Dining Review: Food Trucks Serve Up Help For School

D.C. food truck operators feel the pinch of a government shutdown

VIENNA, VA, JANUARY 9, 2013: Winter salad of shaved cucumber, radish and endive with lemon vinaigrette. Dishware courtesy of Crate & Barrel. (Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post)

To compile our list of the 15 Most Dangerous Food Destinations, we used reports from the U.S. State Department as our main source, and advise anybody planning to visit a destination in these “culinary danger zones” to always look out for the most recent warnings and advisories before your trip. However, if high crime, risk of terror attacks, and political riots are not stopping you from craving new, thrilling, food adventures, continue browsing through our countdown of the 15 Most Dangerous Food Destinations in the slideshow. 1Syria With an ongoing civil war, violence, and threat of terror attacks and bombings, visiting Syria is highly dangerous, and should be avoided. But despite the current unrest, Syria is still famed for its culture and cuisine, and in 2007 the capital Aleppo was awarded with a cultural gastronomy prize by the International Academy of Gastronomy in Paris. The regional cuisine blends Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors, and includes many varieties of kebab Halabi, or spiced kebab, traditional mezze dishes such as hummus and baba ghanoush, and za’atar, a dried herb and spice mixture, often eaten by dipping it with bread in olive oil. According to Khaled Yacoub Oweis, writing for Reuters, the best place to enjoy za’atar is restaurant Qubrusi in Aleppo, which “is a favorite among locals.” Another restaurant well worth a visit is Beit Sissi, rated as “Aleppos finest” by Lonely Planet. Located in a restored house from the 17th century, the restaurant servers French and Syrian cuisine, including items such as sujuk, spicy pork sausage rolled in bread, and ratatouille. 2Yemen Reuters You should really not be in Yemen, even on a visit. The U.S State Department is clear with the message, as terrorist activities and civil unrest have pushed the security threat level to “extremely high.” But for daredevils, Yemen can also provide plenty of unique food experiences, distinct from the more commonly known Middle Eastern flavors. Simple stews and breads might not sound intriguing, but spices such as ginger, cardamom, and aniseed give Yemeni food a unique aromatic touch. Each region has a slightly different version of the national dish, saltah, a meat stew with chiles, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs, and usually mixed with potatoes, scrambled eggs, or even rice. Chicken, goat, and fish are other typical proteins, and dairy products, such as butter and cheese, are rarely used. The capital Sanaa is home to several restaurants, from high-end to budget eats. Freelance journalist Adam Baron, based in Sanaa, recommends Matam Taiz for the peculiar Yemeni specialty aseed a doughy dumpling of fish meal, covered in gravy. 3Cote DIvoire Peeter Viisimaa/iStock Cote DIvoire is yet another country stricken by civil war and political unrest, and its capital, Abidjan, is recognized as the third most dangerous city in the world. Street crime, robbery, and car-jackings are common here. But when it comes to finding a taste of traditional local cuisine, the country has plenty to offer.

The shutdowns unexpected closures Stephanie Merry, Fritz Hahn and Maura Judkis If you had plans to golf at East Potomac Park, bike along the towpath or see a show at Fords Theatre, think again. In fact, if one thing has become clear to District food truck owners since the government shutdown began Tuesday, its that they rely heavily on federal workers to keep their businesses afloat. Some of the trucks most popular locations LEnfant Plaza, the Navy Yard, Federal Triangle and streets surrounding the State Department are near federal buildings full of workers who go out to lunch. Carl, 48, put his situation into sharp relief: He and Jacob, 34, were married in March, and about a month later they launched Carolina Q, a business into which they sank all of their savings. The truck had just started to break even and prove that it could become a moneymaker for the couple. But until this month, neither Jacob nor Carl had taken cash out of the business, and theyve only taken small amounts. Whats more, Carl isnt even certain he will receive back pay once the shutdown ends. Now, we really need to take money out of the business, said Carl, a resident of Mount Vernon Square. We put all of our savings into this business. Its kind of a perilous time now. On Thursday afternoon, Layth Mansour was pacing near his trucks, Philadelphia Steak Bites and Georges Buffalo Wings , which were parked on C Street SW, just outside the LEnfant Plaza Metro station. The nearby Transportation Department and Federal Aviation Administration buildings were apparently hit hard by the shutdown; Mansour said sales at both trucks were down 65percent. His business, he added, employs 12 people.

Fun and delicious. If you want something a little lighter, try the chicken and sun-dried tomato panini at the Holy Aioli truck ($7.50). My son declared the lamb gyro from George’s Greek the best ever ($8). Based on the one bite he allowed me, I have to agree. It must be the chipotle aioli. Aioli seems to be a theme at the food trucks. So are French fries. Besides the Bomb Dusted ones mentioned above, there are truffle fries at Holy Aioli, duck fat fries with pork belly at Phantom, or gyro-feta fries at George’s. Fries in a cardboard boat are perfect for holding while walking around and sharing with friends, which is good because there are few places to sit, only a couple of temporary tables. I think the longest line was at GetShaved shaved ice, and for good reason. Huge mounds of fluffy ice are flavored with not only interesting syrups, tropical and otherwise, but often sweetened condensed milk. The whole thing can be placed atop a scoop of ice cream. I must admit these fried, spicy and rich foods are a little gut-busting and kind of expensive, but they taste great. Plus, think of the students benefiting from teacher Erik Messal’s new digital projector courtesy of Small Change for Big Change.