This summer, the food trucks have Trukeroo to promote their business. Created by Georgetown Events, Truckeroo is a food truck extravaganza with over 20 trucks lining up in the Navy Yard serving thousands of people. The day-long munching spectacle hosts live music, free admission and access to the Das Bullpen. With Trukeroo I and II already completed with wild success; Truckeroo III, the final summer event, will be held on August 12.

“It’s not the same old stuff,” comments Jake Robertson, a business worker in the Farragut Square area who comes to food trucks daily for lunch. “When you work somewhere you can only go so many places for lunch and it’s nice that they come to you,” he says when asked about the best part of food trucks while sitting on the grass in the shade of a tree, nibbling away at his kabob from the Stix Truck.
“We’re not just about food,” says Fojol, “we’re about bringing people together… about entertainment, enjoying yourself, leaving here with a smile.” As customers enjoy their food on silk blankets laid out by the fojol bros. truck under trees in Franklin Park, the atmosphere of food trucks sinks in. John S., operator of Sauca Food Truck, says the best part of his job “is being with the people and playing my music.”

The trucks are not only famous for their food but also for their atmosphere, that comes from the people who run the trucks “[We] drive around, play music… We wave. We smile. We get smiles back. It’s the best part,” says Fojol.

So when is the next food truck rolling into Georgetown? Keep your eyes on the Twitter feeds. According to Rathborne, they’ll be coming back “soon.”

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