Like so many other local businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic shook up Curbside Kitchen, forcing the food truck management service to rethink its customer appeal.
Before the pandemic, the Tysons-based company centered its mission around building lunchtime communities for office buildings and catering local events. Now as people shy away from social gatherings and are working remotely, Curbside Kitchen’s owner Amy Katz said her team has been working “around the clock” to rethink the company’s marketing and help people in need.
“When I first heard the lights went out on commercial business, I panicked,” Katz said, adding that the team quickly put together a plan of attack for its “new normal.”
Instead of food trucks as a place to gather and connect, Katz said she sees them as a way for people to safely get affordable, quick and filling food options.
“As we see restaurants go out of business, food trucks are going to become more and more critical,” Katz said. “But I think things are going to change and food trucks have a distinct advantage in the new way of doing business.”
In an effort to help people during the pandemic, Curbside Kitchen also began supporting several organizations to help at-risk community members and minority food truck owners, Katz said.
Called Curbside Cares, the effort helps marginalized groups across the D.C. region.
“It’s been so heartwarming and wonderful to see the food truck owners to get out there and serve the people who are in the most need right now,” Katz said. “It helps us to build our social impact program.”
Community partners include Fuel the Fight, which collects money through a GoFundMe to feed frontline workers; Nourish Now, which helps to feed families fighting food insecurity; and Shepherd’s Table, which cares for women who are homeless and people in harms way from domestic violence around the D.C. region.
Fairfax County also works with the company to feed people around the area working in public sanitation. “No one has thought about the waste management people,” Katz said.
To follow new health codes and best practices, Katz said Curbside Kitchen isn’t taking any risks so its customers can feel safe enjoying their favorite food-truck meals.
“The main priority for us was to make sure they were following very strict COVID-19 health requirements, making sure they were using mobile pay and using [contactless] delivery,” she said. “This isn’t something they were all familiar with having to do.”
Though Katz wants to get back to some type of normal, she also said the food truck industry isn’t out of the woods yet.
“Revenue is down without a doubt,” she said. The business is staying afloat through purchases from biomedical tech companies that still have workers on-site and people ordering multi-family meals.
With meat plants shutting down and the price of ingredients rising, food trucks as a whole face another challenge — food shortages.
Wholesalers around the area have started limiting quantity available to food truck drivers, instituting caps and significantly raising prices, according to Katz.
It isn’t clear yet how trucks will adapt, but Curbside Kitchen’s spokesperson Meghan Tidwell had a more optimistic mindset, saying that as chefs, food truck owners will adapt using any items available.
“They’re just changing up their menus,” Tidwell said. “They’re getting creative and creating menu items from what is out there.”
Photo courtesy Curbside Kitchen
The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.
We’ve scoured the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!
Though many in-person events are canceled, organizations and businesses are setting up digital events to keep people occupied.
For people interested in on-demand activities, the Fairfax County Park Authority is offering digital classes, scavenger hunts and activities for people of all ages. The Virtual Exploration Center lets people stream workout classes, and each week staffers will introduce a featured activity.
Tuesday (May 5)
- Ladies’ Night — Victory Comics is hosting a virtual Ladies’ Night book club at 7 p.m. for people interested in reading “Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic History of Women’s Fight for Their Rights.” This free event invites people from around town to join the conversation.
Thursday (May 7)
- The New Yorker Discussion Group — The Mary Styles Public Library is hosting a free Zoom conversation from 2-3 p.m. for people who are fans of The New Yorker. This week’s article of discussion will be “Why Americans are Dying from Despair” by Atul Gawande from the March 23 issue.
- Online Trivia with The Boro — The Boro, DC Fray and District Fray Magazine will team up to offer people a free trivia session on cities, 2000 music and Disney from 7:30-9:30 p.m. People need a computer and phone to participate. Participants have the chance to win a $50 e-gift card to Whole Foods.
- Virtual Romance Book Club — One More Page Books is hosting a free book club at 7 p.m. for people reading “An Extraordinary Union: An Epic Love Story of the Civil War.” Anyone interested can sign up online and receive a link via email, the page said.
Friday (May 8)
- Food Truck Friday Pickup Dinner — From 5-8 p.m. at Avalon Tysons Corner (1569 Onyx Drive), Curbside Kitchen is going to offer ready-made meals with no-contact pickup. Foodies who want a change of pace have the opportunity to try a new locally made dish.
- Adult Game Night on Zoom — The Emmanuel Lutheran Church is hosting a digital game night for the community from 7-8 p.m. People can RSVP and receive a link to play trivia and Jeopardy, the event page said.
Saturday (May 9)
- Theatrical Teens! Virtual Improv Workshop — From 2-3:30 p.m., kids ages 11-15 can take part in a virtual workshop. Registration is $18, and the event signup can be found online.
- Virtual UUAM Social Gathering and Farm Tour — The Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry in Vienna is offering people a chance to connect with animals digitally from 6:30-8 p.m. thanks to an organization out of Colorado. People might have the chance to e-meet cows, pigs, sheep, goats, turkeys, chickens, ducks, horses, a chukar partridge and a llama, the page said. This event is free but participants must register to receive a Zoom invite.
Editor’s note: Tysons Reporter will temporarily have “Morning Notes” every weekday instead of twice a week to accommodate more news.
Mental Health Services From FCPS — “Any FCPS parent may schedule a 30-minute phone consultation with a school psychologist or school social worker, for either themselves or their middle or high school student.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]
COVID-19 Causes More Event Cancellations in Vienna — “The Town of Vienna has canceled all special events through June 30 and has extended limitations to Town facilities and modifications to some Town services until June 10… The Vienna Farmers Market tentatively plans to open Saturday, June 13.” [Town of Vienna]
Bus Changes Rolling In — “Effective Saturday, April 11, 2020, Fairfax County Department of Transportation will make temporary adjustments to Fairfax Connector bus service.” [Fairfax County]
Newest Spring Hill Stations Project Plans — “The latest plans include a 225-foot-tall building with 378K SF of office space and 20K SF of retail, two apartment towers reaching 270 feet and 215 feet, and a 60-foot-tall building with parking garage, retail and an expansive rooftop park. The 1.6-acre park, called the Galaxy Sports Deck, would include a turf field, two multipurpose courts and a children’s playground.” [Bisnow]
Stop Transporting Yard Waste — “Fairfax County residents are strongly discouraged from taking their yard waste to the I-66 Transfer Station or I-95 Landfill. This will help the county to focus on collecting trash during the pandemic and encourage social distancing.” [Fairfax County]
Food Truck Startup Rolling in the Dough — “The Center for Innovative Technology… announced that CIT GAP Funds has invested in Tysons, Va.-based Curbside Kitchen, developer of a platform that manages and connects owners of commercial office and multi-family residential buildings with food truck vendors.” [Globe Newswire]
Patch Starts Small Business Guide — “To help local residents navigate what is open and closed in town during the coronavirus crisis, we’ve introduced a simple a small business guide. Businesses have provided their information.” [McLean Patch]
When people walk into Fava Pot in Falls Church, they’re greeted with the smell of freshly baked pita bread made in a traditional wooden, along with a dozen menu options for traditional Egyptian cuisine.
Dina Daniel, the restaurant’s owner, opened the Falls Church Fava Pot back in 2017 after owning an Arlington food truck and has been serving up a variety of fare since, including vegan and vegetarian options.
Daniel said her favorite item is the Táamya, which she considers to be the eatery’s specialty. She called it an “Egyptian falafel” — the tiny ball has a crunchy exterior with a soft, veggie-filled inside. Unlike other types of falafels, the snack is made with fava beans instead of chickpeas.
Other best-sellers include Baba Ganoush, a tangy dip that comes covered in pomegranate seeds, combination platters that include lamb, chicken and veal and a variety of bowls and snacks.
When people stop by the restaurant, Daniel said she wants people to feel at home — comfortable, welcome and well-fed with wholesome fare with fresh veggies and whole wheat grains.
Daniel said that she wants people to feel as if they’re “having a feast at grandma’s house,” when they eat at Fava Pot. She added that many of the meals made at the Falls Church location are unique to that specific location and take more than 12 hours to prepare.
Unlike Fava Pot’s food truck or new pop-up in Union Market, the Falls Church location offers guests sit down meals with the help of Stephen Samuels, the area manager, and Elmer Ramos, the head chef. Fava Pot is also planning on expanding to Rosslyn later this year.
“Our business isn’t only about the back area, it’s about how you interact with the customer,” she said while waving to a regular customer across the room.
When Daniel first opened the restaurant, she said she worried that people’s unfamiliarity with Egyptian food would scare away potential customers, so she spent time in Tysons handing out free samples for several weeks.
Since the restaurant is a “travel destination,” Daniel said she was concerned before the grand opening in 2017 that people might not want to make their way to Falls Church to eat at the restaurant. But she said that concern has turned out to be unfounded.
Several days ago, Voice of America Asia featured Fava Pot on its YouTube channel as part of its “Food Bites” mini-series.
“I believe America has misconceptions of Egyptians,” she told Tysons Reporter, noting that Egypt has a distinctive cultural identity from the rest of the Middle East.
The walls of the Falls Church location are covered with the stories of famous Egyptians, including athletes, academics and musicians. To give back to her home country, some of the money made from Fava Pot goes directly to benefit a group called Coptic Orphans, which assists underprovided kids in Egypt.
As for the location’s clientele, she said that about only 20% have Egyptian heritage, which gives her a chance to act as a cultural ambassador for the community.
Part of her breakfast customer base originally came from overflow from the adjacent pancake house, until people got over their hesitation about Egyptian breakfast and decided to give the cuisine a shot.
“After God’s grace, it is what made our business stay,” she said.
Locals can learn about Turkish coffee at the Tysons Corner Center tomorrow (Sept. 26).
The Turkish Coffee Lady will host a pop-up truck event from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Plaza (1961 Chain Bridge Road) to share Turkish culture, educate the public on travel opportunities to Turkey and allow visitors to sample Turkish delicacies like specialized coffee, a press release said.
The truck is stopping by Tysons on part of a month-long non-profit tour around New York, New Jersey, Maryland and D.C.
Gizem Salcigil White is the owner of Turkish Coffee Lady and the director of the cultural initiative.
“Turkish coffee is the world’s first coffee brewing method invented by Turks in the 16th century, and it is recognized by UNESCO’s World Heritage List as a cultural inheritance that was passed on from generation to generation,” White said in the press release.
The project is sponsored by several companies and partners including the American Turkish Association of DC and the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
“The coffee truck will also participate in the 17th Annual Washington DC Turkish Festival organized by American Turkish Association of DC this Sunday and conclude the tour at ‘Study Abroad & Global Citizenship Influencer Summit’ in early October hosted by Hostelling International USA,” the press release said.
Photos via Turkish Coffee Lady
The City of Falls Church will host their annual festival this coming Saturday (Sept. 14).
This year’s 44th annual festival will feature a Biergarten, local food vendors, pony rides, live entertainment, amusement rides and booths from businesses. The event will run from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. outside City Hall (223 Little Falls Street).
Admission to the event is free, but attendees can purchase tickets for food and drink from more than 15 vendors, along with tickets for the rides.
Throughout the day, visitors can enjoy live entertainment. Noland the Magician will perform a live magic show for onlookers featuring puppets at 10 a.m. Sudden M Pac Band, an R&B soul band, will perform at 12:15 p.m.
The Biergarten will be open from 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. While everyone is welcome to hang out in the space, anyone wishing to purchase or consume alcohol must be 21 or older. There will be beers on tap from Audacious Aleworks and assorted cocktails with liquor from Falls Church Distillers.
For kids, there will be a crafting tent in Cherry Hill Park.
Photo via the City of Falls Church
Tysons-based Curbside Kitchen imagines a food truck-friendly world where companies can easily coordinate with food trucks to cater events or just switch up lunch-time options.
Amy Katz, the CEO of Curbside Kitchen, founded the company around 2017 after talking to her husband Brian about his struggles in real estate and difficulty coordinating food trucks for events.
To solve the problem, she decided to create a technological platform that allows managers to schedule food truck arrivals for their business or building.
Katz described the company as “Uber for a food truck — with a ton of heart” and said that her company helps buildings maintain tenants by building a sense of community and diversity based on a shared love for food.
“Each truck has its own DNA,” Katz said.
When first starting out, the main obstacle was finding a way to coordinate with hundreds of food trucks with unreliable hours and various management types, she said.
“The biggest struggle is bringing the food truck owners up to the same standard,” Katz said, adding that there are many “unforeseen” circumstances around food trucks, including maintenance issues or poor weather.
But, despite the challenges, Katz is optimistic about the company’s growth. “I am so passionate about it that every day we learn something new,” she said.
Today, the company has around 300 food truck partners on call in three cities, but Katz said they plan to keep growing thanks to the Virginia Founders Fund from the Center for Innovative Technology, which recently granted Curbside Kitchen money to expand their venture.
Katz said she did not feel comfortable revealing the grant amount, but she did say that she plans to hire a few more employees and build an app.
The app will tell food truck patrons when their favorite trucks are nearby, allow trucks and managers to schedule gigs and remind trucks to show up at certain times. She said the app should be available for download within six months.
Though they are not the only company that works with food trucks, Katz said that Curbside Kitchen isn’t worried about competition.
“There isn’t really anybody out there with the technology and integration we have,” she said.
As Curbside Kitchen expands, they plan to keep their headquarters in Tysons — where the community is incredibly supportive of the food truck culture.
“I believe people have a close eye on what we are doing,” Katz said.
Photo courtesy Amy Katz
Independence Day is right around the corner, and events all over the Tysons area invite community members to partake in family fun.
Regarding the logistics of transportation to events, local authorities warn of overcrowded parking and suggest that attendees either carpool to events, use public transit or take advantage of ride-sharing apps.
Several companies, including Lyft, offer a promotion to curtail drunk driving on busy holidays. The Washington Regional Alcohol Program announced its SoberRide campaign, which gives users a $15 Lyft promotional code to be used within the D.C. Metro area. The code will be released at 6 p.m on July 4 and will be valid for the first 1,500 users of legal drinking age. It can be found on SoberRide’s website.
Tysons Biergarten is set to celebrate America’s Independence Day on July 3 from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m on the Fourth. The beer hall will offer both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, traditional American food and live music for all to enjoy. Registration is free.
Before the lighthearted celebrations begin in the evening, the Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VIPS) invites everyone to a reading of the nation’s founding documents. The readings begin at 12 p.m. in the Falls Church Episcopal Church (115 E. Fairfax Street). The group hopes it will help people recall the pillars of democracy and freedom.
Entry for the evening’s celebration at George Mason High School (7124 Leesburg Pike) starts at 6 p.m. While guests enjoy music from The Excellent Drivers, locally operated food trucks will also be selling a variety of fare. Fireworks begin at 9:20 p.m., but this time may be updated on the Falls Church social media accounts. All events are free.
On holidays, parking is free at the West Falls Church Metro Parking Garage.
Doors for the annual community center fireworks display open after 6 p.m. at Langley High School (6520 Georgetown Pike). Guests can expect to be greeted with food trucks and a DJ. This is a family-friendly event. Smoking, pets, fireworks, glass containers, weapons, sparklers, vaping and alcohol will not be allowed.
Entry is free for this event but there is limited parking at the venue. More parking spots are available at McLean Community Center, St. John’s Episcopal Church, and St. Luke Catholic School, where shuttle buses will ferry guests back forth.
During the day, Vienna’s Sprinklers & Sparklers event features water slides, snow cones, and food trucks. It takes place at the Vienna Community Center (120 Cherry Street SE) and runs from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
In the picnic style, Vienna also opens up Yeonas Park (1319 Ross Drive SW) for an evening of family-friendly fun. Fireworks are expected to start at sunset, or roughly 9:30 p.m. The Little League concession stand will serve food as people pile onto the lawn and listen to a live performance from The Josh Christina Band.
Photos courtesy Town of Vienna