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On the Fly Near Gallery Place

On the Fly's winged vendor cart; below, a chicken estofado taco.
On the Fly's winged vendor cart; below, a chicken estofado taco. (Photos By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A cute buglike truck with 14-foot-tall "wings"-- like no other food vendor vehicle in the District -- opened for business two weeks ago on the southwest corner of Eighth and H streets NW, near Gallery Place. Called On the Fly and owned by a group of local investors, it's the first of a planned fleet of battery-powered SmartKarts that will sell a variety of fresh fast food. It's also the latest addition to the District's new vendor program, which earlier this year ended a 10-year moratorium on issuing new licenses in an effort to expand street food beyond the hot dog.

Some items on the menu will be made by the company's executive chef, Jordan Lichman, a former sous-chef at the Inn at Little Washington. Others will come from area food businesses that have partnered with On the Fly. For example, at the Gallery Place truck, which has a Latin theme, the taco fillings are made by Lichman and the empanadas are made by a local chain, Julia's Empanadas.

We've had better empanadas than Julia's, but Lichman's soft flour tacos ($2 each) are terrific. Our favorite is the spicy chicken estofado, which is made with breast meat infused with the assertive flavors of four varieties of roasted Mexican chili peppers plus apples, cinnamon and thyme, all further flavored with a tangy chipotle chili aioli. The pork carnitas have a hint of orange and garlic and are topped with a fresh-tasting salsa. A vegetarian taco is stuffed with zucchini, red onion, red bell pepper and black beans.

On the Fly hopes to have two more SmartKarts operating downtown by the end of the year. One will have an Asian theme and will be partnered with Teaism; the other will sell food by Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Co. Six more are to open by spring, and by the end of next year, 18 trucks -- including one selling baked goods and espresso -- will have rolled into position, says co-owner Gabe Klein, 36.

No small feat for a company that was organized less than a year ago. But as Klein puts it, "We are high-energy."

-- Walter Nicholls

On the Fly, Eighth and H streets NW.http://www.ontheflydc.com. Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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