The Washington Post recently came upon an out-of-the-box thinking food truck operator whose creative idea of retrofitting old buses as dining cars may help to reinvigorate the District’s thinking in its latest proposed food truck regulations. Justin Vitarello, co-founder of Fojol Brothers wants to be a part of a growing mobile culture in D.C. and is ready to bring something new to the table. Vitarello’s vision isn’t entirely new.
Le Truc in San Francisco has pulled off a similar concept for several years, but Vitarello plans to offer something a little different. He imagines his customers sitting down to a meal in a 1957 bus retrofitted as a 21st-century dining car “When I walked into [the bus], I knew it would work,” Vitarello says. “It would be something that would complement what we do. . . . We want to be part of a growing mobile culture. It’s meeting people where they are with their lifestyle,” he told the Post.
Fojol Brothers, featured on Food Network’s Eat St this passed season serves Indian, Thai and Ethiopian food while wearing fake mustaches and brightly-colored turbans. They are a fictional “traveling culinary carnival” from the country of “Merlindia” to “share their family traditions with the world.”
The traveling food circus is also featured in the upcoming book, Eat St, written by the show’s host, James Cunningham. The Fojol Brothers may not take themselves seriously, but they take their food very seriously. Pre-orders for the book are available for $6.00 off the cover price until April 2, when the book officially launches and ships.
Retrofitted Dining Cars Serve as Peace Offering
Vitarello feels that his concept may serve as a peace offering in an ongoing debate between food trucks and bricks and mortar restaurants. The owners of bricks and mortar restaurants view street food vendors as poachers or wandering vagrants. The new proposed regulations establish Mobile Roadway Vending locations, where trucks would enjoy expanded hours but probably find their numbers limited. The buses are part of a new trend of food truck round-ups on private properties, including parking lots.
Some, more extravagant round-ups include patio seating, canopies and entertainment like the events seen in California and Portland, Oregon. Vitarello and co-founder Peter Korbel plan to reinvigorate areas of D.C. and are working with food truck operators, private developers, businesses and arts organizations to bring street food to focused areas. They’re primarily focused on single areas that are removed from the spaces controlled by the District Department of Transportation and away from the major restaurant rows.
“The proposed stationary truck/bus venture may be in anticipation of a change in the vending regulations, or it may be a sign of a maturing industry that is adjusting its business model to mitigate the mobility ‘downside,’ ” Kathy Hollinger, the new president of Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, says in an e-mail statement to the Post. She considers the cutthroat competition for parking spots one of the “downsides” for food trucks.
“Stationary, off-street vending of the type proposed by the Fojol Brothers is new to the District but well tested in other cities such as Portland, Oregon, and Austin, Texas,” Hollinger adds. “This type of ‘mobile’ vending is certainly worth looking at as the city struggles to manage the most popular public space for safety and accessibility by all concerned.”
Stephen Crouch, a sculptor at the 52 O Street Studios, is the creative director for the buses. He’s transforming the buses into functional spaces, with the idea of getting them on the road by summer; the rehab work is expected to cost about $50,000, which the Fojol Bros. hope to finance via a Kickstarter campaign. Crouch figures, as of last week, that he has spent about two months working on the first bus: ripping out seats, stripping off layers of exterior paint and designing the interior for its role as part of the District’s street scene.
The spacious, turquoise-colored interior will be outfitted with modular components, such as tables that snap onto the old overhead hand rails, so the buses can take on various personalities, depending on the function. Read the full story http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-03-12/lifestyle/37648185_1_food-trucks-fojol-bros-truck-event