1441 L Street, East Village
Is this the future of food trucks?
Joel — Joey — Rodriguez calls it a pop-up. It's just a canopy over a cooking ring. With a couple of canvas chairs for Joey, his wife Olive, and Mateo the cook.
They have set their Drunken Grill up outside Mission Brewery, deep in East Village, and their big deal is grilled sandwiches. I watch while the guy ahead gets a "Super Cheezy Classic," which is three slices of grilled sourdough bread stuffed with cheese, bacon chunks, pickles. Man, that looks delicious.
Menu says you can have three things: the Super Cheezy ($7), the Cold-Cut Trio with pepperoni, salami and ham and two cheeses ($8), and Hawaiian Pizza, actually the same three sourdough slices with pepperoni, ham, Swiss and American cheeses, and pineapple ($8).
Who can resist that? I go for the Hawaiian, hand over the cash and watch while Mateo starts laying out the sourdough bread and cheeses and meats.
"You going in?" says Olive as she hands me change. She means Mission Brewery's big long bar inside the old Wonderbread factory, right here at 13th Street.
"You'd better believe it," I say. I've come for a wee glass of Dark Seas, Mission's Russian Imperial stout that I just totally love. (It costs $5.50 for 10 ounces, tax included.) Have a feeling the sweetness of the Hawaiian Pizza 'wich might tie in well with the beer's malty flavors.
Joey's a fun guy.
"I like people. That's why I do this," he says. "And working here on the sidewalk in the pop-up is way more fun than in a food truck. With the food truck you're up in that closed-off kitchen with only the order hatch to talk to your customers through. And this is cheaper to set up. My cousin has three pop-ups now. We have the van, so we just fold the tent, pack everything in, and move."
Huh. Hadn't thought of that. But he's right. You can hang around and chew the fat, without having to corkscrew your head through the little order hatch. They seem to be doing good business here, for sure.
"You don't have to wait," says Olive. "I'll bring it in. I'll find you."
Oh right. So five minutes later I'm sitting on the tall slippery stool in Mission's bar, ogling my Dark Seas in its tulip glass, when she turns up.
Ooh. Nice big double sandwich cleverly fused together so the grill ridges angle right through from one sandwich to the other. Comes with a little pot of sauce too.
"Marinara pizza sauce," Olive says.
Hmm. Savory. The sauce helps gunk the 'wich up. And the two layers of pepperoni, salchicha, cheese and pineapple get nicely complicated by the grilled sourdough flavor. And the whole thing is nicely complicated by sips of my Dark Seas. Wow. Is this the perfect combo?
What I'm also wondering is, are these guys the future? You can see they're so much more flexible than operating from a lumbering truck. And you can actually talk to them. And watch them make your stuff. I guess they might be more limited on what they can cook out here, but grilling sandwiches? No problemo.
My problem is Joey and Olive and Mateo aren't here every day. But no worries. They're easy to track down on Facebook.