Frozen custard vendor Brandon Byrd at Farragut Square in Washington with… (John Kelly/THE WASHINGTON…)
For Brandon Byrd, the road to heaven is paved with frozen custard.
“I’m a custard connoisseur,” he says. We’re at Farragut Square on a recent Friday. It’s the first day that Brandon has pulled up in what must be the sweetest food truck in town: a fully restored 1952 Metro van.
The vintage van is painted white on top and light blue on the bottom, and it’s girdled by a bright red stripe. It has whitewall tires. Painted on the side is the logo for Brandon’s new business: Goodies Frozen Custard.
He calls his truck “Gigi.”
“Look at how cute it is,” says a young woman who has been momentarily distracted on her way to the Chick-fil-A truck. “It’s so nice and clean.”
“Have you seen the inside?” asks another woman, who is leaning in through the sliding passenger door with her camera. “It’s flipping awesome.”
The inside is all minty green paint and shiny chrome surfaces. Brandon looks the part too: crisp white shirt, apron, red bow tie.
If only Ludacris could see him now. Or P Diddy,50 Cent or any of the other hip-hop stars Brandon once worked with. For years, Brandon did marketing for alcohol and soft-drink companies. He accompanied Ludacris on a nine-city tour sponsored by Red Bull. After that, Brandon went to work for a major hip-hop magazine.
It’s amazing what some women will offer to do to get next to Ludacris. “It was very unsettling to my soul,” says Brandon, 33. “That’s a very corrupting environment. Being a Christian and working in that industry. . . . It’s so hard. You’re tempted. I prayed about it.”
God works in mysterious ways. When Brandon was laid off from his magazine job, he pondered the future. He remembered that he loved to cook. He loved custard, too, the result of moving in high school from California to Wisconsin, in America’s Custard Belt.
Brandon knew what he had to do: make frozen custard and serve it to the good people of Washington. He already had a bachelor’s degree and two master’s (including an MBA), but he went back to class, attending “Scoop School,” a week-long course at the Frozen Dessert Institute outside St. Louis.
And because he loves old things — he thinks they’re just made better — he rescued the 60-year-old Gigi from an Arizona junkyard, had her restored and then brought her to Fort Washington, where his mother had moved.
To be honest, Gigi is not the perfect food truck platform. She gets about 10 miles to the gallon, and Brandon was delayed in starting his business after she broke down one morning on Route 210. (The carburetor. She’s better now.)
And he probably should have cut a hole in the side of the van to serve people from, but he just couldn’t bear the thought of slicing into Gigi.
Brandon does everything himself. He makes the custard at home each morning, adding bits of Madagascar vanilla bean he grinds himself. With it, he makes concretes, sundaes, milkshakes and root beer floats. (He uses Sprecher root beer from Milwaukee, poured from a tap.)
He’s still in shakedown mode at Farragut, wrestling with a balky credit card reader and reminding himself that he has to tweet his location. (He’s @GoodiesDC.)
A Japanese TV crew stops to sample his wares. So does Christin Engelhardt, who works at a nonprofit group a few blocks away. She’s from outside St. Louis and is a hardcore custard fiend. She chats with Brandon about Ted Drewes — a famed St. Louis custard stand — then takes a spoonful of Goodies.
Verdict? “I would come back,” she says.
Brandon has Chuck Berry blaring through the speakers of his custard truck. “I’m so glad I’m living in the U.S.A.,” Chuck sings.
Brandon says he doesn’t miss the hip-hop life at all.
Donate — and eat up!
Only 10 days left in our fundraising campaign for Moss Hollow, a summer camp for at-risk kids from the D.C. area. Our friends at Clyde’s are offering a great incentive to give: Donate $150 to $249 and you will receive a $25 restaurant gift certificate good at Clyde’s, the Hamilton, the Tombs or Old Ebbitt Grill. Donate $250 or more, and you will receive a $50 gift certificate. (The Clyde’s gift certificates will be mailed at the beginning of September.)
Or why not head over to those restaurants Wednesday and order the heirloom tomato salad with buffalo mozzarella? Money from that item will benefit Send a Kid to Camp.
To donate, go to washingtonpost.com/camp. Click where it says “Give Now,” and designate “Send a Kid to Camp” in the gift information. Or mail a check payable to “Send a Kid to Camp” to Send a Kid to Camp, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.
For previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.