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Food Cart by Day, TV Crew by Night

by ARLnow.com November 3, 2010 at 11:09 am 6,441 18 Comments

The Taco Carrito cart has been serving hungry Ballston office workers for nearly four weeks. But even regular customers may not realize that the people serving them tasty tacos and homemade Spanish-recipe guacamole have no culinary background whatsoever.

In fact, the reason why proprietors Don Stanke and Colleen Kenney never serve breakfast or dinner is because they work a completely different full-time job — the late shift at a local television station. Don and Colleen, who asked that their employer not be identified, say they came up with the idea for the cart two years ago at a bar, while discussing layoffs in the television news industry.

With so much uncertainty, why not start their own business as a fall back, they thought. Plus, it could be fun.

“I just thought it would be cool to be a vendor, to stand there and talk to people all day,” Don said.

Don, a news photographer, and Colleen, a tape producer, decided to launch a cart before they decided what to serve. With feedback from friends, they narrowed it down to pizza or tacos. Ultimately they decided on tacos, and set off researching the best recipes.

The cart originally launched last year and served Crystal City. All went well for two months, until Arlington police showed up with measuring tape and determined the cart was two feet longer than regulations allow.

“Rules are rules,” Don lamented, even though he says he was told by a health department employee that the extra length wasn’t a problem.

After selling that cart, buying a 20-year-old used cart that required restoration and customization, and getting their paperwork in order, the cart re-launched last month.

Currently, Taco Carrito serves customers near Wellburn Square in Ballston from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

Although they did vend at the Marine Corps Marathon in Rosslyn over the weekend, Don and Colleen don’t plan to make regular trips to any other neighborhoods (partially in deference to the District Taco cart, partially to avoid the territory of a certain rival television station).

The co-workers say they would ultimately like to get licensed in the District, when such licenses become available.

  • el fat kid

    “All went well for two months, until Arlington police showed up with measuring tape and determined the cart was two feet longer than regulations allow.”

    I guess the squirrels were behaving so well that they had to time to focus on their other responsibilities.

    • G

      Haha. I agree. I can’t even believe the police went through the trouble to measure this. What a joke.

      • Glebe Roader

        So, where would you draw the line? If they are 2 feet too long, that’s OK. How about 4 feet? 20 feet too long? If they are taking two parking spaces and you wanted to park nearby?

        • Applefire

          How about we just have a rule that says that a cart may not impede the flow of foot traffic (which this cart most certainly does not). A strict length requirement makes no sense and just gets in the way of honest competition.

          • Andrew

            But what if it only impedes traffic a little bit…I mean, like just a tiny, tiny bit…is that okay? Who determines what “impede” means? You have to set dimensions like that. It is the only way to be objective.

    • Dan

      Kind of reminds me of a Beatle’s tune,something about Albert Hall and counting holes…..

    • ArlAaron

      They camped out directly in front of the CCity Chipotle for a while. I wouldn’t be surprised if an underperforming burrito shop encouraged ACPD to check their compliance with the conditions of their vendor permit.

      To be honest though, I never tried them because their employees looked so sullen, completely uninterested in selling tacos — a night and day contrast from the guys at District Taco.

      • Jim Bean

        Yes, she looks very sullen in this picture.

  • Kaiko

    I stopped by this cart the other day–love their tacos…very fresh. And the guacamole is awesome.

  • MikeyinCrystalC

    Hmmm…so they don’t work for ABC 7 (Rosslyn).

  • I checked them the other week. Sadly I am not a fan. The tacos are nowhere near as good as District Taco, and if you are going to sell tacos less than a block from Chipolte they better be really good tacos. Unfortunately, they are not really good tacos.

    I will give them another shot in a few weeks. Hopefully they improve.

  • J

    I imagine it was Code Enforcement, rather than ACPD, that measured them and cited the infraction. Either way, I agree with an above poster, I imagine a frustrated restaurant called it in.

  • AJbaba

    Awesome food. REALLY good. But it should have been called “That’s a wrap!” Get it. Video and burritos. Now cut to commercial.

  • TacoLuver

    These two don’t know the first thing about tacos. The DC area is in desparate need of real tacos.

  • Bluemont John

    Guacamole is Mexican–not Spanish.

  • Black Flag
  • chris

    I’ve been by several times and there’s always a line. Yummy to the fresh food!

  • MRod

    totally love those tacos – where else will i get lunch for less than $3

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