How the pandemic changed GW’s food truck scene

Media Credit: Sophia Young | Assistant Photo Editor

GW's partnership with Curbside Kitchen will bring new additions to campus' daily food truck lineup.

Food trucks are typically a staple for hungry students in transit to class, but after 18 months of an empty university, you won’t be able to find the familiar crew of trucks around campus.

During the pandemic, food trucks in D.C. struggled to stay afloat, dwindling the selection of trucks in the District and on campus. Students may see some of their favorite food trucks like Tasty Kabob and Yumpling lined up on 22nd Street but notice Swizzler and Tempo di Pasta’s absence in front of the University Student Center.

Trucks like Soultarian and the Roaming Coyote, which are reopened in Potomac Square, have offered quick meals for the GW community since 2019, when Potomac Square was transformed from an empty parking lot into an outside area with public tables and seating. Soultarian’s owner and executive chef Christopher Arnold said he is excited to be back with business as usual and see some familiar faces.

“I’ve noticed a lot of my old customers who were freshmen are then appearing now as juniors, and they’re all happy to see me back on campus,” Arnold said. “They said I’m their favorite food truck, so I still retained a lot of the old students and some of the staff members that frequent my truck.”

Soultarian, which sells vegan street food, returned to campus last Thursday. Arnold said he continued operating his food truck outside of Foggy Bottom during the pandemic, but he is nevertheless excited to keep serving plant-based meals to students.

“We’re glad to be back on campus and we’re going to keep pushing our plant-based foods as long as you guys want us around,” he said.

Potomac Square was previously operated by TwentyTables, an D.C.-based app that worked with food vendors to make low cost meals more accessible. But after TwentyTables terminated its partnership with GW during the pandemic and went out of business, the operation of the Potomac Square trucks was handed to the food truck company Curbside Kitchen in partnership with Chartwells Higher Education, GW’s new dining partner.

Some new trucks will also be coming to Potomac Square like Memaw’s Table. Named after the granddaughter of the owner and chef Terese Harris, Memaw’s Table will serve Cajun food, including chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits and red beans with rice.

Although some of the most well-known food trucks on campus remain parked on H Street, others have left altogether.

Rolling Cow, a Korean food truck, was popular for its large portions of Korean-spiced meats, but the truck halted operations at the start of the pandemic.

Students who want to get their favorite specialty hotdog from Swizzler, a food truck which used to draw crowds in front of the University Student Center, might have to head to Navy Yard. During the pandemic, Swizzler shifted its focus away from food truck operations and toward its new storefront in Navy Yard, which opened last spring.

Tasty Kabob’s general manager, Matt Dang, said his team is still doing licensing paperwork to comply with D.C. regulations, but he expects to be back open between Sept. 17 and 20. Dang said early in the pandemic, Tasty Kabob moved to serving through DoorDash, GrubHub and UberEats exclusively.

“It was very challenging because as a mobile food vendor, that was our main source of income so we had to come up with different ways to ask for the revenue stream,” Dang said. “When the student campus shut down, we had to be creative to where we would have to serve food.”

Now that students have returned to campus, Dang said he is ready to serve the community that has supported them for so many years.

“We grew up with you through freshman year all the way to grad school,” Dang said. “We are very appreciative of everything that the community has done throughout the many years we have been on campus, so we want to continually thank them for the years of support, and without you guys, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

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