Sunglasses. Blankets. Friends hunched over compostable takeout containers. Not an empty bench in sight. But for the proliferation of unbuttoned suit jackets and ID lanyards flapping in the wind, the urban patch of green known as Farragut Square could be taken just as easily for a campus quad as for a downtown refuge for worker bees.
Look around, and the demographics are obvious: The diners are young. And they are hungry.
But more than hunger pangs have made this scene a no-brainer for millennial dining. Throw together communal eating, social media and local businesses promoting their use of local products, and out comes Farragut Fridays, surely Washington’s busiest outdoor food court.
Every weekday, food trucks maneuver, Tetris style, into parking spots to feed the hungry masses. On Fridays, it’s particularly lively, with about 20 trucks — and hundreds of eaters — when the weather is nice. Diners linger, lounge. Unlike at L’Enfant Plaza and other spots closer to federal offices, the government shutdown didn’t seem to abate the crowds.
“It’s more relaxed on Fridays at the office,” said Federal Reserve Board employee Hugh Surratt, 28, explaining how he and a few co-workers had found some time to sit on the grass.
The end of the week sees trucks overflow across the street when the curb immediately around the square has been maxed out. Lines of customers snake wherever physics allows, even through the demographically appropriate Capital Bikeshare dock, where a few of those waiting at José Andrés’s Pepe truck perched themselves on bikes on a recent afternoon.
“I prefer cold, rainy Mondays,” grumble-joked Brandon Friedman, 35, a vice president at public relations firm FleishmanHillard.
He and three friends from his former employer, the Department of Veterans Affairs — Peter Granato, 35, Jason Davis, 32, and Kate Hoit, 29 — had taken over a waist-high utility box as an improvised four-top. They were joined by Matt Hochhauser, 23, a consultant who in that fearless 20-something way asked if he could share their space. Hoit later asked if she could share his stuffed grape leaves.
Georgetown University graduate student Sarah Batiuk, 22, while wearing a skirt suit had hopped over the imposing black fence surrounding the statue of Adm. David Farragut to grab a place to sit with classmate Sarah Brown, 27.
“If the weather’s nice and I don’t feel particularly broke, I’ll come out here,” Batiuk said. When her friends who work on K Street heard she’d be interning near the square, they told her she had to go to the food trucks.
Her resulting enthusiasm was enough to get Brown to join her.
“I Instagram the food a lot,” Batiuk said.
Farida Aboulmagd, 21, sheepishly admitted to trying to bring together her posse of fellow American University graduates by Twitter hashtag (which she didn’t want to reveal). It hasn’t caught on. Yet. For now, they rely on text and e-mail.
She and her friends mostly work in different offices nearby, but they try to come to Farragut for lunch. Besides the food and the variety, “It’s pretty good people-watching,” said Jack Scott, 24.
Even though most people cluster around the square in groups, there are plenty of solo diners sitting on the turf, half a bench or a concrete curb. “I’ll come out here on my own more often than not,” said technology specialist Adam Vogel, 29.
On this day, though, he was with a friend, Jonathan Lewis, 32, who came despite his skepticism. “I love being out here. It’s beautiful,” Lewis said. “I love the idea of food trucks.”
But, he said, “It’s hit or miss, and I think there are a lot of misses.” Lewis said he’s been more impressed with food trucks in New York and Los Angeles.
Davis of the VA, though, said he used to live in California, where he went to the beach on Fridays for lunch. And he likes the Farragut scene better. “There’s nothing like this out there,” he said.
Tera Jackson, 39, and Taiesha Thompson, 32, said the change of scenery and the lure of the Carnivore BBQ truck keep them coming.
“It’s the general feeling of getting out of the office, getting the sun on your face,” Jackson said. And, “Where else around here can you get brisket in the middle of the day?”