Stix food truck

American
$$$$ ($14 and under)
'

Editorial Review

The owners of the new Stix truck have a point: It's tricky to snack and saunter down Washington's streets with many of the eats you can buy curbside. So Jane Lyons and Leah Perez decided to borrow a technique used at state fairs from the Carolinas to California and impale their freshly prepared food on sticks.

I mean, all of their offerings, whether thin strips of grilled beef or what they generously call "apple pie," are neatly speared on 10-inch skewers, like so many bronzed Peruvian chickens on a spit. Of course, Lyons and Perez prefer to describe their creations as Stix, but whatever you call these bayoneted bites, the owners swear the wooden approach doesn't limit their kitchen creativity. I have my doubts about that; I suspect they won't be serving gazpacho on a stick anytime soon, unless they hire Jose Andres to teach them how to make edible squares of soup.

Regardless, even within the limits of lanced foodstuffs, the Stix truck offers a surprisingly diverse array: beef, chicken, shrimp, vegetables, cheese and even house-made cake-pop desserts.

Just as important, warm items are prepared to order on a propane-powered grill, unlike in many local food trucks, where the cooking surface of choice is a griddle. The open-flame method imparts some good grill flavor on, to use one example, those strips of sweet-and-spicy barbecued beef ($4), which, now that I think about it, look sort of like tiny meat sails on their skewer.

Lyons and Perez hatched their food-truck plan at a wedding shower last September. By October, they owned an old U.S. Postal Service truck that they found on eBay. "We bid on it and won it. From there, we had to do something," Perez said.

The fact was, both women were ready to drive a stake through their old work lives. Ohio native Lyons, 56, was a senior executive for visual merchandising at Bloomingdale's, while Illinois-born Perez, 32, was a stay-at-home mom who made and sold artisan jewelry in her spare time. Both liked to cook at their respective Maryland addresses (Columbia for Lyons, Silver Spring for Perez) and both saw a need for a food truck driven more by seasonal ingredients than by Sysco. They started buying ingredients at the Restaurant Depot, but they quickly graduated to the produce markets around Florida Avenue.

Their goal is to use fresh fruits and seasonal vegetables for their Stix, such as the summer "salad" of cucumber, grape tomatoes and red onion ($3). The only constant on their menu is the popular red potato Stix ($3), which are basically uncut, skin-on orbs of underseasoned starch in dire need of the accompanying lemon-garlic aioli for flavor. Likewise, the apple Stix (sometimes known as the "apple pie" Stix, $3) is a total tease: merely a grilled collection of half-moon slices of caramelized apple dusted with cinnamon. Consider me crust-fallen.

Still, Stix pierces my heart with a number of skewers: the tequila-lime beef ($4), which delivers a stiff, citrusy bite; the tomato Caprese ($3), which for summer is supplemented with juicy squares of watermelon; and even the chocolate lollipop cake Stix ($2), which is gone in two quick, mindless bites. In this sense, Stix is health food: You can load only so many calories on a stick.

-Tim Carman (Good to Go, June 15, 2011)