In battle of food trucks, Baltimore bests D.C.

The Baltimore Sun

On Friday night, it was the 29-year-old right-hander Jason Hammel pitching Baltimore on to victory over Washington to open a weekend series.

Leading Baltimore over D.C. on a scorching Saturday afternoon was a three-year old food truck named the Gypsy Queen.

On the weekend when the Nationals were visiting Oriole Park, a fleet of Washington's food trucks came to visit Baltimore, too. The setting was the Westport Waterfront, a scrappy stretch of harbor-side property about a mile and a half south of Camden Yards. The occasion was a Taste of Two Cities, the first gathering of the best food trucks, some three dozen in all, from the rivalrous cities.

Jenna Reichen and Freddie Melchior were among the D.C. residents making a full day of it in Baltimore. They were headed to Camden Yards for Saturday night's game, but on Saturday afternoon the food truck fans were checking out what Baltimore's trucks had to offer. They liked what they tasted. “Baltimore's grilled cheese truck is better than the one in D.C.,” Melchior said.

Reichen was uncertain about the venue, though. “I think the location is a little weird,” she said. “At the D.C events, you can play cornhole while you eat.”

But if you went looking for serious trash talk, you'd come to the wrong place. A spirit of cooperation, and curiosity, prevailed.

“The closer we get together, the more we can give people what they want, said James Vitarello, a co-owner of Fojol Bros., a fleet of D.C.-based food trucks.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, one of the Baltimore food-truck fleet’s biggest supporters was among those gathering.

“When you see an event like this that brings two cities together in the spirit of friendly competition,” the mayor said, “it makes me feel that I made the right decision in supporting the food trucks. Food trucks really speak to the personality of the city.”

Still, there was a competition — for the coveted Mayor's Cup — awarded to the best food truck as determined by a panel of judges, four from each city, including Baltimore media personalities, Washington food writers and the wife of the developer who owns the Westport property.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake announced the top three placers just after 1:30 p.m. Third place went to Miss Shirley's, the food truck ambassador of Baltimore's popular brunch spot. Second place went to Red Hook Lobster, whose Maine and Connecticut-style lobster rolls have an ardent D.C. following.

But first place was taken by the Gypsy Queen, the truck operated by Annemarie Langdon and Tom Looney, formerly of Helen's Garden in Canton. Gypsy Queen’s victory means, according to Damian Bohager, an organizer of Saturday's event, that the Mayor's Cup will remain in Baltimore at least until the next inter-city food truck battle.

The people also had their say, via text. The People's Choice awards went to The Cajunator (D.C) and Souper Freak (Baltimore).

If a Taste of Two Cities was short on beanbag diversions — and shaded seating — it didn't stop the crowds from coming. Che Ruddell-Tabisola, executive director of the D.C. Food Trucks Association and co-owner of the BBQ Bus food truck, estimated that about 5,000 people had come through by 4 p.m., when the grounds started filling up with pre-baseball game partiers.

By the event's end, Bohager put the number at 12,000.

For D.C. food trucks, there’s always next year. Bohager said that he plans to make A Taste of Two Cities an annual event.


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