Dining on a Shoestring: Red Hook Lobster Pound, TaKorean, and Solar Crêpes
Well before Red Hook Lobster Pound (twitter.com/lobstertruckdc) hit the streets of Washington, the Brooklyn-based food truck had local diners salivating. People patrolled Twitter, ready to drop everything and stand in line for buttery lobster rolls and super-sized whoopie pies. And stand in line they do, sometimes for more than an hour—or two. What the crowds—and the truck’s more than 8,000 Twitter followers—know is that a great lobster roll is hard to find. Two elements are nonnegotiable, and Red Hook has both: fresh lobster, driven from Maine several times a week, and the perfectly doughy J.J. Nissen rolls with flat sides that can be buttered and toasted on a griddle. The rolls overflow with some of the best lobster we’ve had—including some ordered at top local restaurants.
Lobster rolls ($15; $18 with soda and chips) come two ways: the cool Maine style, lightly bound by mayonnaise with a bit of finely chopped celery and shredded iceberg lettuce for crunch, or the warm, butter-sautéed Connecticut style. It’s hard to pick a favorite.
The well-seasoned shrimp roll ($8; $11 for a meal) comes dressed like the traditional lobster roll and has been known to sell out early, as have the marshmallow-filled whoopie pies ($3.50), made by a Brooklyn bakery.
The lines at TaKorean (twitter.com/takorean), also new to the downtown DC scene, aren’t much shorter than those at Red Hook, but the Asian-fusion tacos ($3 for one, $8 for three) are more affordable. The turquoise-and-yellow truck tweets its location (the State Department is a favorite), then hands out corn tortillas with a choice of bulgogi-style beef, chili-ginger chicken, or hoisin-marinated tofu topped with either kimchee or napa-cabbage/romaine slaw and add-ons such as lime crema or Sriracha sauce.
While the tacos are enjoyable, they tend to share Asian flavors of ginger, soy sauce, sesame, and spice. The most noticeable difference is in the choice of proteins—with the steak and tofu outshining the bland chicken.
New to Arlington is Solar Crêpes (twitter.com/solarcrepes), which sets up shop in Ballston or Clarendon Monday through Thursday. The main problem with the crepes—filled with organic and local ingredients, such as eggs from Virginia’s Polyface Farm—is that there’s not enough filling. The solution is to order extra filling, which tacks on another $1.75.
Savory crepes have a buckwheat batter, sweet crepes a more traditional white-flour batter. And there’s a lot to appreciate about the ingredients inside. Our favorites have been thick slices of ham and Amish cave-aged cheddar with tomato and a Dijon-mustard sauce ($7.50) and a special of steak with horseradish cream ($8.50). A chicken crepe with herbs and soy sauce ($7.50) had a good amount of flavor but could have used a hit of salt.
A sweet-crepe special of peaches, slivered almonds, and whipped cream ($6.50) was skimpy on the fruit. But a crepe wrapped around a slathering of “knewtella” ($6.50)—made locally by Krishon Chocolates as a knockoff of the popular Italian chocolate/hazelnut spread Nutella—is a gooey, satisfying way to end a meal.