New food truck alert
There's a new mobile sandwich unit in town. Nate Kelly has opened the Lowdown food truck with wife, Cynthia. Nate was the chef at the Usual Suspects, the ever-popular late-night hot spot that was replaced by Avenue M last year.
Monday through Thursday, the truck can be found selling a small but mighty menu of sandwiches at 425 Broadway, in the parking lot of the Citgo station across from Hillside Street. Fridays and Saturdays, the truck is located at 75 Swannanoa River Road.
The menu currently consists of four sandwiches, a braised beef po' boy with horseradish mayo and for the vegetarians, there's a bahn mi with lemongrass tofu, pickled veggies, fresh cucumber, cilantro and Sriracha mayo. Both are served on a crunchy-crust baguette that's baked by Fiore's, a restaurant with both downtown and south Asheville locations, owned by AIR-member Anthony Cerrato.
"I was trying to find fresh, local baguettes and was having a hard time finding people that could make enough for me, so I approached him and he was more than helpful," says Nate of the partnership. It's an interesting symbiotic relationship that shows how food trucks and brick-and-mortar restaurants can find ways to work together. "I think it's fantastic," says Nate. “When I approached him he was excited, I was excited. We can definitely help each other out."
Cerrato's bread has a great crust to it, and helps to sop up the juice from sandwiches, although no matter what, we highly recommend a stack of napkins (the Lowdown carries recycled paper products, so you can feel better about loading up). "All of the sandwiches are very messy," says Nate, "but they're all goodness."
Customers can also have a great and hearty smoked pork sandwich with pickled okra and coleslaw with a choice of red Memphis- or mustard-style barbecue sauce on Texas toast. There's also a BLT with an extra “P” at the end that stands for (mighty good) pimento cheese with a little bit of kick. On the day that Xpress visited, the tomatoes were a yellow heirloom variety.
In addition to the regular menu, there's a grilled peanut butter and jelly for the kids, made with housemade strawberry jam. Other items made on board include a peach-molasses-habeñero hot sauce and not-too-sweet tea infused with local blueberries.
It's all being served out of a very all-American GMC truck outfitted with gleaming stainless steel food equipment and a brand-new ventilation hood. The art on the side of the truck was created by Erik Minkin, a local cartoonist who also works for the Cartoon Network. The small counter by the service window is made out of reclaimed barn wood, and the curtain that partially covers the side door where you order and pay is made out of burlap. It’s all quite homey for a truck.
Nate views his mobile business as a first step along the road to entrepreneurship in a down economy. "I've always wanted my own restaurant, but I couldn't afford it," says Nate. "So I found the truck and jumped in headfirst. There have been a bunch of bumps along the way, but now that we're up and running, it's awesome."
Nate says that the Lowdown food truck will move toward a larger menu soon, with plenty of specials that revolve around local and seasonal goods. With the help of an iPhone application, the Kellys can accept both cash and credit. For more information, follow @thelowdowntruck or visit the Lowdown food truck's Facebook page.
Grove Park Inn honored
Every year, the American Culinary Federation (a professional organization with more than 20,000 members) honors outstanding restaurants and chefs at the ACF National Convention held in Dallas, Texas. This year, our own Grove Park Inn (and its three dining establishments) will be honored in the Achievement of Excellence Awards ceremony. "The awards recognize foodservice establishments that exemplify a commitment to excellence in their area," reads a press release from the ACF. For more information, visit groveparkinn.com.
Want to bring the pizzeria with you when you head out to the woods? GalloLea Organics, a local Asheville company, offers a new line called Campside Meals, a portable way to go beyond the tin of baked beans and s’mores. The camping kits include dried seasonings and spices, pastas and dough mixes, all rather lightweight foodstuffs to carry that you can make just by adding water. The camp meals include calzones, whole-wheat pasta with cheese or spicy red sauce and a gluten-free quinoa-corn pasta. To order, visit gallolea.com.
The scoop on Burgerworx
Burgerworx recently opened in the Grove Arcade where Cats and Dawgs used to be. Here's the concept: Select your burger from options that include beef ($4.19), chicken ($4.29) or portobello mushroom ($3.69). A veggie burger patty is not offered. You may have your patty on either a whole-wheat or classic bun, then build a burger from a list of toppings. Free add-ons include onions, lettuce, tomato (the basics) and all of the dressings, which include chipotle ketchup, Sriracha mayo and cherry-pepper relish. Premium toppings include smoked provolone, blue cheese sauce, fried egg and chili.
A few Xpress staffers sampled several burgers, from a plain-Jane variety to a concoction of kimchee, spicy mayo and cucumbers. The favorite burger of the bunch seemed to be the one enhanced with bacon, which wasn't exactly a shocker (bacon grease makes everything better). If you go, expect to find a rather loose style of patty. In the end, the four staffers that tried the burgers had four very different opinions. Have you tried Burgerworx? Or the new Cook-Out on Patton Avenue? Let us know your opinions at mountainx.com/dining.