A Cville Food Truck Guide

Posted on March 26, 2013 by

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What do Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, and Charlottesville have in common? Delicious mobile food options, of course.

Although Charlottesville’s food truck scene is just emerging, Cville Niche knows it has a lot of tasty potential, and wants to make sure you are well informed of the culinary genius that roams the streets of Cville. So, we’ve caught up with some of the newest trucks to the scene, and put together a bit of a Cville food truck guide.

Mouth Wide Open

First, we spoke with Keshia Barnett-Wert, who owns the new Mouth Wide Open truck with her husband, Justin Wert.

MWO offers a variety of sandwich sliders and sides for lunch, and you can usually find them on the corner of Water and 1st Street downtown during the week.

The bright pink and yellow design makes it hard to miss! And, the Cajun tilapia and fries, we must say, are the perfect quick, interesting, and, most of all, yummy lunch on the mall.

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Mouth Wide Open serves up lunchtime sliders on the Downtown Mall.

How did you come to own a food truck here in Charlottesville?

I met my husband at the University of Mississippi, where we went to college together. Then, we moved to Charleston, South Carolina and we did a lot of traveling. We fell in love with the food truck scene in San Francisco. It was amazing, we loved the creativity of the chefs, being able to do their own thing in the truck, and also change it up – not being stuck with one menu. When we moved to Charlottesville five and a half years ago, I decided I wanted to change careers. I wasn’t happy with my job in human resources because I’m a people person, I like to feed people and talk to them every day. I love to cook, too. I got a job in a restaurant as a line cook. I enjoyed it, and I learned as much as I could about food. My husband and I just came back from vacation in San Francisco last year, where we did a tour of all the food trucks, and we decided to open our own.

What was the process of opening your own truck like?

We started about a year ago. We bought a truck, which used to be an ice cream truck in North Carolina. We ended up gutting the inside, putting all the equipment in and fixing it up to our liking. We’ve been open about two and a half months now. Business is good, we opened in the winter so we could get our feet wet and work out the kinks and all. But, business is actually booming.

Do you offer your culinary skills off the street as well?

We do a lot of festivals and catering events. We are doing a lot of events with the Pink Ribbon Polo classic out at King Family Vineyards, and other benefits.

“We aren’t just in it for us, we also want to help the city of Charlottesville.”

We are booked for two weddings, and they are not only local. We are doing one in Luray and the other side of Richmond. So, we do travel in Virginia. We love what we do.

How would you describe your food?

We are pulling from places that we’ve lived. I love seafood; usually every day we have a crab cake slider on with corn and avocado salsa. It is one of our top sellers. We always try to have a fish on, beef, and during the summer we will be doing pulled pork because I’m from the south – I love my pork. We not only have meat sliders, we also have vegetarian options, like grilled cheese sliders. We are adding dessert sliders to the menu.

How can people find you?

You can follow us on Facebook or Twitter for our schedule. Mondays and Wednesdays we are usually parked right here (corner of Water and 1st). Tuesdays and Thursdays are a little more hit or miss. Friday and Saturday evenings we do Champion Brewery. We’ve been doing that since we’ve been open. It’s a great crowd. We also serve late nights on Friday and Saturday nights right beside the Whiskey Jar.

What is your vision of the food truck scene here?

We are trying to start a food truck movement here in Charlottesville. They say there are about six food trucks in Charlottesville, but we don’t see them out. We see three or four on campus, but we don’t see any other trucks out. We actually want to rally the trucks together, maybe hit a park one day, with all the trucks set up. Maybe have some live music, sort of how they do it on the West Coast. We are just trying to bring that here to Charlottesville, because this is a foodie town. We just want to bring a different aspect to it.

Hanu Food Truck

Next, Patrick Kim gave us the lowdown on his brand new culinary endeavor – the Hanu food truck. Hanu has been open for only about a month now, so be sure to visit him at Champion Brewery Monday through Saturday nights. And try the short rib tacos and pork belly bun!

What’s the story behind the Hanu food truck?

I’m originally from Los Angeles. I traveled around a lot. My sister went to UVa Medical School, so that’s how I found out about Charlottesville. In the bigger cities on the West Coast like Los Angeles, the food truck scene is really huge. When I came here to visit my sister, I thought it was a great college town, and food trucks would do really well here. But when I came here, in ’08 or ‘09, there weren’t any food trucks to my knowledge. I decided to come here in 2011, and I saw an article about how UVa was doing a renovation on dining, and they had four food trucks contracted. Through that, I started to think Charlottesville would be a good place for me. I’ve been in operation now for about three weeks. This is only my ninth time coming out. I’m pretty new to Charlottesville and the food truck scene.

What got you interested in the food truck business?

I went to culinary school at Johnson and Wales in Charlotte, so I’ve been cooking for eight or nine years now. I was a sushi chef before this. I was planning on opening a restaurant, but it was too expensive. Food trucks are lower maintenance.

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Patrick Kim showing off his brand new food truck

What kind of difficulties, if any, have you run into getting into the food truck scene in Charlottesville?

Parking. The demographics with the students and everything is really great, and everyone really likes food, but everyone has cars, too. Everything is so consolidated in Charlottesville. That’s not something I had taken into consideration.

So what kind of food, exactly, do you serve?

Korean BBQ tacos and buns. When I first came here, my menu was really eclectic. I had a bunch of random stuff. But, nobody here really knew what this was. I felt like the best way to get the word out was to have an identity. Korean barbeque tacos are what I started with, but I also had lobster rolls, fried chicken, and a bunch of crazy stuff. It was a gourmet truck at first, but I found that if I have an identity, people are more likely to check me out.

What does Hanu mean?

People know Kobe beef, but a lot of people don’t know that Hanu is a Korean Kobe style beef. The thing that makes it special is it’s from a brown colored cow. Unlike Kobe, you can’t import it here, and that’s why not a lot of people know about it. Hanu is a really high-grade beef. It’s also a symbol of Korea, because you can only find it there. It’s to represent gourmet and Korea.

Bazlamas Turkish Street Food

Lloyd Ricks of the Bazlamas Turkish Street Food truck clued us in on their experience with the Charlottesville food truck community as well.

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The Bazlamas truck on the Grounds of UVa

When did Bazlamas open?

Bazlamas opened for business this past summer at the farmer’s markets, but the food truck didn’t get up and running until September 1st, 2012.

Why a Turkish Street Food truck?

Michael Turk wanted to provide a high quality, affordable food option that reminded him of home.

Where do you see Bazlamas’ place among the rest of the trucks?

No one else is doing Turkish food from a truck. We felt we could give people something different that would stand out.

Where can people find you?

We will be opening soon for takeout and delivery from our kitchen on Market Street. This spring we will be setting up late night at the Corner and the Downtown area on weekends. We also cater events, and travel to festivals during the summer season.

What are your thoughts on the food truck scene in general, and how do you see it developing in Charlottesville?

Charlottesville is expanding rapidly, and with that comes an emergence of business and creativity.

“I foresee fewer regulations for trucks to accommodate this new trend in food service. This is already a food friendly town – it can only get friendlier.”

There’s More!

The Mouth Wide Open, Hanu and Bazlamas food trucks are only a slice of what Charlottesville’s food truck movement has to offer. If you’re hungry for more, check these guys out as well:

La Michoacana – Serves a variety of tacos; known to be found at Champion; offspring of the restaurant on High Street.

La Tako Nako – More tacos; spotted on Hydraulic Road, near Commonwealth Drive.

The LunchboxLocation updates can be found on their Facebook page.

Got Dumplings?Dumplings, obviously; other delicious Asian treats; usually on UVa’s Grounds during weekday lunches.

IMAG1060And last but not least, an update on the Charlottesville favorite, Carpe Donut.

The picturesque donut cart is looking to expand after catalyzing the current food truck movement in Charlottesville. If you are craving one of their sugary treats on a day the truck is out of town, never fear! Stop by their cute little shop in McIntire Plaza to get your coffee and donut fix.

Coming soon Spring 2013!

Sweethaus CupcakesComing soon to Fridays After Five and private events in Cville — the mobile cupcake shop!

Blue Ridge Pizza Co. – This travelin’ wood-fired pizza-oven-on-a-truck can be spotted around Cville starting in May.

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