Is Lunch from a Food Truck Ever Worth $15? (What about $20?)

28 Mar

Mention lunch from a truck and many people think of the many hot dog stands and trucks around D.C. that have questionable sanitation and much more questionable food.  The idea of paying $10, $15, or even $20 for a meal from a truck seems crazy.  Standing in line for significant amounts of time sounds even more ridiculous.  Should a sane person ever pay that much for lunch from a truck?  Simply put: yes (but only on rare occasions…).  Some of the best lunch time meals can be bought at food trucks around D.C. and are worth the investment of time and money.  Let’s examine our two favorites: Jose Andres’ Pepe and Red Hook Lobster Pound.

Pepe by Jose Andres

Pepe (on Twitter @pepefoodtruck)

Chef Jose Andres is arguably D.C.’s most famous chef with his restaurants Jaleo, Oyamel, Zaytinya, Mini Bar, and America Eats Tavern (a temporary popup).  His starting a food truck and attaching his name to it was a bold move and somewhat risky.  However, he has executed Pepe well and it lives up to his name well.  Our favorite item is the Pepito de Iberico, the pork and Serrano ham sandwich.  The sandwich is a flauta (very narrow baguette-style bread) that is overflowing with tenderly roasted pork and paper thin Serrano ham and complemented with sautéed green peppers and onions.  It is all topped off with a garlic aioli that drips off of the sandwich.  You will want to take several napkins from the counter of the truck because whether you eat at your desk, a table, or even your lap the juice from the sandwich and the sauce are going to make quite a delicious mess.

Pepito de Iberico from Pepe

Pepito de Iberico from Pepe

Is it worth $20?  You are getting the same quality food that you would at any Jose Andres restaurant and the sandwich will fill you up.  Let’s compare the price of the sandwich from Pepe with a lunch at Jaleo, perhaps Andres’ best known restaurant (there are three in D.C. and one in Las Vegas).  As almost every dish at Jaleo during lunch is a tapa, you are likely going to have to order more than one for lunch and most run over $10 each (some $20 each).  Therefore, to have a complete lunch at Jaleo you are going to have to spend more than the $20 you spent for the priciest item at Pepe.  While this is obviously not an everyday lunch, for an occasional treat, definitely worth it.

Red Hook Lobster Pound (on Twitter @lobstertruckdc)

Red Hook Lobster Truck

Red Hook Lobster Truck*

If you’re skeptical about food trucks in general, the idea of lobster from a food truck probably scares you.  However, the lobster served up by the Red Hook Lobster trucks (dubbed Lobby 1 and Lobby 2) is as high quality and fresh as you’ll find in any restaurant.  Try the Maine style lobster roll which is a generous portion of lobster barely covered in a mayonnaise sauce with hints of lemon, finely diced celery, and topped with green onion on a lightly toasted roll.  It’s heavy enough for an early spring lunch but not too heavy to overpower you on a hot summer afternoon.  You can also get various Maine root sodas and fresh lemonade to wash down your lunch.

Is it worth $15?  The lobster is high quality and very well prepared.  While $15 might seem steep, the portion is generous enough that it makes it worth it.  Like Pepe, lunch from Red Hook is obviously not an everyday meal but a great occasional treat for lunch.

Are there trucks that you particularly like and think we should try?  Please add them in the comment section or email us: districtcuisine@gmail.com

The best way to track where food trucks are throughout D.C. everyday is to go to foodtruckfiesta.com

*Red Hook Lobster photo courtesy Lil’ El

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