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9 Catt. 5: In re Street Vendor Near National Mall

2012 May 30

JEREMY, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Cart. CATTLEYA, J., wrote a separate concurrence.

How does one go about judging one of those all-too-classic half-smoke-hot-dog-egg-roll-pizza trucks that line Independence and Constitution Avenues, gilding the frame of the Mall with their hand-painted yellow signs? How does one go about judging one of those grandmothers and grandfathers of the food-truck scene, one of those vessels of a fleet which once comprised the entirety of the food-truck scene?

Surely, one does not judge such an establishment by the same standards one would use for one of the new guard. One doesn’t say, for example, that its half-smoke is not nearly peppery enough, or, alternatively, that the pepperiness overpowers.


Street Vendor near National Mall

One doesn’t say that its egg roll is too big, too greasy, too inauthentic an offering, too Americanized. No.

One doesn’t say that its service was found wanting or that the price of its fare was surprisingly low or unfairly high. No.

You accept the truck, respect the truck, revere it, as you would Antoine’s, Delmonico’s, the Union Oyster House, the Old Ebbitt Grill, Joe’s Stone Crab, or any of the timeless dinosaurs of other food scenes.


In this case, we must do just that, without needless argumentation.

Our jurisdiction is limited to the “mobile gastronomic enterprise.” But it is all too clear that that definition of our jurisdiction includes that enterprise now before us. Even Publius admitted as much in Federalist No. 78.

In a line of cases, we have established what constitutes “street food.” See, e.g.In re Eat Wonky (The Whoopie Pie Case), 2 Catt. 5 (2011). But we needn’t restate that test here. It is simply too clear that D.C.’s original, proven street food—the noble half-smoke and her friends—constitutes “street food,” however that phrase may be defined by this Cart. Indeed no definition of “street food” that did not consider the offerings of these mobile gastronomic enterprises could properly be adopted by this Cart.

Egg Roll

Finally, where a mobile gastronomic enterprise’s dish constitutes street food, we must affirm unless the presumption of affirmance is rebutted. In re Big Cheese, 6 Catt. 2 (2012). But, of course, we could never hope to meet the burden of proving otherwise, or deciding that the case could be remanded on the ordinary grounds. Justice and, I daresay, plain and simple propriety demand that a randomly-selected, Mall-adjacent, yellow-signed, half-smoke-hot-dog-egg-roll-pizza truck be, by this Cart, wholeheartedly


CATTLEYA, J., concurring.

We must affirm unless this Cart is to reject a long-standing tradition of street food in the District of Columbia. The question is not whether the half-smoke and egg roll were good, but whether the half-smoke and egg roll are true street food. They are, and there is nothing more to consider.

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