Joshua Armbruster and his wife, Capuchina Taylor, are bringing Vietnamese to the people. Starting March 29, their Phoyabelly food truck will vend Thursday and Friday nights and all Saturday at The Lot (Asheville’s new food-truck food court) at 51 Coxe Ave. Starting May 1, hours will expand further.
Armbruster and Taylor both have cooking experience, but none of it is in traditional Vietnamese restaurants. “I’ve done different elements of Vietnamese in a lot of different restaurants,” Armbruster says. “Funny enough to say, but the [most] experience I have is in cooking French food. French food has influenced Vietnamese food so much, especially the things that I’m doing,” he says, referencing the confits, pates and stocks that he builds his dishes with. “It’s all really rooted in the fundamentals of French cooking, but using the Vietnamese palate.”
Phoyabelly sells spring rolls and bahn mi hoagies with the real-deal pork pate (although tempeh is also an option) and pickled vegetables. The duo also offers a rich pho with a complex base of meaty broth, made low and slow. “The ability to have really good broth in this town is great,” Armbruster says. The vegetarian version of the pho gets an umami-filled boost from local mushrooms. “In Asheville, you have to offer the vegetarian option, especially when it’s something that’s good,” Armbruster says. “Doing a dish that’s flavorful and can be enjoyed by both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian is very important.”
While pho is fine, Armbruster looks forward to running special dishes utilizing various cuts of meat, like the spicy Bun Bo Hue. “It’s a spicy pork, beef and shrimp broth with different charcuterie in it — it’s just beautiful,” he says.
Though other restaurants in the area serve their own versions of pho, Phoyabelly is currently the only place to enjoy a wide array of Vietnamese options. And how does it feel to be the only game in town? “I imagine that won’t be forever,” Armbruster laughs. “Exclusivity doesn’t usually last that long in the restaurant industry.”