Arlington, VA

Food trucks lovers in Arlington may now have more opportunities to buy their meals on wheels thanks to newly loosened regulations.

The Arlington County Board approved a series of code changes during its meeting this weekend that open up more parking areas for food trucks and also allow the trucks to operate later into the night. Members voted unanimously in support of the changes as part of their consent agenda for the Saturday, September 21 meeting.

Under the updated regulations, food trucks will be now be able park in places with sidewalks at least 6 wide, down from 10 feet. The amended code also clarified that trucks are can in certain cases operate past the standard business hours of 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

In a report to the Board, county staff noted that the changes will provide “greater flexibility in establishing on-street vending zones.”

The 10-foot sidewalk requirement previously barred trucks from otherwise desirable areas. One example was 15th Street N. in Courthouse, which officials said could accommodate five food trucks were it not for the 7.5 foot-wide sidewalk not meeting the 10-foot requirement.

Food truck owners have, in the past, butted heads with the county and police over parking time limits and parking locations.

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District Taco began as a stand-alone food cart and expanded into the burgeoning regional restaurant chain it is today.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of District Taco, which was co-founded by Marc Wallace and Osiris Hoil. The company is marking the occasion with an event in Rosslyn tomorrow (Thursday).

“ATTN, amigos!” the company said in a social media post. “Join us back where it all started for our 10 year anniversary… from 12-1 p.m. we will be on the corner of Lynn St & Wilson Blvd, in Rosslyn, handing out tacos and giveaways! Come celebrate with us and pose for a photo with our original taco cart.”

Hoil said he also plans on celebrating by taking a trip down to Mexico in August to visit family and reminisce about his mother’s cooking — the inspiration for many District Taco recipes.

Hoil’s entrepreneurial story began when he came to the United States as an immigrant and was laid off from a construction company during in 2007, around the time of the economic crisis. He said despite his dismay at the time, he still thinks highly of the firm and hired them to build several District Taco locations.

The District Taco cart launched in 2009, but was retired in 2014. Since then, two bricks-and-mortar District Taco locations have opened in Arlington: at 5723 Lee Highway — its very first storefront — in 2010 and in Rosslyn (1500 Wilson Blvd) in 2016.

District Taco now has 14 locations, according to its website, and plans to add at least three more in 2020, according to Hoil. They also want to double their office space by 2021.

“Everything we have done is by scratch,” said Hoil. “We have learned so much from other people and big companies.”

Photo 1 via Twitter

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(Updated on 07/12/19) Officials are considering making it easier for food trucks to serve up grub around the county.

The Arlington County Board is set to consider a request for a public hearing on loosening some food truck regulations during its meeting this Saturday, July 13.

Ultimately if the Board approves the changes, the county would lower the required sidewalk width in areas designated for food trucks from 10 feet wide to 6 feet. The proposed code changes would also add language stating that the County Manager’s office can allow food trucks to operate outside standard business hours (7 a.m.-8 p.m.)

The suggested changes came after a county study concluded there were seven areas in Courthouse that could be designed for street vending, according to a staff report to the Board. However, staff found that a 10-foot sidewalk requirement got in the way of some sites:

The location on 15th Street North is proximate to the established street vending zone on Clarendon Boulevard, could accommodate approximately five food trucks and could create an ideal concentration of vending options. This potential zone is adjacent to a 7.6′ wide sidewalk — less than the required 10 feet. The narrower sidewalk, however, is located adjacent to a public park that could accommodate queueing lines and allow for through passage of pedestrians.

If the members approve the public hearing, Arlingtonians will be able to weigh in on the issue during the Board’s meeting on September 21.

Currently the vote on whether or not to hold a public hearing on the proposed changes is a part of the County Board’s consent agenda for this weekend’s meeting. The consent agenda is typically reserved for items expected to pass without debate.

Previously, food truck owners have battled the county and police over parking time limits and parking locations.

Image 2 via Arlington County 

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Morning Notes

Busy Weekend for Fire Department — The Arlington County Fire Department helped to rescue a person trapped in an overturned SUV on northbound I-395 at Glebe Road Saturday evening and battled an attic fire in the Arlington Forest neighborhood early Sunday morning. [Twitter, Twitter]

Arlington’s Top Bond Rating Reaffirmed — “For the 19th year in a row, all three credit ratings agencies have reaffirmed Arlington County’s debt ratings of Aaa/AAA/AAA — the highest rating. Arlington is one of just 48 counties in the United States, and nine in Virginia, to receive the highest rating from all three credit agencies for its bonds.” [Arlington County, Fitch Ratings]

Amazon Makes Va. Political Contributions — “Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), with leases for its second headquarters in Arlington signed and hiring underway, is ramping up its political contributions in Virginia, weeks ahead of a key state primary.” [Washington Business Journal]

GGW Endorses Challenger in Prosecutor Race — “The two-term incumbent, Theo Stamos, is being challenged by a political newcomer, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti. Greater Greater Washington’s volunteer Elections Committee considered the positions of these two qualified candidates, and we endorse Dehghani-Tafti.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Food Truck Nights in Ballston — “Local food trucks will be parked in front of Randolph Towers on the first Wednesday of the month from June to August. On June 5th, stop by for a taste of Maine from Red Hook Lobster Pound and comfort food favorites by Dogs on the Curb!” [Ballston BID]

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An annual, family-friendly outdoor festival is scheduled to return next weekend with music, dancers, and games.

The 3rd annual “Arlington Palooza” will be held in Alcova Heights Park (901 S. George Mason Drive) from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, April 13.

This year, organizers at the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation say there will be laser tag, a bouncy house, face painting, and lessons in making flower crowns and pinwheels, among other activities listed on the event’s website.

Four food trucks will serve the festival, including Big Cheese, El Encanto Latino, Little Miss Whoopie and Salou’s Softy.

This year’s musical line-up includes:

  • 1-1:30 p.m. — The Sunshine Gang, a classic rock and roll band
  • 1:50-2:20 p.m. — Sarah Baumgarten, an H-B Woodlawn student and singer-songwriter who plays the ukulele
  • 3:15-3:50 p.m. — The Blue Flames, an five piece Arlington-based rock band

The Sultanas Troupe will perform a fusion of traditional Middle-Eastern and modern dances from 2:40-3 p.m.

The Arlington Art Truck will also join the festivities with a traveling show about electricity by Baltimore artist Neil Feather.

Police will close one block of 8th Street S. between S. Randolph Street and S. George Mason Drive during the event.

The county is warning that parking near the event will be “extremely limited” and is encouraging attendees to find alternative transportation. A spokeswoman for the event noted there will be bike valets, and that scooter company Bird is offering a $5 credit with the coupon code BEFREE.

The department said there will be a “designated drop-off area along S. George Mason Drive near 8th Street S.” for people with disabilities.

Photo via Arlington County

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(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) Firefighters battled an intense vehicle fire today in front of the Arlington Assembly of God Church, along Route 50 in the Arlington Forest neighborhood.

Initial reports suggest that a food truck caught fire, though the vehicle was later reported to be a work van. A traffic camera showed flames and a thick column of smoke coming from the van as firefighters arrived on scene. The smoke could be seen from as far away as Crystal City.

The fire was extinguished after a few minutes and no one was injured. The fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause.

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Morning Notes

Memorial Bridge Closure Delayed — “Work on Arlington Memorial Bridge was scheduled to close all lanes this weekend, but with the expected arrival of Hurricane Florence, the National Park Service announced that the closure has been pushed back. Now, instead of Friday, the temporary closure of both sidewalks and all six lanes on the crumbling bridge is planned for 7 p.m. on Sept. 21 through 5 a.m. on Sept. 24.” [WTOP]

Economist Food Truck Comes to Rosslyn — Today The Economist is scheduled to bring its food truck to Central Place Plaza in Rosslyn from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. The truck offers “a taste of the future,” including free meatless burgers. Also offered: a 12-issue subscription to the magazine for $12. [Rosslyn]

Bezos and Amazon Board in Town — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the Board of Directors of his $1 trillion company are in town for meetings and a much-anticipated speech at the Economic Club of Washington Thursday night. Some speculate the board is helping to evaluate the D.C. area as a possible location for Amazon’s second headquarters, while the company has denied rumors that Bezos will be making an HQ2-related announcement during his speech. [Washington Post]

AFAC Asks For More Cash — “The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) has announced a special appeal to its donors, volunteers and the public to raise $50,000 to offset the funds lost when the Arlington government reduced its support… In fiscal years 2017 and 2018, the county government provided $50,000 in addition to the base grant of $477,925 to address a spike in families needing food assistance. The additional funding was not included in the fiscal 2019 budget.” [InsideNova]

Iota Book in the Works — The co-owner of the late, lamented Iota Club is trying to raise money online to compile a book showcasing memorabilia from the former Clarendon music venue. More than $1,000 of a $90,000 goal has been raised so far. [GoFundMe]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Today, if you want the El Fuego food truck’s unique fusion of Peruvian cuisine with international flavors, you’ll have to track it down first. But this fall, El Fuego will find a permanent brick-and-mortar home in Lyon Park.

El Fuego mixes traditional Peruvian food with influences from other cultures, with a particular favoritism towards Chinese and Japanese dishes. Freedom to pursue his own types of cuisine was what drew Manuel Alfaro to leave the restaurant industry and start his food truck eight years ago. Now, that same freedom is what’s bringing him back to starting his own restaurant.

“We’re going to have our own restaurant, so we’ll be able to do things that have been constantly requested,” said Alfaro. “On a food truck, you’re dealing with a kitchen that’s four feet by eight feet. You have to have a menu selected and limited.”

Alfaro says many of their dishes are broken up into summer and winter menus. Some foods, like a Peruvian pulled chicken and yellow pepper dish with the fusion twist of added cheese and wrapped in an eggroll, just don’t keep in a food truck during summer months.

“This is an item that needs to be cooked from frozen,” said Alfaro. “During the summer we tried to have that on the food truck, but it doesn’t hold up to the temperatures in the kitchen. Even though we have a freezer on truck, they still start sticking together. Having a [restaurant] location will enable us to have all of these dishes.”

For the past year, Alfaro says he’s been looking for a location to put his restaurant. But Alfaro said his options were slim. He was trying to find a location that had partially been built out as a restaurant or had previously been a restaurant to cut down on the immense initial costs of installing a hood in the kitchen.

But when Alfaro found the location on the 2300 block of N. Pershing Drive, it was perfect. The space was built as a restaurant, complete with a hood in the kitchen, back when it was originally envisioned as vegetarian restaurant Alt’s — the space only opened briefly due to family troubles among its owners, culminating in founder Bryan Morrell’s death last month.

When he first came to the area, Alfaro said he sat outside the restaurant around lunchtime and watched the traffic. There are several other restaurants in the nearby area, all of which were active around lunch. The street is a major cut-through when I-66 is backed up, and Alfaro said the nearby apartments and Fort Myer were promising for a steady dinner crowd.

Alfaro said the goal is for an opening in the middle of September, but experience in the restaurant industry tells him a grand opening sometime in early October is more likely. Alfaro said his vision for the opening day is to have the restaurant operational with the food truck serving more customers outside.

“We are serving something we are proud of,” said Alfaro. “This is our food. It’s not someone else’s menu dictating we serve this or that. This is food we are proud of… It gives us a drive to succeed and provide something any American can come in, try, and say ‘wow, this is awesome.'”

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Morning Notes

It’s Summer — Today is the first day of summer and the longest day of the year in terms of daylight. [Fortune]

Verizon 911 Outage Updated at 11:40 a.m. — From Arlington Alert: “Due to a regional Verizon outage, Verizon mobile phones may not be able to reach 9-1-1 or non-emergency numbers in the area at this time. Please use Text-to-9-1-1 or another phone carrier if the voice call does not go through.” Callers in Alexandria, Fairfax and Prince William are also affected by the outage. Service was restored around 11 a.m. [Twitter, WJLA]

Crash Leads to All-Time Terrible Commute — Yesterday’s evening commute was “atrocious” and the “worst I’ve ever seen” in Northern Virginia, per transportation reporter Adam Tuss. Traffic was especially slow on northbound I-395 and the northbound GW Parkway approaching D.C., after a deadly and fiery truck crash shut down a portion of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and the Capital Beltway. [WTOP, Twitter, Twitter]

New Details in Police Shooting — There are new details in the police shooting of a man near Columbia Pike last month. According to court records, Steven Best and his passenger “were involved in a drug transaction with a man outside a hotel.” Police then boxed in his van to make an arrest, but Best allegedly tried to flee, driving “forwards and backwards, striking multiple police cars,” leading to the shooting. Best’s family, which has questioned the police account of what happened, says they have a video of the shooting. [WJLA]

Housing Costs Still Rising — The average per-square-foot cost of an existing home in Arlington is now $475, an increase of 1.3 percent compared to last year and the highest such figure among Northern Virginia localities. [InsideNova]

New ACPD Officers — Ten new Arlington police officers took the oath of honor to protect and serve the residents of Arlington County earlier this week after graduating from the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy. [Twitter]

Bishop Burbidge on World Refugee Day — Catholic Diocese of Arlington Bishop Michael Burbidge released a statement in honor of World Refugee Day yesterday, saying in part: “may we… stand with refugees and commemorate their courage, resilience and perseverance. May we always remember to ‘treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and … love him as yourself, for [we] were strangers in the land of Egypt’ (Leviticus19:34).” [Arlington Catholic Herald, Twitter]

Food Truck Inspections — The Arlington County Fire Department has been performing inspections this week of food trucks that operate in Arlington. Officials have been specifically looking at fire suppression systems and the storage of cooking fuels. [Twitter]

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An organic Korean-Vietnamese food truck is opening up a brick-and-mortar location in Arlington Ridge.

Kovi Kitchen will be opening a location at 2921 S. Glebe Road, near the Arlington-Alexandria border. The restaurant teased the news on Twitter and Facebook over the weekend, but did not announce an estimated grand opening weekend.

The food truck, which has parked in Rosslyn for the lunch rush, serves $3 tacos, rice bowls and bahn mi.

The restaurant will be run by Vi Nguyen, who, according to the truck’s website, has at least 29 years of hospitality industry experience.

A voice mail left at the food truck’s listed number was not immediately returned.

Photo via Kovi Kitchen

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Bootheel Catering started cooking Southern-style cuisine nine years ago in Arlington, and now it’s expanding to a food truck.

The truck will begin selling food to locals in late May or early June, said Bootheel Catering owner David Newton.

Newton is from Southeast Missouri, a location described as the “boot heel” of the state, which inspired the catering company’s name.

Newton said he wanted to open a food truck to make catering more convenient by having a mobile kitchen on hand for events.

“It makes our lives easier. It makes the food fresher,” he said. “I just want to get more of our stuff out to people, because people really like it.”

The food truck’s menu will include barbecue, brisket, pulled chicken, jambalaya, gumbo, grits, fried chicken and more. Prices will from $8 to $12, Newton said.

The truck will be traveling throughout Clarendon, Rosslyn, Crystal City and possibly Ballston. Newton said the truck may even go out to the Tyson’s Corner area.

Photo via Facebook/Bootheel Catering 

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