Allie Hemmings '18
I discovered the joy of food trucks when I moved to Portland, Oregon for college, and I have been an ardent fan ever since. Food is inexorably tied to memory, with certain foods vividly evoking a moment or place with just one simple taste.1 I have always found food trucks to be particularly poignant creators of this type of recollection, and I could draw you a map of my time in Portland based on the trucks I ate at. Given my long-standing love of food trucks, I am delighted to review some of the trucks that Charlottesville has to offer so you can start your own exercise in culinary cartography.
I was intrigued by the initial description of Côte-Rôtie as a yakitori/rotisserie truck. The owners of Côte-Rôtie, Peter and Merrill Robertson, met in culinary school and opened a restaurant together in the Hamptons before moving to Charlottesville in 2015. The truck has no set menu and the offerings are incredibly diverse—the day we went they were serving sesame chicken and pork empanadas. However, the unifying theme is roasting and grilling (the truck’s name means “roasted slope” in French). It is kitted out with a custom yakitori grill imported from Japan and a rotisserie.
The day we visited them they were behind the JAG school,2 but they are regularly at Champion Brewing and other breweries and wineries around Charlottesville. The prices were quite reasonable at $8-12 for a healthy portion and a drink. Everything we ate was delicious, but one drawback was that the vegetarian options were limited due to the small menu.
I tried the crispy crunchy chicken with Japanese BBQ and sesame noodles as well as the pork empanadas with a mild chili sauce. The chicken was, in fact, both crunchy and crispy and quite delightful. Sesame chicken can be a bit oily or over-seasoned, but this chicken had the perfect blend of flavor with a nice texture. Several of the folks who tried the dish were a big fan of the perfectly cooked chilled noodles and found them quite refreshing given how hot it was that day. My favorite of the two dishes was the empanadas. The pastry was perfect: thin, slightly flaky, and very buttery. It practically melted in your mouth. The filling was basically smoked pulled pork, which I was 100% here for, but some of the tasters who were expecting more veggies were a bit disappointed.
Overall, the consensus about Côte-Rôtie was overwhelmingly positive. You can keep up with Côte-Rôtie by following them on Facebook, where they post their weekly schedule and menus.
El Tako Nako:
I had heard about this truck from several friends, and I was eager to check it out for myself. I totally missed the truck the first time I drove past; it is at 2405 Hydraulic Road, behind the Stonefield Shops in the same parking lot as a laundromat. The gentlemen running the truck were friendly, and the service was lightning fast—we got our order about five minutes after placing it. The prices are also great at $2.50 per taco. For me, three was a good portion.
The tortillas were OK, and I appreciated that they were doubled up to prevent leaks. The toppings and the meat were where these tacos really shined. Each taco comes topped with cilantro and a blend of caramelized and chopped onions. I loved the mix of the two types of onion, as the caramelized onion was a nice counterpoint to the slight bite of the chopped onion. The taco also came with your choice of guacamole sauce, green sauce, and red sauce. It is worth pointing out that the guacamole was a true sauce, not a dip, but it added a lovely, almost creamy flavor to the tacos. I personally love salsa made with tomatillos, so the green sauce was perfect for me. My friends with a slightly higher spice tolerance described the red sauce as “optimally spicy.”
We tried the pollo, asada, and pastor taco fillings. Chicken can so easily be too dry, so I was really pleased with how moist the pollo taco was. Likewise, the asada taco was tender and flavorful. My favorite was probably the pastor. The meat itself had a nice kick to it, and was well seasoned. I was disappointed that they were out of the beef cheek filling, as the reviews about it online had been very positive.
La Michoacana is probably still going to be my go-to for tacos in Charlottesville, but I would definitely go back to El Tako Nako. Thank you to Ashley Finger, Katarina Siefkas, Hannah Sowell, Jonathan Babcock, Cory Sagduyu, and Natasha Pereira for agreeing to be guinea pigs and giving me their feedback.
1 I’m not making this up, see “The Omnivorous Mind” by John Allen.
2 Side Note – the JAG school has food trucks come every few weeks when there are special seminars. All the JAGs we talked to were super friendly, and encouraged us to come over to check out the food trucks anytime.