The 5-Second Rule – PoPville’s official unofficial food truck critique by Queenedix – Big Cheese Truck

Read Queenedix’s previous reviews here.

Over the past few months, I’ve discovered a challenge in reviewing food trucks: Cost. When I check out new trucks (and readers, feel free to leave suggestions for future reviews when you comment on my pluralizing of traditional European desserts) I try to consider how good the food would be, objectively, to a random hungry passerby on a nice day, but also whether or not the cost is worth the food you receive. This in itself becomes an options-narrowing challenge—recently, I spent $18 on an entrée and side from a previously untested truck, only to determine that the quantity of food, overall quality, and cost didn’t compel me to go back and review the place again. I would think many of you, like me, would be hard-pressed to drop a $20 on a meal that doesn’t even include real silverware or a complimentary piece of bread.

In the hunt for a good, satisfying bargain, sometimes the most obvious solutions are also the best. This week I convened a circle of hungry friends to help me try Big Cheese Truck, the popular purveyor of things grilled and cheesy. Bringing together a group to taste has its benefits, especially with something as familiar as grilled cheese—there’s a lot less to quibble about than when trying a more complex dish. A variety of tasters help me figure out whether I subjectively reallllly love any kind of grilled cheese, or whether the sandwiches are, objectively, delicious. The verdict at this truck is clear: Big Cheese Truck is a new favorite spot.

Big Cheese Truck

4 seconds

I had already tried many of the offerings at Big Cheese Truck before convening my “tasting circle,” but I was glad I gave the truck another shot. On my first few visits, there was always something that made the sandwiches not-quite-perfect, like un-melted cheese in the sandwich’s center. Although it was not offered on the day of the tasting, I absolutely love the “Truffle Shuffle,” which I have seen on the menu and tried only once. Not for the faint of palate, this sandwich is loaded with flavor—black truffles in the cheese, smooth and earthy artichoke hearts on a slightly sweet, dark bread makes for a hell of a sandwich—one of the best ways I think I’ve ever spent $6.50. With the “tasting circle,” I re-sampled other menu items I’d tried before—the Midnight Moon, standard grilled cheese, “Thrilled Cheese,” and “Mt. Fuji.” We also dipped our crusts in Big Cheese’s homemade tomato soup.

Continues after the jump.

The circle, which included a vegetarian and a friend who maintains a kosher diet, happily discovered everything on the menu fit with their dietary observances. Within the group, the Mt. Fuji scored the highest marks. Soft, melted brie and Mt. Fuji apples on a whole grain bread makes for an absolutely outstanding bite—the crisp, slightly acidic sweetness of the apple counters the richness of the brie, with the bread adding a nutty flavor and texture. My next personal favorite, although not for everyone, was the “Thrilled Cheese,” a tangy and subtly spicy combination of sharp chipotle cheddar and jalapenos on tart sourdough. I thought the combination was incredibly satisfying, like eating a nacho in a sandwich. My only complaint—the advertised guacamole was barely discernable the first go-round, and absent the second.

The standard “Barely Buzzed” grilled cheese was ok, used mostly for dipping in the rich, hearty, and slightly spicy homemade tomato soup (a steal at $2.50 for a good-sized portion). As silly as it sounds, the tasters determined that a standard grilled cheese is so simple and familiar, sometimes even slight variations (like this one, on sourdough) don’t quite provide the same simple satisfaction of the classic—the cheddar and sourdough together were too sharp, and there wasn’t quite enough gooey cheesiness. The “Midnight Moon” combines sharp, earthy goat Gouda with caramelized onions on multigrain bread. This sandwich was the one I was most excited to try, as was the group, and yet we were slightly disappointed—the overall sandwich was balanced between the sweetness of the onions and the richness of the cheese, but both times, the cheese in the middle wasn’t melted at all, and the pieces of onion were very large and difficult to bite through, resulting in long pieces of onion falling out of the sandwich. There was also discussion of whether the cheese was too strong for the sandwich—everyone agreed that a goat cheese was the best type, but discussed whether a different type of goat cheese would have been better.

Overall, our minor critiques didn’t change the fact that, for the most part, Big Cheese Truck does a great job of bringing very reasonably-priced, delicious, creative sandwiches to the streets of D.C. The guys working the truck are always up for making a joke, handing out samples of tomato soup, and otherwise keeping the crowd upbeat as they grill their sandwiches to melted perfection, at the bargain price of $6.50. In a city of $15 salads and $25 cheeseburgers, I recommend you consider Big Cheese Truck for your next lunchtime brainstorming session with colleagues—get out of the office, share a few sandwiches, and dip your crusts in a communal cup of tomato soup as the creative combinations inspire you.

16 Comment

  • My #1 beef with foodtrucks (aside that I don’t see them often enough in neighborhoods on the weekend and at popular night spots) is PRICE? I mean how is a place that has such a low overhead and staff, along with the ability to serve and disperse a much larger group of people quicker than a restaurant charging as much if not more than a restaurant would?

    I know DC is fairly pricey when it comes to foods and meals out, but come on. I would think that the big plus to a food truck would be speed and cost.

    • ah

      +1. They’ve all been raising their prices. I guess people keep paying it, but as the price of many trucks for just a basic entree has climbed from 6 to 7 to $8 or $9 now, it’s gotten a bit rich for regular eating.

      Glad to hear there’s a truck still keeping the price more reasonable.

    • The same reason why craft beer is more expensive in DC compared to other high priced cities (e.g. San Fran). People are willing to get gouged for food and drink in this town. Point it out and you’ll get a cadre of defenders talking about how you have to “pay to play” and if you don’t like it, go to Omaha.

      • Agreed. Used to live in San Francisco before moving to DC a couple years ago. San Fran was easily cheaper in the ways of food and drink (and transportation and to some degree rent). Point being is even in bigger “more expensive” cities, there’s always deals to be found, but in DC there tends to be that people are just fine being gouged. I won’t move to Omaha, I’ll just move back to SF and enjoy a cheaper lifestyle.

        • Most definitely agree. DC seriously lacks decent, cheap eats that can be found in other “more expensive” cities such as SF and NYC.

    • I concur — it’s a major obstacle for me as a consumer. My last food truck experience (name withheld) cost me over $8, and the portion was about 70% of what I could have gotten for that same $8 two blocks away at a brick & mortar place (Merzi) that ultimately I would have enjoyed just as much. I’ll grant that the ingredients tend to be more artisinal, but c’mon … it’s still food coming out of the back of a re-purposed mail truck.

  • Last time I had their tomato soup it was closer to a spicy tomato sauce, not a soup. Have they changed it? Call me whatever but I prefer the plan runny Campbells Tomato soup to dip my grilled cheese in.

    • I was wondering the same thing. Their tomato soup was awful, the last time I had it.

      • I have to admit, the soup was a last-minute addition and it was only used for dipping. It is a bit spicy but I didn’t think it was that bad–it was a bit grainy and could have used some straining and thickening, but it wasn’t nearly as thick as a tomato sauce.

        • Sounds like the same tomato soup. I didn’t try dipping it, but I hated the soup enough to throw it out after a couple of spoonfuls (and I am very upset by wasting food). I thought it was more like pureed, watery salsa, or maybe tomato sauce with water added.

          You’re totally spot on with the rest of the review. The Mount Fuji was amazing and the Barely Buzzed was fine but nothing exciting.

  • Yeah, the trucks are all way pricier than the ones in Philly or even NYC. Kind of ridiculous.

  • I personally think the price has to do with the cost of the ingredients they use. I mean brie cheese, and Gouda on whole grain bread is quite a step above wholesale american cheese and whatever the bricks and mortar lunch places use. Most of the established lunch places in DC probably buy from restaurant distributors and get much better prices. These guys are all small and lack the buying power a Subway franchise might have. And seriously, they need to sell the gourmet stuff in order to differentiate themselves from the status quo. Would you really stand in line for a food truck who is selling the same slop you can find any downtown DC corner?
    So I guess, yes, if you want gourmet ingredients in your lunch, you do have to pay, if not just got to the countless number of “by the pound” places in DC and get your eat on cheaply…

  • I feel like you have just reviewed a completley different truck than the one I went to. This place is horrible. Commenters above have already addressed the awful soup so I iwll move onto the grilled chees itself…..HORRIBLE. When I order a grilled cheese I expect the main component (the cheese) to be there. The reason the sandwich is “cheap” is because the grilled cheese actually is bread slightly warmed with one scant piece of cheese. While I agree the flavor combinations are good…the cheese needs to be there…..not to mention that the bread should actually be grilled not just slightly warmed.

  • I work out in McLean so we don’t have food trucks. It seems like every time I hear about one I get interested, then I look at the prices, then I see the pictures, and then I don’t feel like it anymore.

    Food trucks are already expensive, but that much for a grilled cheese…?? No thanks.

  • This truck made me sad when I went – not nearly enough cheese and the flavors didn’t even work that well together. I go out to eat to get something better than I can make on my own, and I could have pulled off better with a baguette, a hunk of cheddar, and my toaster.

    I really WANTED to like it, too!

  • Got to agree with the other comments. The tomato soup was like a bland salsa and my sandwich had like a single slice of cheese on it, so that all of the outer bites were completely bread. Worst food truck experience I’ve had, to be honest, and I have been to the large majority.

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