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All We Can Eat
Posted at 05:00 PM ET, 06/20/2012

In summer, food trucks are like prison sweat boxes

The sunny side of the street: Not the place to be on Farragut Square during a June afternoon when the temperature hits 95. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
With the mercury in the mid-90s, the line between food and “foodie” was decidedly blurred this afternoon. I couldn’t say for certain which one had been cooked more, particularly if you were a mere mortal walking the sidewalks around Farragut Square, which felt like a concrete griddle turned up high. Way high.

However, the hottest bodies — and I don’t mean that in the People magazine sense — were those sweaty souls working the trucks today. I decided to find out how, if at all, some of the trucks were dealing with the heat. The first thing I learned: The trucks that park on the shady side of Farragut Square have won half the battle.

Jose Gonzalez found little respite from the heat despite an onboard AC unit in the Amorini Panini truck. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
The first vehicle I approached was the Amorini Panini truck, which had some sort of white-box contraption installed in its front cab. It had a hose snaking from it, venting into the street. I couldn’t tell if the thing was an air conditioner or a dehumidifier.

Jose Gonzalez set me straight: It’s an air conditioner: an AC unit, I should note, that was losing its battle with the summer heat, even though Amorini Panini was parked on the shady side of the square. Gonzalez said the temperature in his truck was still in the 90s. I placed my hand over the AC vents and felt nothing but semi-warm air streaming out.

The fans on the Big cheese truck did little to keep Kelly Willis and her colleagues cool. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
That’s the thing to remember about food trucks: They’re not only small and metal — essentially prison-yard hot boxes — but they’re loaded with griddles and deep-fryers and grills and even heat-producing generators. The temperature must easily reach triple digits in those rolling tin cans.

Just ask Kelly Willis at the Big Cheese truck. All she and her co-workers had to combat the heat were a pair of fans. They provided little comfort. Despite having her hair pinned back and despite wearing shorts and a T-shirt, Willis was glistening like a cold can of Pepsi in the August sun.

A new AC unit can't arrive fast enough for Ali Farr, owner and operator of the K Bob truck. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
Similarly, Ali Farr of the K Bob truck was trying to keep cool with merely a fan on board: a big ol’ box fan. It was providing little comfort (maybe because Farr was decked out in dark clothing, too!?). But Farr told me he had placed an order for an AC unit for his truck. He expected it to arrive next week. “I hope so,” he added.

Onboard AC may not solve his problems. The employees over at the Surfside truck have one of those small, overhead AC units in their vehicle, and yet Ilder Rivera and crew will still sweating like Irish cops walking the beat on a hot summer day in Chicago. It didn’t help, of course, that Surfside’s cab door and ordering window were wide open to the sweltering heat.

The Surfside truck is outfitted with an overhead air conditioner, but it wasn't doing Ilder Rivera much good today. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)
The only employees who were coasting along today were the trio over at the Bayou Bros. truck. (My blasted camera failed to save the picture I snapped — or maybe I failed to save it, I don’t know; I’ll blame the heat.) Matthew Huber, Sam Palisi and Seth Baker were chilling in their vehicle as two overhead AC units kept the temperature hovering somewhere around 80 degrees

That might sound hot by frigid brick-and-mortar office standards, but the guys appeared absolutely relaxed in their mobile hothouse. Then again, maybe that’s because at least one of them had an unfair advantage: Palisi said he’s from New Orleans. He’s used to all this heat.

By  |  05:00 PM ET, 06/20/2012

Tags:  Tim Carman

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