Old Town Alexandria’s Answer to Food Trucks

by Jennifer Thornhill

Leave it to Old Town Alexandria to take the burgeoning food vending trend and make it quaint. Starting this month, up to eight city-approved food carts hosted by local restaurants will operate daily at Market Square on King Street.

“This program is about Alexandria putting its toe into the water of vending operations,” explained the City of Alexandria’s Department of Planning and Zoning Deputy Director Barbara Ross. “We want to find out how [the vending industry] works, so that if we go to a larger program, we do it right and we do it once.”

Rather than follow in the path of many other cities’ mobile food truck brigades or stationary vendor clusters, Alexandria opted to begin on a smaller scale with simple hot dog-style carts operated by local restaurants. To address residents’ concerns, the city has attempted to make the set-up aesthetically pleasing by monitoring the types of carts used, providing a uniform umbrella to each vendor, and providing café tables and chairs for seating for up to 28 patrons.

Map of where the food carts will be located.

A grand opening is expected for later this month (no date has been announced yet), and the pilot program is expected to last from April to October, with carts operating from 1pm to 5pm on Saturdays and 11am to 5pm on all other days. Bread & Chocolate, Columbia Firehouse, Fontaine Caffe & Creperie, and Union Street Public House are the inaugural participants, with the possibility of four additional restaurants joining the roster later in the summer.

The plan is for the carts to be open rain or shine, but an on-site program manager will make the decision daily based on weather conditions. An official website, to be launched concurrent with the grand opening, will provide information on the offerings and which vendors are open. The carts are intended to attract neighborhood office workers, tourists and residents to Market Square that – but for the Saturday Alexandria Farmers’ Market – is underutilized most days.

“We get requests from local businesses to spruce up King Street and make it a more exciting place. This answers that,” Deputy Director Ross explained.

See other articles related to: old town, market square, food carts, alexandria

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/old_town_alexandrias_answer_to_food_trucks/3280


  1. Nicole said at 2:03 pm on Wednesday April 6, 2011:

    Would have liked to see actual food trucks but this is better than nothing I guess…

  1. LE said at 2:37 pm on Wednesday April 6, 2011:

    This is absurd.  You can walk to all those restaurants easily and quickly.  The point of food trucks is unique food, different from the restaurants in the area, and that doesn’t require brick and mortar.  This is so typically Old Town.  Ugh.

  1. mmmark said at 3:44 pm on Wednesday April 6, 2011:

    Absurd? That’s a little harsh, don’t you think? It’s a marketing tool for those restaurants and gives people an opportunity to grab a quick bite to eat and eat it outside. What’s wrong with that?

  1. Janell said at 4:00 pm on Wednesday April 6, 2011:

    I agree with mmmark. It means that during the warm months, you don’t have to go in and sit down at a restaurant.

  1. tm said at 5:15 pm on Wednesday April 6, 2011:

    I’m all for this program, however it’s truly sad that the city could take the opportunity to bring creative new foods to the area and has decided to only make it easier for us to purchase the boring chain food that’s already available. Kudos to the city for protecting restaurants that are already in business and not helping small businesses grow. Protectionism at its finest!

  1. SFJean said at 9:48 pm on Wednesday April 6, 2011:

    Great idea to provide seating.  Hopefully residents will support the planned vendors so we can add more and expand.

  1. DR said at 4:15 pm on Friday April 15, 2011:

    tm, did you read the list of restaurants? No chains on there. Many of those are going to have to serve different fare than they do indoors because their brick/mortar establishments are upscale.

  1. Masood Mian said at 7:49 pm on Sunday April 8, 2012:

    There is nothing new in this arrangement except the continuing monopoly of the existing restaurants around.  No new or different type of food added to widens customers’ choice.  Further it wouldn’t help to bring the food cost down for an average family size to easily afford eating out in a place like this.

  1. justin s said at 5:32 pm on Tuesday June 12, 2012:

    A year later and only one cart remains. I guess grocery store quality BBQ from a not-so-liked chain and $13 gourmet hot dogs wasn’t as successful as people had hoped. 

    If anyone in old town understood what the role food trucks would have filled was, they bailed before putting a cart out.

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