When it comes to food trucks, DC is quickly earning a place as one of the most diverse and delicious cities across the country.  We’ve got Maine lobster rolls, Cuban sandwiches, Canadian poutine and Korean BBQ tacos – even food from the Fojol brothers’ native “Merlindia!”  On any given weekday a lunch crush could be gathering just outside your office for a taste one of these or a dozen other concepts.

But not yesterday and today.  With the first annual Curbside Cookoff, Washington’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs brought them all together in the parking lot at 11th and H Streets, NW for a snacking summit of epic proportions.  Voters selected their twenty favorite vendors from those who sell in the DC metropolitan area, and they all received invitations to set up at the site of the old convention center for two days of food and fun.

Yesterday’s crowds were a testament to just how popular these food trucks have become – an estimated 8500 guests waited in lines that sometimes exceeded an hour just to taste some of the favorites.

We stopped by for a quick look around in the early afternoon, and some of the vendors had already sold out for the day.  They’ve promised to reload and come back ready for twice as many people today.

Planning to be one of them?  Check out our guide to the Curbside Cookoff – complete with photos – after the jump.In no particular order here are our observations (and strategic recommendations) for Curbside Cookoff:

  • Use the Buddy System – There’s no way you’re going to be able to visit more than two trucks in a lunch hour with lines as long as they were yesterday.  The solution?  Partner up – or better yet, bring 3 or 4 coworkers to check out the cookoff.  Then divide and conquer, dispatching teammates to multiple trucks simultaneously.  Regroup afterwards and share the spoils accordingly.
  • Come Early – Even though they’re claiming that they’ll be better prepared for the crowds tomorrow, it’s highly likely that some of the vendors will run out of food to sell.  How bad would it suck to be in a line for half an hour only to learn that the vendor is shutting down?  Do yourself a favor and avoid that scenario by arriving early in the day.
  • Check Out Some New Faces – If you’re fortunate enough to live or work  near one of the usual food truck stops, you’re probably pretty familiar with most of them.  But even the most experience truck connoisseur has a few new stops they can check out at Curbside Cookoff.  DC Empanadas is still a few weeks from opening (their truck should be arriving shortly), Pleasant Pops has a new van to take their Farmers’ Market favorites on the road, and BBQ Bandidos has a new truck but few folks have had a chance to taste them until now.
  • Have a Backup Plan – Figure this is the perfect opportunity to finally try the lobster truck or the Korean taco truck you’ve heard so much about?  Guess what – so do most of the other folks who are attending.  Additionally, some of the advertisted trucks are no-shows: Rebel Heroes is closing down for the season today and so they opted to stay in their usual neighborhoods for a last round of service, the yellow bulgogi truck didn’t make an appearance yesterday and DC Slices didn’t arrive until the late afternoon.  Do yourself a favor and come prepared with a Plan B in case your first choice is too crowded, sold out, or just not there.
  • Enjoy Yourselves – This is meant to be a fun experience – don’t let the lines discourage you or the fact that the “Curby” voting seems to be a bit lopsided  get you down.  Organized by DCRA’s Michael Rupert, Curbside Cookoff’s a chance to show off the vibrant food culture in DC while also calling attention to some impressive musicians, artists and others who do their best work “at the curbside.”
  • Vote for Your Favorites – DCRA is using a Text (SMS) voting system to allow people to select their favorite vendors and help them win the tremendous moral victory that is the first annual “Curby.”  If you’re looking to vote for one of your favorites, you need to send their specific text message – as seen on the signage outside the truck and on the website – (202) 559-4219.  Make sure you spell it right or that vote simply won’t be counted.

Leaderboard as of midnight (shortcodes in caps):

BBQ Bandidos (BBQ) – 2551 votes
Curbside Cupcakes (CURBSIDE) – 1833 votes
Lobster Truck (LOBSTER) – 1476 votes
District Taco (DISTRICTTACO) – 659 votes
Fojol Bros. (FOJOL) – 253 votes
Eat Wonky (EATWONKY) – 185 votes
El Floridano (FLORIDANO) – 147 votes
Takorean (TAKOREAN) – 110 votes
Pleasant Pops (POP) – 97 votes
DC Slices (DCSLICES) – 46 votes
DC Empanadas (EMPANADA) – 21 votes
Sweet Bites (SWEETBITES) – 18 votes
Eat Sauca (EATSAUCA) – 17 votes
Food Chain DC (FOODCHAIN) – 12 votes
Fry Captain (FRYCAPTAIN) – 9 votes
Rebel Heroes (REBEL) – 5 votes
Sweetflow Mobile (SWEETFLOW) – 3 votes
Pedro and Vinny’s Burrito Cart (BURRITO) – 2 votes
Yellow Cart (YELLOWCART) – 2 votes
Sidewalk Sweetsations (SWEETSATION) – 1 votes
Yellow Truck (YELLOWTRUCK) – 1 votes

The Cookoff wrapped up closer to 8 PM last night than originally anticipated, and it will stay open to the same time tonight.  You can follow the Curbside Cookoff through @dcra on Twitter.  So will you be swinging by the Cookoff today?  If so, where will you be eating and drinking?