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21 Catt. 2: In re District Taco

2013 June 12
by CATTLEYA, J.

Opinion of JUSTICE CATTLEYA, in chambers.

District Taco (“DT”) is a longtime member of the mobile food scene. Today, it operates several food carts in Northern Virginia and DC and has even expanded to include three brick-and-mortar restaurants. Long I have heard from my law clerk that DT, the maker of fresh Mexican food, puts the Chipotle Mexican Grill franchise to shame. To settle the matter and give my ears a rest, I granted cartiorari to DT’s chicken tacos from its food cart stationed near the Clarendon metro stop in Virginia.

District Taco

District Taco

 STREET FOOD

Before I may review DT’s tacos, I must determine whether tacos are “street food,” or “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). It is well settled by this court that tacos are true street food. See, e.g., In re El Chilango, 12 Catt. 2 (2012); In re La Tingeria, 18 Catt. 3 (2013); In re Kimchi BBQ Taco, 13 Catt. 2 (2012); In re Sol Mexican Grill, 9 Catt. 4 (2012). Because tacos are street food, this court must affirm DT’s chicken tacos unless the Cart meets the high burden to prove a significant flaw with the tacos. See In re Big Cheese, 6 Catt. 2 (2012). Although DT’s chicken tacos were not perfect, I cannot meet the high burden and so affirm.

Chicken Tacos

Chicken Tacos

 CHICKEN TACOS

When I walked up to DT, there was a crowd around the cart. This pleased me because it was a very promising sign for the food, but it also confused me. I imagine that a regular would have known how to navigate the crowd, but I could not tell who was in line waiting to order and who had already ordered but had not yet received their food. After standing in a line that turned out not to be a line, I corrected my mistake and soon enough found myself at the front of the cart to place my order.

I opted for the 2-tacos-for-$5 deal:

  • The first step in the ordering process was to pick a protein. DT’s menu includes carnitas, carne asada, pollo asado, barbacoa, and al pastor. Normally I would never pick chicken over beef or pork, see In re Red Hook Lobster Pound, 2 Catt. 1 (2011) (“[N]o one in their right mind orders shrimp over lobster.”); In re El Floridano, 2 Catt. 2 (2011) (“[N]o one in their right mind orders [tempeh] over [pork].”), and my fellow eaters apparently felt the same way. By the time I arrived to the cart at 1pm, the chicken was all that was left. So I ordered the pollo asado.
  • The second step was to choose between flour and corn tortillas. The default at DT is flour, so the customer must speak up if he or she prefers corn.
  • The third step was to select toppings. For an “American” taco, DT recommends lettuce, cheese, and pico de gallo. For a “Mexican” taco, DT recommends onion and cilantro. If the customer wants a customized taco, DT recommends a maximum of three toppings, but the customer is free to add as many toppings as are desired. Among the toppings are standards like lettuce, onion, jalapenos, cilantro, cheese, pico de gallo, and sour cream, as well as “premium” choices like guacamole, chorizo, and bacon. All toppings are available at no additional cost. I repeat, all toppings are included. (Interestingly, this is not true of the brick-and-mortar locations. Premium toppings on tacos are an extra 50 cents.) I ordered onion, jalapenos, and cheese on my first taco, and then onion, jalapenos, and guacamole on my second.
  • The last step was to visit the salsa station, where DT puts out salsas in condiment containers. I picked up a mild green salsa and a spicier red salsa.

Now for the verdict: DT’s chicken tacos were good, although not extraordinary. The chicken was well seasoned, but it leaned more on the dry/tough side than on the moist/tender side. Fortunately, the toppings hid the less-than-perfect execution. Of the toppings I selected, the fresh guacamole and spicy jalapenos came through the most. That being said, toppings should not be relied on to mask dry chicken, and it would have been better if the chicken had held up on its own. Cf. In re Bada Bing, 5 Catt. 2 (2012).

What surprised me the most was how filling DT’s tacos were. The tacos looked small and upon first seeing them, I wished that I had ordered a third taco. But by the time I finished my two tacos, I was satisfied. And while I usually start to feel hunger pangs every two hours or so, I remained satisfied long past my usual dinner hour.

CONCLUSION

Although DT’s tacos were not the best I’ve ever had, they were fresh, filling, and cheap and, with unlimited free toppings, they made me feel like I had gotten a great deal. On my way home from the court that evening, I passed my local Chipotle chain and chuckled because at DT I had been able to get guacamole and keep the couple of dollars that I would have spent for the premium topping.

AFFIRMED. It is so ordered.

 

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