But they’re not fast enough. Pulling into an alley next to the former Wonder Bread factory just off of Seventh Street NW, Greco groans. “She’s here.”
Ahead on the sidewalk is a catering truck similar to the one Greco is driving: the same silver side panels that raise to reveal a grill, heated shelves and a refrigerated section, the same three-person cab. Except that this one’s already mobbed with customers.
Wasting no time, Greco and Gomez jump out and begin setting up. Gomez, the grillmaster and Greco’s sole employee, hoists the panel covering a crowded griddle with steaks, cheeseburgers, pork chops and chicharrones; the food is just about ready to go. Meanwhile, Greco opens the other panels, checks appearances and sets up a rickety cash table as fluorescent-vested construction workers surround the truck.
Like the gourmet and specialty food trucks that have been garnering attention over the past couple years, these vehicles are restaurants on wheels serving a devoted clientele. But in this case, the trucks are virtually invisible to the layperson: They serve construction workers, spending weekdays from morning to early afternoon driving from site to site throughout the region, serving breakfast and lunch. Development in the District has picked way up since the 2008 downturn, and their business is booming. But as a result, competition is getting intense.
“Three or four years ago, it was dead,” says Greco, 57. The Millersville, Md., resident is a 20-year veteran of the business who serves 10 sites around the District. “It’s changed dramatically. Now there’s more jobs than I can handle. But there’s a lot more people selling food.”
Ask the superintendents of the various construction jobs around the District — who pick the trucks that feed their workers — and most will tell you Greco’s food is a cut above the rest.
“It’s the best truck I’ve ever seen,” says Bryan Langan, a site supervisor for Clark Builders Group. “The guys really like his food. It’s all fresh.”
That freshness is a point of pride for Greco, who has worked in food service his entire adult life. He says even construction workers have become more picky about the quality of their meals.
“I used to use more canned stuff, but you can’t do that any more,” he says. “People want homemade food now.”
Greco, who estimates he goes through $400 to $500 worth of ingredients per day, says he regularly puts in 15-hour days shopping for supplies, then prepping and cooking on the truck’s grill before heading out for the day. He serves what could be described as guy food: hearty, rib-sticking dishes plus a few lighter options. And there’s lots of variety.