Basil Thyme, Rolling Ficelle, and Feelin’ Crabby: Food Truck Early Looks
Washington’s food-truck fleet seems to grow bigger by the day. We tracked down three newbies to talk to the owners—and have lunch, of course.
Left, Feelin’ Crabby’s crab salad with mayo, Old Bay, peppers, and parsley; right, handmade tomato fettucine from Basil Thyme. Photographs by Emma PattiThree new trucks have rolled into Washington's increasingly eclectic street food scene. There's Basil Thyme for fresh pasta, Rolling Ficelle for baguette-anchored sandwiches, and Feelin' Crabby for fresh crab salads and sandwiches. We took a few lunches this week to find out how they’re doing. You can check the location of each vendor with our food-truck Twitter list.
Brian Farrell recently left his job in IT sales to indulge his love for Italian cooking. Now he rises at 5 AM to crank out sheets of pasta dough for the truck's cooked-to-order fettuccine, ravioli, and lasagna. We found him taking orders for tomato fettuccine, a lasagna with ground beef, and another layered with summer squash, mushrooms, and house-made ricotta cheese.
“From scratch" is the theme here (check out the circular scratches on the truck that are meant to highlight it), and Farrell is still tinkering with the menu. At this point, there are marinara, bolognese, vodka, and pesto sauces to choose from, and a rotating lineup of noodles. Some items already taste like menu staples—that pesto is bright, basil-packed, and lightly nutty from ground walnuts—while other elements, such as clumped fettuccine that's otherwise al dente, are a reminder that Basil Thyme has been on the road for only a few days.
You’ll also find sandwiches, salads, and desserts such as tiramisu and cannoli with house-made ricotta. For $10, you can get pasta or a sandwich, salad, soda, and dessert.
This black truck is another place to score a deal: each of the seven nearly foot-long sandwiches are only $5.95. Thankfully, any similarities to Subway stop there. Instead of over-stuffed, monotonously flavored hoagies, we found slender loaves from Lyon Bakery. The bread, made with rice and wheat flours, has a crunchy surface and a pillowy interior, and is an excellent vehicle for the freshly sliced meats and veggies.
Sandwich shops often have themed names for their fare. But instead of dogs or cities, art-loving owner Juan Jose Quintana has named his sandwiches after abstract expressionist painters who lived in America. Kudos for specificity! Quintana says his sandwiches are a fusion of American and European styles, with deli combinations—say, roast beef, provolone, pepper relish, and horseradish aïoli—served in the restrained amounts that one finds in Spanish bocadillos. We liked the balance of flavors in that sandwich and in the "Gorky," layered with ham, mozzarella cheese, tomato, chopped olives, and pesto (though the sandwich could taste the same or better without the mild Danish ham). Sweet-tart Greek frozen yogurt and sour-cherry lemonade are nice accompaniments on a hot day.
Chef/owner Alex Tsamouras attended culinary school in the land of crabs (Baltimore), and he cooked at Cava Mezze and at chef Tom Douglas's Lola in Seattle before moving back east. A lack of a fryer or flat-top grill meant that the concept and preparation had to be simple. That's not a bad thing. Tsamouras offers essentially one product: fresh lump crabmeat lightly tossed with mayo, Old Bay, diced peppers, and parsley. Ordering is simple: You can choose to have the crab salad on a freshly baked kaiser roll or atop mesclun greens with teardrop tomatoes and a citrusy vinaigrette. A house-made lemonade or Arnold Palmer and Utz crab chips rounds out the meal.
Tsamouras blends pricey Chesapeake crab with sizable lumps from Indonesian blue crab so that each softball-sized portion gets the sweetness of the local meat without a high price tag (both sandwiches and salads are $11).