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13 Catt. 5: In re Langston Grille on Wheels

2012 October 31
by CATTLEYA, J.

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

We granted cartiorari to Langston Grille on Wheels (“LGW”), the mobile component of Washington, DC restaurant Langston Bar & Grille. LGW’s kitchen cooks up soul food. On this day, the Chief Justice and I needed some real comfort food to soothe the tension that had been brewing in our court. Ever since he took advantage of my absence to hear the case of In re Brennan’s, 1 Jer. 1 (2012), relating to a New Orleans brick-and-mortar restaurant that is plainly outside this court’s jurisdiction, communications between us have been cold indeed. I even began to suspect that the Chief Justice, who bears a close resemblance to the very late Supreme Court Justice William Cushing (1732-1810), had lost his mind, just as Justice Cushing had. See David J. Garrow, Mental Decrepitude on the U.S. Supreme Court: The Historical Case for a 28th Amendment, 67 U. CHI. L. REV. 995 (2000). But my duties to the court, to mobile gastronomy, and to the reader weighed heavily on me, and so, without any hard evidence of the Chief Justice’s mental incapacity, I managed to stand side-by-side with him in front of LGW’s window.

Langston Grille on Wheels

LGW’s menu consists of several meat options (brisket, pulled pork, oxtail, roast chicken, jerk wings, shrimp, and fried fish), a few side dishes (macaroni & cheese, collard greens, dirty rice), and some desserts (sweet potato pie, sweet potato cheesecake, peach cobbler). The exact menu changes daily, and LGW announces the day’s line-up on Twitter every morning.

Luckily, on the day of our visit, LGW had oxtail on the menu. The Chief Justice and I disagree about many things, but one thing that we always agree on is the consumption of food that is hard to come by, such as oxtail from a food truck. We paired our oxtail with a side of macaroni and cheese and topped off our order with sweet potato pie. LGW prices one meat plus one side at $10. Desserts are $3.

I. STREET FOOD

Our regular reader knows that first we must decide whether our order (oxtail, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato pie) is true street food. If yes, then we presume that LGW’s food should be affirmed. See In re Big Cheese, 6 Catt. 2 (2012). This court has defined street food as “the kind[] of food[] that can be cooked in front of you and [is] meant to be eaten with your hands, without forks, while standing up.”  In re Eat Wonky, 2 Catt. 5 (2011). Oxtail, macaroni and cheese, and sweet potato pie are not cooked in front of you, are not meant to be eaten with your hands while standing up, and are not street food. Our case law supports this conclusion. In re Hot People Food, 7 Catt. 2 (2012) (meat not served in hand-held bread container was not street food); In re Basil Thyme, 8 Catt. 1 (2012) (pasta was not street food); In re Dangerously Delicious Pies, 4 Catt. 4 (2011) (pie was not street food). LGW’s food is not entitled to the presumption of affirmance. However, its food proved itself on its own merits, and we affirm.

II. LANGSTON GRILLE ON WHEELS

As the Chief Justice and I stood in line, we got the impression that LGW attracted many regulars. We heard many greetings by first name and just as many “See you next Thursday” farewells. With that many regulars, we began to hope that we had stumbled on a good food truck find.

Oxtail, macaroni & cheese, and sweet potato pie

We opened up our Styrofoam container and were at once struck by the big serving of oxtail. We didn’t know exactly what we were getting since the menu simply said “ox-tail,” but as oxtail is usually slow-cooked or braised, we expected something like that. And that’s what we got: braised meat that was fork-tender and fell off the bone, all swimming in a flavor-packed beef broth with carrots. We cleaned off the bones, licked our fingers, and then stared longingly at the broth remaining in the container. Oh, how we wished we could magically pull out bread from our pockets to sop up the delicious broth!

On a side note, it was refreshing to see that LGW didn’t clutter its menu items with over-detailed descriptions of every step of the food preparation. You know, like “breast of chicken massaged with the finest olive oil, spiced with thyme, marjoram, rosemary, and black pepper, and then grilled over smokey wood chips.” LGW left it at “ox-tail.” It was enough information for us.

Next, we turned our forks to the macaroni and cheese. Our regular reader knows by now how much I love the orange foodstuff. The court’s first meeting with macaroni and cheese had sour results despite a very appetizing-looking mac. See In re CapMac, 1 Catt. 1 (2011). I will admit that at first glance LGW’s version did not look like much. The noodles didn’t carry a deeply orange hue, and there weren’t many visible strings of cheese hanging off the noodles. But we’re often told that looks can be deceiving, and in this case it was. I liked LGW’s macaroni and cheese. The noodles were al dente, and the cheese flavor came through just enough. It wasn’t mushy Velveeta soup like the macaroni and cheeses found at Boston Market and KFC, and it wasn’t unnecessarily drenched in seven different kinds of cheese like Delilah’s. People who prefer gooey macaroni and cheese would probably call this tasteless, but to me it was simple in the way that is satisfying.

A serving of sweet potato pie completed our meal. Given the Chief Justice’s love of pie, he could wax more eloquently about the smoothness of the sweet potato and the harmonious blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla. I will just say that LGW knows how to bake a sweet potato pie. I did wish that we had a slice of pie instead of a mini pie round, but that’s about form, not substance.

III. CONCLUSION

LGW was a pleasant surprise. The braised oxtail was tender and tasty. The not-too-cheesy-or-mushy macaroni and cheese was enjoyable. The sweet potato pie disappeared quickly. And best of all, by the time we finished our lunch of soul and comfort, the Chief Justice and I were congenial colleagues once again.

AFFIRMED.

JEREMY, C.J., concurring.

What a cruel and vile thing to insinuate that I am or have been mentally incapacitated. My only mental decrepitude is a deep and honest devotion to the majesty of the Law. I would have thought that a shared and delicious stewed oxtail would have thawed my sister’s cold and activist and rebellious heart. But I see that I was mistaken. Foolish me. “[C]ongenial colleagues once again” my foot. You will not catch the two of us at the opera together any time soon.

But that is to delve too deeply into the politics of this body. When struck, I am wont to strike back. I must work on that.

And so onto the case at hand, upon which my sister and I do agree. I have no point of dissent.

However, my sister writes that, given my love of pie, it is I who should “wax . . . eloquently about the smoothness of the sweet potato and the harmonious blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla.” As she was absent the day it was upon us to decide In re Brennan’s, my sister once more abdicates her judicial responsibilities. But yes, o sister, the sweet potato was smooth, and yes, o sister, the blend of flavorings was harmonious. I, like you, would affirm.

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