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With Dry Land Covered, Entrepreneurs Look To Water With D.C. Food Boat

That's not just any pontoon boat, but D.C.'s first food boat.
Nauti Foods
That's not just any pontoon boat, but D.C.'s first food boat.

Heads are turning on the Potomac River — and it’s not because of the scenery.

It may seem like a mirage, but the first food boat in D.C. is finally among us. Nauti Foods is a 24-foot pontoon boat that carries ice cream, sandwiches, hot dogs, chips, and drinks and accepts cash or credit card.

The vessel is captained by couple Ari Fingeroth, owner of a home-remodeling company, and Tammar Berger, an attorney and consultant for World Bank and co-owner of Off Road Indoor Cycling, a spinning studio in D.C.

“We’re just doing this to have a good time and fill a void,” Berger says. “We love being on the water so we’re out here all day and we’re ‘working’ but we’re not taking it too seriously, we just want people to come out here and have a good time.”

Nauti Foods is anchored just north of Key Bridge on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon and evenings.

Since the business is the first of its kind in D.C., Nauti Foods had to go through several government agencies before being approved. Fingeroth says the licensing process was complicated and that he and Berger “had to jump through a lot of hoops to finally get licensed.”

“Everybody we had to deal with was very good about letting me know what the steps are going to be and how they wanted to adapt the steps from the normal food truck to on-the-water-vending,” Fingeroth says. “So they had us cross off a lot of our T’s and dot our I’s, but I can’t say enough about how helpful the city was for us.”

The next obstacle Nauti Foods plans to take on is getting a license to sell beer onboard. “Sadly we don’t sell beer yet,” Berger says. “It’s one thing a lot of our customers ask about.”

Currently, food trucks on land aren’t allowed to sell alcohol, so it may be another hoop to jump through for Nauti Foods.

But long licensing processes aren’t slowing the crew down. If serving up hot dogs in the middle of the Potomac wasn’t adventurous enough, Nauti Foods is looking to expand their business to include a delivery service.

“We have the paddle board out to be able to go out to larger boats so we’re still working out the details both with the city and the logistics,” Fingeroth says.

Berger said litter in the water hasn’t been a problem; in fact the crew gives customers baggies attached to carabineers to hold put their garbage in.

“I always ask people if they have a way to carry it [trash] back and if they don’t we’ll give them a bag and make sure they do that,” Berger says. “We also have a lot of garbage cans on board, but a lot of people actually just float around here and eat and just give us back their garbage.”

Nauti Foods is teaming up with the Potomac Conservancy group and Clean Water Action to raise money and promote the importance of keeping the river clean.

Nauti Foods plans to hit the water every weekend until September, weather permitting.

“It’s nice to know that we’re filling a void that at least when we were always boating we always felt like we wanted something fresh grilled or cold to drink and we kind of figured if we want it most of the other boaters must as well,” Fingeroth says.

Nauti Foods turns heads on the Potomac River from Medill Washington on Vimeo.

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