Monday, June 01, 2009

Street Food from Homelands

It's funny what you find when you play tourist in your own city. When my aunt and I were exploring an off-street of Adam's Morgan during graduation weekend, we stumbled across a corner with Argentinean, El Salvadorean, and Mexican food and craft tents. Since we had just had lunch, the vendors kindly told us to come back and that they were out every Friday-Sunday.

Yesterday, when Alex and I were looking for a cheap lunch spot, I remembered the street vendors. Boy did that make Alex happy. For just around $10, we shared a carniatas taco, roasted pepper tacos (never seen them before, but they were delicious), a chicken tamale, and fresh mango juice. Everything was homemade and fresh, including the very hot salsa. I really enjoyed sitting outside, eating our food on a bench, while little kids were running around and parents were getting food.

Though it still cannot compete with the hole-in-the wall tacquerias in California, it was vastly superior to all of the mexican/tex-mex restaurants that are strangely popular in the DC area.

When I went home, I did a little research on this place I discovered was called Mi Tierra, translate: My Homeland. I highly recommend reading the linked WaPo article because it describes how Mi Tierra was a collaboration between the city and vendors who may have difficulty setting up full-fledged restaurants. In exchange for allowing these places a place to legally sell their food, the vendors take classes on accounting, food safety, and small business management. Seriously, such a cool idea.

While some people may argue that these street vendors hurt local businesses who actually do have to pay for all the licensing fees, I actually feel like these vendors bring in many people who would not normally come to the area. Moreover, the market also serves another purpose as there were tents set-up Spanish speakers to talk to people about health and legal issues.

The United States is definitely behind the rest of the world in terms of street food. This is especially a shame because we have the opportunity to showcase the many cultures represented in our melting pot, salad bowl, or whatever we are calling ourselves these days. So I am fully in support of any initiative to increase that, while providing the added bonus of helping immigrants and teaching them about business practices. Everyone wins.

Pictures and article info courtesy of "Home is Where the Tacos Are"

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