Dining on a Shoestring: Fast Gourmet

At a U Street gas station, the food selection goes far beyond Slim Jims and Snickers bars.

By: Todd Kliman

If you think about eating at a gas station, what probably comes to mind are those sandwiches that fill the shelves of convenience marts: smears of tuna or egg salad on dry triangles of white bread stuffed into plastic containers.

Then there's Fast Gourmet, a quick-service cafe adjacent to a Lowest Price Gas. The signature item is the chivito ($13), which is to Uruguayans what the Cubano is to Cuban-Americans, a high-calorie sandwich that takes care of lunch and dinner both. Tenderloin beef, mozzarella, ham, bacon, hard-boiled egg, olives, and roasted mushrooms are jammed into a sub roll, then toasted on the grill, turning the roll hot and crunchy. The Cubano ($8.50) is almost as good.

See Also:

First Look: Wild Tomato

Hidden Eats: Taco Bar

That's not all that's better than it needs to be. The coleslaw is perked up with lemongrass. An empanada ($2) features a fine dice of ham and kernels of corn in a rich béchamel. And a "chocolate sausage," with dark chocolate and bits of cookie fashioned into a log and cut into thick slices, comes plated atop a squiggle of chocolate sauce. The steak-and-cheese and barbecue-chicken sandwiches aren't memorable, but they're good for gas-station food.

Traditional restaurateurs are understandably worried about the food trucks and their gourmet-on-the-cheap ethos. But food lovers can only benefit from the movement. This latest example is one of the tastiest.

This article appears in the April 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.

Subscribe to Washingtonian
Follow Washingtonian on Twitter

Follow the Best Bites Bloggers on Twitter at twitter.com/bestbitesblog

More>> Best Bites Blog | Food & Dining | Restaurant Finder