Doug the Food Dude, operated by Doug Maheu, serves fresh, all-natural meals that contain no MSG or preservatives. The business is family-owned, and Maheu’s wife, 20-year-old daughter and two younger children help to lend a hand. Some of the truck’s signature dishes are Caribbean Roasted Pork, Crispy Baked Fajita Egg Rolls and Parmesan-Crusted Salmon over Cabana Rice.
Tuesdays are Doug the Food Dude’s standard day in Ballston, though this may vary at times because of occasional special events.
Maheu explained some of the philosophy and business aspects behind Doug the Food Dude.
What is your most popular menu item? “Our most popular items are typically our lobster rolls (which started as a special item before we added them to the regular menu), the Parmesan-crusted salmon and Cajun shrimp. When we serve our special jerk chicken wings, we have a hard time keeping them in stock.”
How do you prepare your food? “Everything is cooked on the truck with all-natural ingredients. I don’t put anything in that I can’t pronounce. I serve healthy food with no chemicals, and I like to use herbs and spices that I get fresh and chop up myself.”
How has Doug the Food Dude survived the sweltering summer heat? “When it gets as hot as it has this summer, you have serious refrigeration problems, and I was not immune. We used additional fans, and we didn’t miss a day. People don’t tend to go out as much as normal when it’s hot out, but we fared fairly well business-wise.”
How has business been since the truck got its start? “It’s been above my expectations. Repeat business has been tremendous. When we come to Ballston, Rosslyn and Crystal City, people are lined up when we get there, and the majority of our reviews have been outstanding. We try to differentiate from other food trucks by being a mobile restaurant; our menu is fairly extensive.”
What are some of the daily aspects of running a food truck that people might not think about? “I go out in Arlington in the truck in the morning to get ready for lunch. Parking in Arlington is tough, so getting there early can get me a good parking spot, plus people coming to work can see that I’ll be out there for the lunch hour.
The big question I get asked is, How do I start a food truck? And I explain as part of my answer that during the two-hour lunchtime rush, operating a food truck is an unbelievable high—prepping the truck at 6 a.m. and cleaning the truck at midnight, not so much. It’s a labor of love. It is fun, but it’s a lot of work, and food trucks have lots of costs that are different than restaurant costs, such as those associated with equipment and repairs and a central kitchen. We also have health department inspections, vending permits and background checks, which can be expensive.”
What else should Arlingtonians know about Doug the Food Dude? “We take Visa and Mastercard and accept phone-in orders; call (703) 772-5182. We’ll deliver within a mile of the truck. We do office catering and full-service catering.”
Doug the Food Dude has been nominated as Favorite Food Truck for a Food Network competition. Vote at www.foodnetwork.com/foodtrucks. The food truck with the most votes will win a spot on the third season of the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race.”
Where to Find Doug the Food Dude