Richmond Food Carts: Gourmet on Wheels

Richmond Restaurants — By on November 9, 2010 10:25 pm

While searching deep in my mind and my palette, I came up with the idea to kill two birds with one stone and get some lunch near work and gather research for an article.  Meals on Wheels — but not the charity.

I toyed with the idea of starting my own food cart a few months back, but I ran into problems from the get go after I came to the realization that I had no money, no commercial kitchen and not enough know-how.  Not to mention that in the “Business District” of Richmond City, there isn’t a space available to add a license.

Richmond Food Carts

I find the last part of this a bit suspicious as I have walked around quite extensively in the business district and found myself on plenty of blocks which are food cart-less. And new food carts open up every few weeks. Something is fishy.

Personal tribulations aside, I set out to taste what we have to offer hurried lunchtime pedestrians.

Short answer: Plenty.

I split two dishes with my accomplice, Erynn Sweeney–taste-tester and graphic designer (not to mention girlfriend) extraordinaire.  One from Thai Cabin, and one from an India–both establishments outside of the Bank of America on Main and 12th.  For food served out of a tiny box, both were outstanding.

Thai cabin is a franchise in the Richmond food cart world.  They offer hot noodles and thai curries for very, VERY cheap which are filling, quick and good.  Nothing that will blow your mind, but solidly good.

At the Indian cart (I didn’t catch the name) you get much of the same–cheap, good, fast, filling food.  I came up with a pneumonic device to help you remember the advantages of eating at food carts –CheGoFAFIFO “Chee-go-fa-fee-fo.”  Okay that was dumb.

Other carts in the area include Christopher’s Runaway Gourmet which has an impressive line every day.  For a long time, I wondered about their choice to not serve hot food and it was not until I researched  Richmond food carts for myself that I came up with the obvious answer: health inspection.

There are different levels of food cart health codes in Virginia that range from selling all non-perishables like chips and gum–and oddly enough, hot dogs–to full mini kitchens that cook food from raw.  For anything that has to be heated, a food cart must have a hand-washing station and be subject to very strict laws about food safety but with all cold items, like those served at Christopher’s, cart owners need to only follow basic food safety procedure like wearing gloves and not serving things you drop, et cetera.

I hope I haven’t made you think Christopher’s Runaway Gourmet isn’t good or in any way less safe.  Both notions would be outrageously untrue.  Cold tuna or chicken salads with fruit salads or sesame noodles (the obvious choice in my opinion) is the perfect quick and easy lunch.  Like other food carts, they have a perfectly reasonable price point.

Kenn-Tico, the new Cuban restaurant on E. Grace recently opened a new food cart serving big sandwich wraps.  Mine was so filling, I couldn’t finish. This may not seem like a big deal, but those who know me well know that that is unheard of.

I should be honest.  I work downtown now and I’m looking for good, cheap places to eat.  That’s a big part of the reason I wrote this article.  Any suggestions on where else to go?

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  1. Stephanie says:

    I love this post – The food cart movement will hit Richmond like it’s hit Portland and Austin, despite the impediments. The non-profit company I work for, New Visions New Ventures, is starting an initiative to help entrepreneurs through the (at times very complicated) ins and outs of opening such a business, so if you ever change your mind or know of someone who’s interested, hit me up!

  2. Wendy says:

    I went to a hot dog cart in Pleasant’s Hardware parking lot on Broad Street that was really good and really cheap. $1.50 for a hot dog just like you get on the streets on NYC!

  3. michio says:

    I’m sure you meant to write mnemonic.

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