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Appetite: Food Trucks Lift Spirits, Bring Community to Cameron Station
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Appetite: Food Trucks Lift Spirits, Bring Community to Cameron Station

Astro Doughnuts and Waffles is one of many food trucks that has been visiting Cameron Station during the pandemic.

Astro Doughnuts and Waffles is one of many food trucks that has been visiting Cameron Station during the pandemic. Photo by Renee Rothschild

It’s a tale as old as time: Communities finding common ground with food, sharing meals together, looking forward to events that center on a family meal, a special occasion.

These days, amid a pandemic, the rules have changed slightly – or, perhaps more than slightly – but the sentiment remains. People crave good meals. They crave community.

And now, thanks to the handiwork of one Cameron Station neighbor, they can get both from the window of a food truck two days a week.

Cameron Station resident Renee Rothschild is herself a casualty of the pandemic’s economic havoc. A director of catering, Rothschild was laid off from her job on March 24. By March 25, she was looking for a way to help others.

“Here I’m in a situation where I lost my job … but what about the food trucks? They’re such an important part of the D.C. area,” she said. “In this pandemic, so much is going to be lost, and I just felt very passionate about making sure at least our food trucks don’t go under.”

Rothschild started reaching out to various food truck vendors on March 25, and shortly thereafter she landed her first truck to visit the neighborhood, at the corner of Cameron Station Boulevard and Harold Secord Street – barbecue purveyor Smoking Kow. And neighbors were ready for a feast.

“[The line] was wrapped down and around the condos and down the street, I am not kidding,” Rothschild said, adding that she and her husband began marking off six-foot separatiosn on the sidewalk and had to keep extending the queue to accommodate hungry customers. The food truck sold out in 45 minutes – a total of 200 meals.

The second week, Rothschild organized two food trucks to visit the area, and both were sold out in an hour and 15 minutes. That’s when she knew she had a success on her hands.

“This is bananas,” she laughed.

The food truck visiting hours expanded from two hours to three, and from one day to two – Tuesdays and Saturdays. Tuesdays are now more classic-dinner options (think DC Slice or Peruvian Brothers), while Saturdays are more family-friendly fare (think Captain Cookie and the Milkman). And both days are bustling with activity.

“Since that first food truck, Tuesdays have been crazy, Saturdays have been absolutely crazy, and the food trucks look at us and are like, ‘You know Renee, you’re helping us, you’re keeping us on the road,’” Rothschild said.

Rothschild spreads the attention between a number of trucks, trying to keep the culinary diversity vibrant while ensuring no one is left out of the mix (or favored too heavily). And she intends on keeping the event going for as long as necessary.

“I would like to see this go as long as the food trucks need this assistance. When it comes down to it, we’re in the talks with the local authorities in Alexandria to make sure that we can continue to bring in food trucks that aren’t necessarily on their list of Alexandria-approved food trucks,” she said.

The twice-weekly events give a purpose to the days and give the neighbors something special to wait on – and they keep Rothschild busy, too.

“It’s given me something else to do besides baking,” she laughed.

Hope Nelson is the author of “Classic Restaurants of Alexandria” and owns the Kitchen Recessionista blog, located at www.kitchenrecessionista.com. Email her any time at hope@kitchenrecessionista.com.