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19 Catt. 2: In re Stella*s PopKern

2013 April 10

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

We granted cartiorari to Stella*s PopKern (“SP”), which describes itself as “DC’s first Gourmet Popcorn . . . food truck.” SP’s menu includes flavors like butter with Brazilian sea salt, zesty white cheddar, and French white chocolate infused with cherry and sea salt. We opted for one of SP’s classic and most popular flavors: salty caramel.

Stella*s PopKern

Stella*s PopKern


Under our case law, we presume that street food should be affirmed by this court. In re Big Cheese, 6 Catt. 2 (2012). Street food is “the kind[] . . . 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). Although popcorn has never before come before the Cart, we can easily say that popcorn is street food. SP makes its popcorn daily in front of customers, and customers can (and in fact do) eat SP’s popcorn with their hands immediately as they stroll away from the truck. Because popcorn is street food, the Cart has the burden to prove a serious misstep. As explained below, the Cart finds a misstep in the lack of salt in SP’s salty caramel popcorn.

Salty Caramel Popcorn

Salty Caramel Popcorn


SP prepares its popcorn flavors daily, and it recommends eating the freshly-made popcorn within one to two hours after purchase. (If immediate eating is not possible, SP conveniently provides re-crisping instructions on its website.) Different flavors come at different prices, and flavors may be purchased in either small or large. Small bags are generally in the $3-$6 range and large bags in the $6-$9 range. A small bag of salty caramel popcorn was $4.75 with tax.

When I opened the bag and saw the salty caramel popcorn, I excitedly exclaimed to the Chief Justice, “Oh, this is like Cracker Jacks!” The good news is that eating a handful of popcorn confirmed the comparison: SP’s salty caramel popcorn was much like Cracker Jacks. However, the bad news is that the salty caramel popcorn was not much better than Cracker Jacks.

This was an enjoyable snack, but I was still a little disappointed. The popcorn had an even coating of caramel and a nice crunch. However, I wished the very light hint of salt was more like an Emeril “Bam!” — I didn’t detect the saltiness until halfway through the bag.

Overall, I just expected something more. Something that differentiated it from a ballpark snack. Something that screamed, “This was worth your money!” I suspect, based on the long line of repeat customers, that I chose a flavor that just didn’t suit me. And I suspect that I would have enjoyed the French white chocolate infused with cherry and sea salt, or another more-than-basic flavor combination. So, despite my disappointment, I will visit SP again to try another flavor.


The salty caramel popcorn was more “caramel” than “salty caramel”. It was very similar to Cracker Jacks, except it didn’t have any peanuts or come with a toy. Still, the popcorn was fresh and the good ingredients were obvious, so it’s probably just best to order a different flavor.

AFFIRMED in part and REMANDED in part to Stella*s PopKern for revision.

JEREMY, C.J., concurring.

It is precisely a case such as that now before the Cart that demonstrates the power of the presumption that proper “street food” should be affirmed. While, given the presumption, I concur in the decision of the Cart, I would add only that I was rather underwhelmed by this bag of toy-less, peanut-less Cracker Jacks.

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