Asheville, NC: Food Trucks Abound

Arepas! Sheila and Genaro (AKA Rino) Cassano sell a number of vegetarian options from their Venezuelan food truck. Photo by Jonathan Welch

by Anonymous | Mountain Xpress

Arepas! Sheila and Genaro (AKA Rino) Cassano sell a number of vegetarian options from their Venezuelan food truck. Photo by Jonathan Welch

Vegetarians craving world cuisine take note. Food trucks are on your side these days. We have GQC Street Food serving vegetarian falafel at the Bywater, in West Asheville and now across from the Dripolator on select days, and now we have a Venezuelan food truck on Patton Avenue that serves vegetarian cuisine.

Through a pass-through window, the owners of the little red truck Sheila and Genaro (aka Rino) Cassano serve a number of arepas and empanadas. They do offer meaty fare, like arepa burgers (beef patties served on simple corn-dough buns for $4) and hot dogs, but everything can be had vegetarian at this truck.

“We have the option for the burger, the hot dog and the empanada to be made with vegetarian meat,” says Sheila Cassano. The truck also offers arepas stuffed with cheese, plus tuna salad or cheese empanadas. A number of juices and shakes are available. Try the kiwi-pineapple shake, made with soy milk, for $3.

What made the Cassanos offer vegetarian fare? “We eat vegetarian at home,” says Sheila. “We’ve been eating that way for 10 years, because it’s healthier and you live longer. You’re also going to look much better, even your hair, face and skin.”

Occasionally, says Sheila, the truck offers green fried plaintains called tostones, as well as sweet plantains with queso. From time to time, they serve a sliced turkey and cheese arepa. “We don’t serve pork, ever,” Sheila says. “We don’t use whole milk — we use soy because it’s better for your body.”

Sheila says that the couple will add more Venezuelan food as the truck becomes more popular. One of her favorite items, she says, is the reina pepiada, which she describes as fried black beans with white cheese. “They used to call that out to the women that are really hot in Venezuela.”

I know the reina pepiada as an arepa, stuffed with an avocado chicken salad, but both sound great.

Sheila’s lived in the U.S. for 16 years, and Asheville for two. What does she think about Asheville? “I love it,” she says. “Where I was born in Venezuela looks just like Asheville.”

To order from the Venezuelan food truck (that’s the only name it goes by), call 423-5613, or drive over to 1563 Patton Ave. The truck is in the parking lot of the gas station that holds Suave tortillaria (that place is worth checking out as well). It’s there from noon to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday.

Coffee trucks, too!

Looking for a drive-up caffeine fix? Check the Ursa Minor Coffee truck, located in a parking lot on Swannanoa River Road, between Asheville Bolt and Screw and Mountain Steel. Ursa Minor carries coffee from Black Mountain’s Dynamite Roasting, pastries from West End Bakery in West Asheville as well as smoothies, bulk coffee and teas.

What’s it like being located in such an unlikely place? Reactions run the gamut from studied avoidance (especially from some of the neighbors) to avid fandom (from the majority of the neighborhood) says owner Eli Masem, who just moved from the Portland area with his wife Faryn Davis and his son Milo Gray.

“In Portland they have these like every 10 feet,” says Masem from inside his spotless truck. “Even in the small cowboy towns, they have them. Cowboys are rolling up to the window to order their lattes.”

Here, however, the cowboys are slightly wary, or so it seems. A man in a big red pick-up truck rolls slowly through the parking lot, then stops by Masem’s blue truck, embellished with big yellow stars. Eyeing the bottle of honey on the counter used for sweetening tea, the man asks, “Whatcha sellin’ here, molasses?” When he learns that Masem has only coffee and tea on board, the man looks momentarily confused, wishes us a good day, and rolls on through.

“I think there’s enough of a coffee culture to support this,” Masem says after the man is gone. Even on the outskirts of town?

“Yes, I didn’t even want to try for downtown because there’s already plenty of places selling great coffee — it just didn’t seem necessary.”

Masem uses fruit purees and soy or regular milk to make his smoothies, and water that he runs through a home filtration system to brew his coffees and teas. He carries a number of specialty coffee drinks, like the Bombay Blast, a blend of espresso and milk with cardamom, nutmeg and pistachios on top. He also offers an iced qishr, a cold tea brewed from dried coffee fruit infused with cinnamon and agave.

Masem is an accomplished barista, but not a coffee snob. He explains his love of joe like this: “A lot of my happiest moments in life have involved having a cup of coffee in my hand.”

Visit Ursa Minor at 216 Swannanoa Road Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. through 3 p.m., or at local festivals, like the upcoming Montford Street Festival and the Asheville Burlesque and Sideshow Festival. For more information, visit the Ursa Minor Coffee Facebook page.