Small Bites

More street food!

Street food is gaining in popularity these days, and it's no wonder. Working stiff or otherwise, food from a street cart is the perfect lunch: It's cheap, it's fast, it can be consumed walking down the street and only look minimally rude.

Photo by Jonathan Welch

In the past, street food around these parts has been spotty at best. Sure, the hot dog vendors have staked their claim on the sidewalk, but that's all we've had to enjoy in that department for quite some time — until now.

Yes, Hardcastle Hot Dogs are coming. Bouchon Street food is humming right along, serving frites and crepes. And right here under our noses, next to the Grove Arcade, Justin Smudde has been quietly plugging away, making some of the most quality tamales to be found in Asheville, served from an unassuming steel food cart.

Though it could easily be mistaken for a hot dog cart, Smudde's mini mobile restaurant — known as "Bandido's Burritos" — serves a south-of-the-border menu of burritos, wraps, tamales and scratch-made chips with great homemade salsa. The menu, says Smudde, changes on a daily basis, and always features seasonal produce and local meats and vegetables.

On the balmy Tuesday that Xpress stopped by, Smudde served tamales with deeply flavorful braised beef, potatoes and fresh-cut sweet corn with a guajillo-chili sauce. On the vegetarian end, we found tamales with sweet potatoes and corn with an ancho chile sauce, as well as cold veggie wraps with white-bean cilantro hummus, baby organic lettuces and roasted organic carrots, roasted local squash and fresh radishes. The beef, black bean, rice and four-cheese burritos must have been particularly popular — they were sold out by 1 p.m.

Extras included key lime-ancho chili chips with a green poblano-cilantro salsa, as well as sweet tea with local mint that's certifiably to die for. Smudde says he frequently makes fruit salad with mango, papaya, kiwi and more, spiked with fresh mint. He also makes homemade ice cream on most days, though he was out when we visited.

Why a burrito cart? "I've been a chef for 20 years and got tired of working for the man, basically," Smudde says. "I just got tired of people taking credit for my ideas — of working long hours and never getting to see my family. Sweating with a chef coat on in a 150-degree kitchen."

Photo by Halima Flynt

This reporter was quick to point out that the summer heat was slightly unbearable this July. "Yes, but I have shorts and sandals on, and I get to socialize," says Smudde. "Plus, my regulars come over and chat with me all day."

Smudde makes approximately 60 tamales and 60 burritos each day in the kitchen of Tomato Cocina in the Westgate Plaza. He reports that he sells out every day. That's not surprising, considering most of his items cost only $3.

Bandido's Burritos is located at 15 Page Avenue, across from Chorizo in the Grove Arcade. The cart is available Tuesday through Friday, from 11 a.m. "until I sell out, which is usually around 1:30 or 2 p.m.," says Smudde.

Bandido's Burritos can also be found at the Wedge in the River Arts District, Wednesdays and Saturdays, from 5 p.m. until close.

For more information, including the ever-changing menu, visit the Bandido Burrito Facebook page.

Chefs Move to Schools

On July 28, 45 chefs, restaurateurs and others in the food industry gathered at Laurey’s Catering and Gourmet to Go for a summit. Laurey Masterton shared the story of her recent trip to the White House, as well as the details of Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools program. Masterton is heading the local initiative to get area chefs in schools, cooking with kids and teaching them about healthy eating.

The gathering of culinary professionals included people like Mark Rosenstein, Leah McGrath of Ingles, Sheila Tilghman of AB-Tech and Brian Sonuskus of Tupelo Honey. The crowd was asked to sign up to partner with a particular local school. Masterton reports that at least half of the schools in Buncombe County have a chef representing them as a result of the meeting.

The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project is helping to facilitate the Chefs Move to Schools program by connecting local schools with chefs and offering training. “ASAP can help chefs learn how to teach classes and learn what the curriculums are,” Masteron says. “They actually can provide little cooking kits for chefs if they need it, including lesson plans, recipes and ideas.”

Even though getting the initial wave of chefs signed up to partner with local schools is a big step, “there’s room for even more,” says Masterton. “If these connections turn into real relationships, we’re halfway there in terms of getting a chef in every school in Buncombe County,” says Masterton.

There’s plenty of work to do, says Masterton. “I feel like the summit was just the tip of the iceberg.” To that end, she says, if people who are not involved would like to help, contact ASAP at 236-1282 or Laurey Masterton at

Cheese for Charity

Santé Wine Bar in the Grove Arcade hosts a wine tasting on Thursday, August 26, in support of Teaching Artists Performing in Asheville Schools, or TAPAS for short. The program is a collaboration between the Asheville City Schools Foundation and LEAF in Schools and Streets to expand the availability of arts experiences in local schools. 

The event takes place at Santé, but the Grove Arcade has approved the use of its main halls as a concert arena of sorts for The Secret B-Sides, as well as a spill-over area for event attendees.

A "Lokel Yokel" cheese board, the proceeds of which will benefit TAPAS, is also available for purchase at the event. The board includes an impressive array of local goods, including cheeses from Looking Glass Creamery and Dee dee Lee Cheese, as well as smoked trout from Sunburst Trout Farms in Candler.

The cheese board is available now through September at Sante. Cost is $17, with $5 going to TAPAS. For more information, visit


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One thought on “Small Bites

  1. Dionysis

    I tried a burrito and tamale from ‘Banditos’ a couple of weeks ago and they were great (and very reasonably priced too). Nice to see these vendors out there.

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