Matt Kornmeyer, the proprietor and chef behind the Scratch truck, says he looks for locations where people congregate, but where there aren't a lot of other food options within walking distance. The guys at West Coast Tacos must have had the same idea, because on the day we visited Scratch, at 9th and Illinois outside the Gateway Plaza building, the West Coast truck was parked about the length of a Smart Car up the block. If this bothered Kornmeyer, he didn't show it. He was too busy whipping up what he calls "modern comfort food" in his roving kitchen.
Kormeyer got the idea to start Scratch a little over a year ago, after being laid off at a previous job. "I've always had a passion for food and started writing a business plan," he says. "I kept talking myself into thinking, 'Hey, this could work.'"
For this visit, I took a suggestion that Derek Reinstrom, of the Byrne's Grilled Pizza truck, gave me. He said Scratch's Spicy Chicken Cone ($7) was amazing. This grub consists of a soft taco shell swaddled in a paper cone and filled with a hand-breaded chicken tender, mango jalapeno slaw and ancho chile aioli. The effect was neither as spicy nor as sweet as the ingredients suggested, but the portion was generous. Instead of fries, I got a muffaletta salad for an extra buck. Inspired by the New Orleans sandwich, this refreshing salad consisted of bite-size pasta bits with ham, cheese, herbs and olives. I washed it down with some ice-cold basil lemonade ($2) that was wonderfully fresh and not too sweet.
I happened to hear that Scratch had parked outside the new Big Car Service Center by Lafayette Square the previous evening. The Scratch Burger ($8) with bacon marmalade, by all accounts, stole the show. There's also a Hoity Toity BLT ($7) that's served with arugula on French bread.
"I love being my own boss," says Kornmeyer who, as his truck's name suggests, prepares his dishes from scratch. "It's fun to see somebody eat our food for the first time and have a smile on their face."