Food and Drink

D.C.'s food truck fix

PhoWheels food truck.
Photo: Paige Hopkins/Axios

Throughout the pandemic, restaurant owners have turned to food trucks for survival by literally meeting diners where they are: working and eating at home. 

What’s happening: You might’ve noticed a steady stream of restaurants-on-wheels stopping by your neighborhood these last two years. Most local food trucks have left downtown streets behind and have migrated to residential areas instead. 

Meanwhile, the fleet of trucks in the District has expanded — to 198 as of last month.

  • According to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, which monitors the industry, that was a 21.5% increase from April 2020.

Why it matters: The pandemic has been absolutely brutal for restaurants, and even with more diners out and about, the industry still faces a raft of headwinds. But food trucks are helping some business owners stay afloat, all while bringing dinner to our doorsteps.   

What they’re saying: PhoWheels owner Tuan Vo says his truck is bringing in more revenue now than before the pandemic. He’s also seen an increase in private bookings for weddings, festivals, and birthday parties. 

  • Vo says that pre-pandemic, the truck would usually be booked only one or two months in advance, but he’s currently booked on most Fridays and Saturdays until November.

Pepe, a food truck by José Andrés, has shifted to focusing on private and community events during the pandemic. Sous chef José Rivera emailed Axios that the truck is "incredibly busy" and is open now more than it was before the pandemic.

Yes, but: The food truck fix hasn’t endured for everyone. The mobile businesses are expensive to maintain and tough to staff because at least one employee has to be certified to drive the truck. 

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken owner Elliot Spaisman says the early days of the pandemic were lucrative for his truck: “It was wild those first couple months.” But revenue slowed as the pandemic continued.

  • He shuttered the truck last fall due to staffing issues and pricey repairs. 

Similarly, Roaming Roster cut its fleet of four food trucks to two. 

  • On the flip side, it has opened six new brick-and-mortar locations and now all but one of its restaurants are mainly in residential areas. 

What we’re watching: As the pandemic goes on and work-from-home lifestyles adjust, the food truck scene may further evolve as restaurant owners continue searching for ways to attract customers.

4 great happy hour deals in D.C.

Row of drinks at Urban Roast in Washington DC
Photo: courtesy of Urban Roast

This city is a happy hour town, but hardly every HH deal is a steal. Here are four easy-on-the-wallet spots in the District to add to your rotation.

3 D.C. date ideas under $25

People enjoy the day on the pier
Enjoy a day at The Wharf. Photo: Oliver Contreras/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Dating can be expensive, but you don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a good time.

  • Whether you’re on a first date or have been together for years, here are some affordable date ideas under $25.

4 must-try rooftop bars in Washington, D.C.

Boats and buildings on the wharf in Washington DC
The Wharf. Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Did someone say rooftop? Enjoy a drink with a view at these spots while the weather is warm.

Why it matters: There's just something special about drinking on a rooftop with a warm summer breeze. Instant serotonin.

Check out D.C.'s 2022 Michelin Stars

A person cutting food on a plate.
A dish from Albi. Photo courtesy of Rey López

The Michelin Guide added four new D.C. restaurants to its list of stars, bringing Washington's total number to 24.

Here are the one-star newcomers:

Paige Hopkins
Apr 27, 2022 - Business

From daycare to donuts: Inflation's local impact

Animated illustration of a scared face made from the zeros on the top corner of a one hundred dollar bill
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Some of Washington’s favorite pastimes, from socializing at restaurants to going to the gym, are being impacted by the highest inflation in decades. Unfortunately, it looks like high prices are here to stay.

Why it matters: Right as more offices open, warm-weather activities are upon us, and people are stacking their calendars, life is getting more expensive.

Coming soon to D.C.: New fast casual Bindaas concept

An Indian food bowl with rice and veggies.
Photo courtesy of Greg Powers

The original Bindaas restaurants are getting a new sister concept focused on carryout. 

Driving the news: Bindaas Bowls & Rolls will open soon at 415 7th Street NW in Penn Quarter.

D.C. work lunches are slowly returning

Illustration of a briefcase made out of a restaurant check holder.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Downtown restaurants are slowly welcoming office workers back to lunch.

Why it matters: For two years, restaurants in the heart of the city have been hollowed out, as their core customer base -- office employees, work from home. Now that Omicron has crested,  and some people are returning to offices downtown, restaurateurs hope that weekday lunch rebounds.    

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