The District Taco cart, which was launched four years ago and has now spawned four brick-and-mortar restaurants, is retiring today in Rosslyn.
District Taco owner Osiris Hoil said the team that runs the cart is needed to support the restaurants, with locations at 5723 Lee Highway and at Metro Center, Eastern Market and soon-to-be-open Dupont Circle in the District. The decision was purely a business one, but that didn’t make it any easier for Hoil, who opened the cart using family recipes after being laid off from a construction job.
“It’s very emotional for me, because when we started four years ago it was just me and my taco stand,” Hoil told ARLnow.com today. “It’s part of my heart, but as a business decision, we had to let it go.”
Hoil said that, in addition to the Dupont Circle location opening next month, he plans to open in Crystal City, Rosslyn, Alexandria and Vienna, and is looking at space in Rockville and Reston Town Center. No new location is firmed up yet, he said, but he hopes to open another store by the end of the year and three or four next year. The taco stand is just too unpredictable to continue to operate while District Taco grows, said Hoil.
“One of the challenges we’re having is the weather,” he said. “This wintertime has been really cold, but also it’s just one of the reasons. We’re growing pretty aggressively this year and next year and we need our team to focus on our restaurants. It’s a little bit harder to manage the stand than a restaurant just because it’s a mobile unit and anything can happen while traveling.”
It might not happen right away, but Hoil is determined to open up spaces in Rosslyn and Crystal City close to where his taco stand set up shop most days. He said he’ll likely try to move into Rosslyn once the Central Place construction is complete.
Today in Rosslyn, in honor of the stand’s last day, District Taco is offering two free tacos to every customer that stops by, while supplies last.
Arlington’s El Chilango food truck has made Yelp’s list of the “Top 100 Places to Eat” in the United States.
The list seeks to identify “the spots Yelpers have deemed the ultimate, try-before-you-die, food-coma-inducing, so-good-it-makes-you-want-to-slap-your-momma places to eat.” El Chilango was ranked No. 58, was the only eatery from Virginia on the list and one of only two from the D.C. area.
El Chilango serves tacos from a semi-permanent parking spot in the residential neighborhood of Radnor-Fort Myer Heights, in the area of 14th Street N. and N. Queen Street, near Route 50.
A new food truck, DC Sliders, has come to serve lunch to customers in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
The truck’s first day in Arlington was Feb. 6. It serves an array of mini-burgers, including the “Elvis” slider, featuring the King’s favorite sandwich ingredients: peanut butter, banana and bacon. Currently, it has regular stops in Courthouse and Rosslyn, as well as Reston and Tysons Corner, but it has also stopped in Ballston in the last two weeks.
Other menu items during its stop in Rosslyn yesterday (Wednesday) included the “Del Toro” — which comes topped with tomato salsa, refried beans, guacamole, corn, greens and tortilla chips — and the “Slider Mac,” a burger topped with ketchup and macaroni and cheese. Customers can choose two types of sliders and combine with an order of garlic fries for $11.
The line for sliders at 11:45 a.m. was the longest on the block, even with four other food trucks parked close by.
The truck was launched in Loudoun County last August, according to co-owner Carmen Morse, who owns the truck with her husband, Chris. Carmen Morse told ARLnow.com that they are waiting for permits to park in D.C. and, if business continues to go well this summer, they are aiming to launch another truck and, a bit down the road, open a brick-and-mortar store.
Date Set for County Board Special Election – Circuit Court Chief Judge William Newman officially has declared that the Arlington County Board special election will be held on April 8. The special election is being held to replace now-former County Board member Chris Zimmerman. [Sun Gazette]
End of the Road for Seoul Food Truck – The Seoul Food truck, which makes stops in Rosslyn, Courthouse, Ballston and other lunch spots in Arlington, will be retired at the end of this month. The owners say they want to spend more time focusing on their brick-and-mortar store in Silver Spring, Md., next to the Wheaton Metro station. [Food Truck Fiesta]
Bike Boulevard Signs Installed — Arlington has installed signs and sharrows designating 9th Street S. and 12th Street S., which run along either side of Columbia Pike, as “bike boulevards.” The county has not yet, however, installed improved intersection crossings or trail links, leading some to say that the bike boulevards so far do little to improve safety for Pike cyclists. [Greater Greater Washington]
Preservation Arlington Mourns Loss of Homes — The group Preservation Arlington says a total of 14 demolition permits were applied for in January. “In review of the Arlington County tax records, eight of the eleven houses are owned by builders and are speculative redevelopments, and two are being redeveloped by individuals who bought the property within the last year,” the group writes. “The looming demolition of these houses and buildings represents an incredible loss of history, architecture, time, energy, and materials.” [Preservation Arlington]
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
Doughnut Truck Comes to Arlington — A new food truck devoted to doughnuts has hit the streets of Arlington. The truck, from the Penn Quarter eatery Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, is so far only selling doughnuts and coffee. It plans to stop in Rosslyn, Clarendon and Ballston. [Washingtonian]
Fundraising for Hot Car Mom — A local couple is trying to raise $50,000 for the legal defense of Zoraida Magali Conde Hernandez, the mother accused of accidentally leaving her 8-month-old son in a car for 6 hours on a hot day, leading to his death. The couple says they were “heartbroken” for Hernandez, who is facing a charge of felony child neglect. [Patch]
Flashback: Arlington’s Last Chicken Debate — It turns out this is not the first time that there has been a strong debate in Arlington about urban hen raising. Late in 1945, after the end of World War II, Arlington was preparing to reinstitute an urban chicken ban that had been dropped during the war. The renewed restrictions “drew public debate and strong views on both sides.” [Sun Gazette]
Republican Running for Moran’s Seat — Republican Micah Edmond says he’s planning to run for the Congressional seat of the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). Edmond has previously worked in banking, defense policy and as a Marine Corps officer. [National Review]
Pyzyk Poached by Arlington County — ARLnow.com freelance reporter Katie Pyzyk has accepted a full-time position with Arlington County. Pyzyk, who joined us in 2011 and who holds the crown for our most-viewed story of all time, will be a spokeswoman for the Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development. We wish Katie the all best in her new position.
According to a tweet from Yorktown’s School Resource Officer Cpl. Jim Tuomey, “the food trucks will no longer be parked at the school. This is to be in compliance with [Arlington Public Schools] rules & county code.”
In a subsequent tweet, Tuomey wrote, “This was not my call, I like getting a milkshake every now and then…”
APS Spokesman Frank Bellavia said the policy is not the school system’s but a county ordinance, which prevents food trucks from parking within 100 feet of a school.
In an email, Tuomey said he didn’t know who owns or operates the food trucks, but they have parked at or near Yorktown “for many years.”
“They arrive before the first lunch period and leave after the last period of lunch they are here at the school every school day,” Tuomey said. “They have been very helpful in keeping students on campus instead of going off in search of other food options.”
Doug Maheu, the Arlington County Director of the DMV Food Truck Association, said he was not aware of the trucks’ presence near the school, and said he and his membership are careful to follow the county ordinance.
“Being in that area isn’t even part of our business plan,” Maheu, who owns Doug the Food Dude, said.
Arlington Popular With ‘Echo Boomers’ — Those between the ages of 25 and 34, also known as “Echo Boomers,” have increased in population by 10 percent in Arlington over the past two years. Such residents say they’re attracted to Arlington’s mix of urban amenities and suburban comfort. Instead of moving further out into the suburbs upon having kids, many Echo Boomers are opting to stay in Arlington and other areas around D.C.’s urban core. [Washington Post]
Bloomberg BNA Faces Snack Abuse — Crystal City-based Bloomberg BNA sent a memo to employees on Friday threatening to install surveillance cameras to monitor the snack pantry, after some employees were observed taking a copious amount of snacks home. Managers rescinded the threat after pushback from the employees’ union. [Jim Romenesko]
Federal Tax Credits for Housing Projects — Two affordable housing projects in Arlington have qualified for financing through the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits program. [Arlington County]
Toscana Grill Reopening — Courthouse restaurant Toscana Grill (2300 Clarendon Blvd) is reopening today. The restaurant closed for repairs last month after a water pipe burst and caused some flooding. Before it closed, in an effort to not let the food in the kitchen go to waste, Toscana gave away hundreds of free meals to those willing to wait in line. “We were thrilled by the turnout of our free food event and look forward to serving the community with our full dining, takeout and catering services,” owner Joe Smith tells ARLnow.com.
Great Food Truck Race Stops in Clarendon – The Hawaii-based Aloha Plate food truck stopped by the Arlington Festival of the Arts yesterday. Aloha Plate is a current contestant on the Food Network show The Great Food Truck Race. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
Prince Harry Visits Arlington Nat’l Cemetery – Britain’s Prince Harry is visiting Arlington National Cemetery this morning as part of his two-day visit to the Washington area. The prince is expected to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and to visit the burial area for military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. [NBC Washington]
Now Official: Whole Foods to Pentagon City — Whole Foods has made it official and signed a deal with Vornado to open a 37,000 square foot store in on the ground floor of a planned 700-unit apartment building in Pentagon City. The store will be the company’s second in Arlington, and is expected to open in 2017. [Washington Business Journal]
Wieners Added to Testicle Festival – The Fairfax County-based Top Dog food truck has been recruited to serve hot dogs at next weekend’s Montana State Society Testicle Festival in Virginia Square. Jed Link, an organizer of the event, called the combination of Rocky Mountain Oysters and hot dogs “a culinary reunion that’s guaranteed to entertain.”
Flickr pool photo by Martin Humm
Arraignment for Air Force Officer — Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the airman who was removed from his post as head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program after being accused of sexual battery in Crystal City, is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in an Arlington County courtroom. While the Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney office is prosecuting the case, the Air Force has the option of bringing its own case against Krusinski. [Associated Press]
CivFed Opposes Tree Removal at Cemetery — The Arlington County Civic Federation voted Tuesday to oppose a plan to remove 800 trees at Arlington National Cemetery in order to make way for about 30,000 in-ground burial spots and niche spaces. The resolution asks Arlington’s congressional delegation to sponsor legislation to stop the plan and asks the County Board to officially support the legislation. [Sun Gazette]
Four Students Earn Nat’l Merit Scholarships — Four Arlington students have been awarded National Merit Scholarships. The students receiving the $2,500 scholarships are: Ariel Bobbett and Elizabeth Roy of Washington-Lee High School, Nicole Orttung of Yorktown High School, and Robert C. Wharton of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. [Arlington Public Schools]
Day One of School Board Caucus — The first day of the Arlington County Democratic Committee endorsement caucus for School Board will take place tonight from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Drew Model Elementary School (3500 23rd Street S.). The second day of party voting will take place on Saturday. Incumbent James Lander is facing off against challenger Barbara Kanninen for the Democratic endorsement. [Arlington Democrats]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
The Arlington County Board last night voted to extend the one-hour parking limit for food trucks by another hour.
Food trucks will now be able to serve customers on local streets for up to two hours. They will not, however, be able to stay longer than the time allocated by the meter zone they’re parked in.
The previous one-hour limit had led to complaints and even legal challenges from food truck owners who argued that an hour doesn’t give them enough time to serve hungry customers in busy parts of the county where parking is at a premium.
“The extension of the vending time better reflects typical lunch hours and more closely aligns with the metered parking zones in Arlington,” the county said in a press release. “More than 90 percent of metered parking spaces within Arlington’s metro station areas are regulated for two or more hours.”
In voting unanimously for the change, Board members said food trucks are increasingly integral part of the community.
“Street vending has become a growing part of the retail scene in Arlington,” said County Board Chair Walter Tejada. “These changes, by giving vendors flexibility and ensuring consistent enforcement, provide balance and clarity for all of Arlington’s businesses that serve customers.”
Doug Maheu, Arlington County Director of the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington and owner of the Doug Food Dude food truck, said in a statement that food truck owners are largely pleased with the change, but would have liked even more time to vend.
Although the members of Metropolitan Washington Food Truck Association would not consider these amendments perfect, we do understand that they are a work in progress. We look forward to participating in future conversations with Arlington County as well as other stake holders on crafting equitable vending regulations. We applaud the Arlington County Board for moving forward to make Arlington a thriving diverse business community.
Maheu said food truck owners will continue to ask for four hour “block permits” that would allow even more vending time. As for the possibility of an influx of food trucks from D.C. to Arlington, should the District enact strict food truck regulations that have been proposed by Mayor Vincent Gray, Maheu said he’s not overly concerned.
“I believe that the market will take care of competition as it always done,” he said.
Maheu said he’s aware of 3 or 4 D.C. food trucks that have applied for permits to serve customers in Arlington, but added that he didn’t believe those applications were made in response to D.C.’s proposed regulations.
Arlington’s food trucks may have an easier time adhering to the law if the County Board adopts changes to an ordinance this weekend. The parking issues that have been plaguing food truck vendors and resulted in legal battles in recent months will come up at Saturday’s board meeting.
Proposed ordinance changes include extending the amount of time food trucks can park in one space from one hour to two hours. Currently, food trucks must move after one hour, but the ordinance wording is vague and doesn’t specify how far the vehicle must move, causing problems with enforcement. That’s another issue board members will examine on Saturday.
Food truck vendors have argued that the 60 minute rule hurts business because they were often forced to move in the middle of a lunch rush, or else face a citation. County staff appears to agree, based on the following excerpt from the staff report:
This time limitation is challenging for vendors and customers when typical lunch hours are between 12:00 noon and 2:00 p.m. A vendor is not able to adequately serve customers and patrons are unable to purchase lunch if their hours don’t correspond. Further, the overwhelming majority (approximately 90 percent) of parking meters within the Metro Station Areas are for at least two (2) hours.
Under the proposed ordinance amendments, the two hour limit would only cover time when vendors are actively selling to customers, not food prep time or clean up time. After a vendor’s time expires, sales would be required to stop and the vehicle would need to be moved to another marked parking space. If the parking area does not have metered spaces, the vehicle would need to be moved at least 25 feet.
Last month, a representative for the Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington told ARLnow.com that the organization supports the county’s proposed ordinance changes.
Under the current ordinance, known as Chapter 30, food trucks are only allowed to remain parked for up to one hour. After that, they must move — but the current ordinance is vague and doesn’t specifically say how far they must move. Also, the ordinance contains contradictory language that can be interpreted as suggesting there is no time limit.
Food truck owners argue that the 60 minute limit hurts their business, as it can force them to shut down and move in the midst of the breakfast or lunch rush, even when customers are lined up. Since the trucks frequent busy Rosslyn, Ballston and Crystal City, that often means spending valuable sales time searching for a new parking space.
Food truck owners, fed up with getting ticketed for loitering when they refused to move, recently started mounting legal challenges against the ordinance, attacking the vague language. Last month they succeeded in getting prosecutors to drop loitering charges against one truck that was ticketed after police said it didn’t move “far enough.”
At the time, county officials acknowledged that the ordinance caused challenges for food vendors.
“We realize that the 60-minute time limit is challenging for vendors and for customers, and we are working to change it,” Arlington County spokeswoman Mary Curtius told ARLnow.com.
True to that promise, county staff is now proposing that the food truck parking limit be raised to “the lesser of two (2) hours or the lawful time limit prescribed for the respective parking meter zone.” After that, the a food truck must only move to another marked parking space or 25 feet in the absence of marked spaces.
The County Board is set to vote to advertise a hearing on the proposed ordinance change on Saturday. After the hearing, to be held on April 20, the Board would then vote on whether to actually change the ordinance.
The one hour street vending limit was set in 2008, after the County Board voted to raise the limit from 5 minutes. From the county staff report:
Since those changes in 2008, there has been continued growth in vendors — mobile food trucks, carts and tables have increased in populated areas of Arlington. Social media has assisted with marketing for vendors, and customers have flocked to them. Today, Arlington has approximately 100 licensed mobile food vendors. The increased popularity of the mobile food vendors has raised questions about the regulations, including the amount of time permitted for vending, appropriate locations for vending, and the overall enforcement of Chapter 30.
Chapter 30’s current language has made it difficult for vendors, does not accommodate customers appropriately, and creates an enforcement challenge. Enforcement is time consuming and the ordinance does not provide clear-cut specificity. Additionally, a thorough reading of the ordinance highlighted an issue in which the construct of the language in Section 30-9 allows for a departure from the original intent of a time limitation for vending to a permissive allowance of vending anywhere, with no time limitation, so long as the vending occurs between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.
“This interim amendment addresses several inconsistencies and is just one element of the comprehensive updates that will benefit all of Arlington’s businesses and customers,” said Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell. “As we move forward in the process, we’ll be having conversations with all stakeholders for input.”
An association of local food truck owners say they’re happy with the county’s proposal.
“The Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington is extremely pleased that Arlington is continuing its efforts to make the County a place where small businesses like ours can grow,” said Doug Povich, owner of the Red Hook Lobster Pound truck. ”Of all the jurisdictions in the area, Arlington seems to understand best how manage the various interests of all stakeholders in a way that benefits everyone. We look forward to continuing our work with the County as it is moves into the next stage of its regulatory process.”
The new Mama’s Donut Bites truck started serving Arlington late last month. The truck is an expansion of a donut business that has been serving local farmers markets for the past year or so, according to Food Truck Fiesta. The donuts are made freshly in the truck using local ingredients, and served hot.
As reported by Food Truck Fiesta, the mini-sized donuts cost $3 for 6, $5 for 12 or $10 for 26. Coffee costs $1.50.
The donut menu rotates seasonally; past and current favors include “classic,” apple cider, pumpkin spice, dutch cocoa, blueberry and red velvet. According to the truck’s Facebook page, a free toppings bar offers:
- Homemade Raspberry Preserves
- Dark Chocolate Sauce
- White Chocolate Sauce
- Vanilla Icing
- Cinnamon-Vanilla Whipped Cream
- Clover Honey
- Cinnamon & Sugar
- Powdered Sugar
- Rainbow Sprinkles
In Arlington, the truck has thus far served Rosslyn, Ballston and Arlington Hall. The truck was supposed to travel to Rosslyn today, but reportedly had transmission problems and was instead stranded on the side of I-66.
Photo via Facebook
Currently, under Arlington County Code 30-9, food trucks are prohibited from vending on a public street for more than an hour in one spot. The enforcement of that portion of the Arlington County Code led to an outcry among food truck owners, who say it unfairly targets their business in order to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants.
Late last year, the Institute for Justice, an Arlington-based libertarian law firm, announced that it was taking up the case of Arlington food trucks as part of its National Street Vending Initiative, which seeks to break down legal barriers for street vendors. Today, that effort bore fruit.
An Arlington County judge, at the request of prosecutors from the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, dismissed a loitering charge against Hyun “Anna” Shil Goree, co-owner of the Seoul Food truck. Goree was charged with the crime — a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500 — after a police officer determined that she had not moved her truck “far enough” to comply with the law.
Last year Goree was fined $25 and $200 after pleading no contest to street vendor loitering charges in August and October. After being charged again in December, she decided to fight back, enlisting the help of the the Institute for Justice and the law firm of Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher LLP. The charged was dismissed today via a nolle prosequi motion.
The Food Truck Association of Metropolitan Washington, which has spoken out against the Arlington ordinance, says the dismissal is a victory against an arbitrary law that’s “vague and open to different interpretations.”
“This case highlights the absurdity of treating what amounts to a parking violation as a crime on par with assault,” said Doug Povich, co-owner of Red Hook Lobster Pound truck and Chairman of the Food Truck Association. “The Food Truck Association hopes to work with the County in the months ahead to craft a food-truck law that serves the County’s residents and workers and keeps food trucks as a vibrant part of Arlington’s business community and streetscape.”
Arlington County spokeswoman Mary Curtius said the county is indeed working to change the ordinance.
“We realize that the 60-minute time limit is challenging for vendors and for customers, and we are working to change it,” Curtius said. “We hope to be bringing something forward in the Spring.”
Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos said she asked for the charges to be dismissed after consulting with the police department.
“I made the decision… in consultation with the police department and with the awareness that the current ordinance is very difficult to enforce,” she told ARLnow.com. “It’s difficult to enforce because it requires a police officer to watch a truck for an hour (or some other witness willing to come to court to testify to the fact that the food truck hasn’t moved in 60 minutes)… then there is the definition of ‘move’ that is also problematic. Does it mean an inch? A parking space? Around the block?”
“The officers were responding to requests from store owners to enforce the ordinance,” Stamos continued. “Unfortunately, the ordinance, as written, is rather unclear and a criminal statute is always construed against the Commonwealth and in favor of the defendant, which is as it should be.”
Stamos said it’s “unlikely” that her office will prosecute additional loitering cases against food trucks until the County Board updates the ordinance.
The full press release from the Food Truck Association, after the jump.
Hello ARLnow readers! I have been a fan of this site since its earliest days, and I am now proud to be a contributor. I am amazed at the dining public’s bottomless appetite for content about restaurants and food culture. As an operator, I think this is great, and the attention certainly contributes to every operator’s success. However, there does seem to be an occasional disconnect between the dining public and restaurant professionals. I hope to offer a bridge between the two by providing an insider’s perspective on trends and issues that pertain to our business. And since I am a local, and this is the most local of websites, it will have an Arlington twist.
To kick things off, I’ll take advantage of the New Year theme and start a discussion about one food trend that should be of great interest to many who live and work in Arlington. In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss other trends and give you a chance to get your burning restaurant questions answered in a live Q&A.
Food Trucks: I’ll Skip the Politics, Thanks
Ahhh, the food truck: bringing funky food to the cubicle masses in guerilla form. What an idea, albeit an old one in Arlington. Ever had a pupusa from the trucks that hover around our construction sites? Tasty. The concept has been around forever. Nonetheless, the convoys roaming the county now represent a huge trend, and it’s growing. The Post just ran a piece recalling that during the 2008 inaugural there was one food truck operating in DC. One. This year, there are over 100. Thirty of them will be there to feed the inaugural masses today. For our recent holiday party, in fact, we hired a couple of trucks to camp out in the alley behind Spider Kelly’s for our staff to enjoy, including Big Cheese (I recommend the “Thrilled Cheese”) and District Taco (the carnitas is a favorite).
But for the consumer, the question remains: How many trucks can the market reasonably sustain? Business Darwinism will cull the herd in 2013 for two reasons. First, just because it’s on a truck with a cool paint job doesn’t mean it’s great food. Sometimes it is, sometimes it ain’t. There are only so many spots they can park in, and the service window is short. The ones that don’t truly offer something special will fade out.
Second, sometimes people want to sit down at a table inside to eat, even at lunch. Even if they don’t, most eaters assume that by sacrificing the comfort of a chair and a plate, they’ll receive a commensurate decrease in price. However, price points on these trucks can rival or exceed the restaurants they’re parked in front of. This again raises the bar for the food inside the truck: If it’s not better, cheaper and more convenient, customers will seek a spot that is. Is it worth it to squat on a curb for your meal if what’s inside that foil wrapper is just mediocre?
You, the dining public, will decide their fate with your wallets. Will there be 100 trucks prowling at noon this time next year? I wouldn’t bet on it.
In 2013, will you be visiting food trucks as often, more often or less often than you did in 2012? Let us know in the comment section.
I look forward to hearing from all of you, and if you ever want to come by to share your thoughts with me in person, pull up a barstool at Spider Kelly’s or Eventide and let me have it. But please, buy a drink first.