travelogue_down-home cooking_may12


Have you noticed the recent national trend of upscale chefs opening decidedly down-home restaurants and even—gasp!—food trucks? Witness Rocco DiSpirito and Mai Pham and their food trucks, or Bobby Flay and his Burger Palaces. Locally, we’re still waiting for Cindy Wolf to serve up her shrimp and grits from the side of a truck, but regionally, you can sample the cuisine of some high-brow chefs at comparably low-brow locales.

> In Frederick, Chef Bryan Voltaggio has moved his weekday lunch service from Volt to Lunchbox, where a line-up of gourmet pressed sandwiches—lamb with eggplant relish, honey aioli and walnut praline (wow!)— top out at just $8.50. You can also sample the award-winning chef’s take on simple salads and soups ($3 a cup) at prices far below that of his flagship restaurant. Best of all: You don’t need a reservation. 50 Carroll Creek Way, 301-360-0580,

> In March, D.C. super-chef Jose Andres launched his Pepe food truck, introducing Washingtonians to the wonders of flautas, the Spanish-style sandwiches that the chef grew up on in Spain. The sandwiches are served on 10-inch, crusty torpedo-shaped rolls and stuffed with items like Serrano ham, Manchego cheese and roasted eggplant. Most of the offerings average $10 each, but at $20, the Pepito de Ibérico— top-quality Ibérico pork, Serrano ham, roasted green peppers, caramelized onions and aioli— might be the most expensive food truck sandwich ever served. Follow @pepefoodtruck on Twitter.

> In Philadelphia, be on the lookout for Iron Chef Jose Garces’ Guapos Tacos food truck— you’ll know it by the colorful mosaic of more than 45,000 beer bottle caps and long lines of hungry folks who wait for tacos filled with barbecued duck meat and radish kimchi. The tostada is stuffed with 13 ingredients ranging from refried beans to nopales, fleshy pad segments of the prickly pear tree. (Spines removed, thank you very much.)

> Last fall, Chef Michel Richard (of Citronelle fame) opened Meatballs in D.C.’s Penn Quarter neighborhood. The counter-service casual eatery serves up nothing but spheres of lamb, beef, chicken, pork and/or lentils, doused with your choice of sauces and served either on rolls, over pasta or on a salad. D.C.’s food critics have been tough on the place, but the eager lunch crowds haven’t. 624 E St. N.W., 202-393-1083

> Jeff Tunks (D.C. Coast, Passionfish, Ceiba) gets into the gourmet burger trend with his Burger Tap & Shake. What separates this D.C. burger emporium from the crowd is Tunks’ use of whole chuck roasts and briskets, which are ground in-house giving the 6-ounce, $6 burgers big-time flavor. 2200 Pennsylvania Ave, 202-587-MALT,

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