Next stop for food trucks: Silver Spring?
- In downtown D.C., long lines form at a cupcake truck. But not in Silver Spring (yet). (Photo: Jay Westcott)
Walker Lamond commutes daily from Georgetown to his office above the Whole Foods in Silver Spring. When lunchtime rolls around, he generally has two options: He can hit the grocery store’s food bar, or walk over to one of the countless chain restaurants in the nearby downtown area.
What Lamond can’t do is take advantage of the curbside food bazaar that’s been growing by the day closer to his home in the District. Washington’s gourmet food truck craze, which has already spawned entire websites devoted to keeping track of them all in real-time, has yet to reach bustling downtown Silver Spring, and that’s something Lamond would like to see change.
“I would love a little variety,” he says. “The area would be great for a South American food truck.”
Some trucks already venture out to busy corners in Arlington, but Silver Spring, with a Metro station, massive office buildings and a lively, walkable town center, remains a food truck desert.
Montgomery County is wide-open to gourmet food trucks, according to Kevin Chinnia, manager of the county’s environmental inspection program. A number of standard carts and trucks already operate, but they generally cater to specific communities and serve mainly Latin American foods. Chinnia isn’t aware of any of the sort of upscale food trucks currently making the rounds in the District that are operating in Montgomery.
Meanwhile, back in the District, many vendors say they can barely keep up with demand. On a 102-degree July day, a long line formed in front of vegetarian burrito cart Pedro and Vinny’s at 15th and K streets NW. A group of 20-something officer workers stood in a line that Stephen Muller of D.C. says is worth the wait; patrons can choose flavored spinach or garlic tortillas and a signature mango salsa tops most burritos. But Muller also noted that gourmet street food “is sort of a novelty.”
“There’s something cosmically pleasing about food from street vendors,” adds Muller’s friend, Sam Zeitlin of Arlington.
Peter Korbel and Justin Vitarello, proprietors of the year-old Fojol Bros. Indian food truck, have yet to venture beyond the District’s borders, where Korbel says the market still hasn’t quite been fully tapped out.
“I think eventually it’s becoming more of a contentious issue because [of] the public space. We’re dealing with the public space, which is limited,” Korbel says. ”We’ll get people who will e-mail us saying they want to start a food truck in D.C. but, ‘Oh, we’re not doing the same thing as you.’ In reality, any cuisine is competition because you’re competing for space.”
Just such competition is set to hit the streets soon. New trucks reportedly in the works include some that plan to sell French fries and mac-and-cheese. And as more park along streets and stake out prime corners, crossing over into Maryland could become more appealing.
Kristi Cunningham, co-owner of Curbside Cupcakes, says preliminary conversations with Montgomery County about selling there have been positive, and she hasn’t felt like the licensing process will be “overly cumbersome.”
Cunningham and co-owner Sam Whitfield have been selling cupcakes throughout the District since November 2009. She said future plans include extending service first across the river into Virginia, and then eventually to Maryland.
Silver Spring would be an ideal location, Cunningham says, with Discovery Communications’ headquarters, a Metro station and concentrated commercial and residential properties all within walking distance.
“We have a lot of people that say to us, ‘please come to Silver Spring.’ So we’re definitely, we’re itching to get there, but it’s just a matter of logistics,” Cunningham says.
“It sounds a little silly, but it doesn’t matter if they’re young or old, people who are cupcake customers are trendy. I think that Silver Spring is trendy… so it’s kind of complimentary; it’s a natural fit with the population.”
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