Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Lobstermobile Cometh. Yuck/Yum?

I love a street vendor as much as the next girl. In fact, I love street vendors with the combined love of both a city dweller & a tourist: As a city dweller, I find them convenient & delicious; as a small-town transplant, I find them exciting & cosmopolitan, in that dirty, "I hope this gyro doesn't give me botulism" kind of way. But we've come a long way since the days when gyro stands & hot dog joints dominated the street-side scene. These days, it's all about trendy food carts: in Portland, fine French cuisine is served from within a vintage schoolbus; in LA, popular local chefs serve $10 meals from a truck to raise money for Carts for a Cause; and the craze is even big in Columbus, the capital of my home state, where you can stop by one of many popular taco trucks or be bold & try Japanese crepes instead.

Photo purloined from Washington City Paper
Frankly (hot dog pun intended), the District of Columbia's not doing so wildly well with its meager & difficult-to-locate variety of food carts, which have received only mild hype. Apparently there's a Bulgogi cart, which serves Korean fare, & the Fojol Bros. Indian food cart is a staple at street fairs. Sweetgreen’s bright green van sells “sweetflow” (a really menstrual name for its froyo) across the town like an adult ice cream truck, & apparently Baja Fresh even serves their sub-par faux-Mexican on the go. One problem: I never see these trucks. Like, ever. And I know I don’t go out a lot, but it’s not like I’m (usually) a hermit. Where are the food trucks & why aren’t they parked in places where people want to be eating? I certainly do that enough.

Considering DC’s sorta-lame food cart track record, I was surprised to see so much excitement about today’s big debut: the lobster truck. That’s right, NYC's Red Hook Lobster Pound has brought Maine lobsters to the District's streets, & the enthusiasm has been quite overwhelming. Blogger The D.C. Universe waited two hours for a simple Connecticut roll; @LobsterTruckDC says they served more than 400 rolls today before closing at 3:30. With more than 50 people reportedly lined up at a time in Farragut for $15 mobile seafood - even in 90-degree heat - I suspect a lot of bummed, sweaty lobster-seekers missed out.

Here’s my beef (these hot dog segues just keep coming): D.C. is not particularly coastal. Lobsters aren’t raised anywhere within the District, to the best of my limited knowledge, & Maryland is famous for those other clawed crustaceans. This lobster's apparently being trucked in from the Pine Tree State, but... that's a long way away, yo. And do I want my lobster (if I want my lobster at all) taking an hours-upon-hours-long road trip from up North only to be dished out from a hot, sticky vehicle that's baking in the DC sun? Lobster just seems like a meat better served in... well, like, a real restaurant.

I'm skeptical, but I’ll try one. When the lines are shorter. But until then, the Ohio State Fair aficionado in me doesn’t require much of my food carts. Just fry me up a good old-fashioned funnel cake, OK?

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