By Cindy Butler Focke | Hampton Roads
Jacob Harver grew up on the West Coast, a kind of surfer dude who loved a good fish taco. It was one of the things he missed after he moved east for his job as a firefighter in 2003.
“When I got here, it took me forever to find a fish taco like the kind in California,” he said.
The popularity of fish tacos in the area has increased, said Harver, 29. That’s why he and his wife, Elyse, began Bro’s Fish Tacos – a fish taco stand on wheels. The Thalia residents debuted their mobile eatery this month at the first Food Truck Rodeo in the parking lot of Whole Foods Market in Hilltop.
The event also featured Malbon’s BBQ, Hubcap Grill Norfolk and Twisted Sisters Cupcakes, and will take place on the second Sunday of each month through the end of the year. Ten percent of the proceeds benefits WHRO Public Media.
Rob and Lori Harrington’s company provided the graphics for the Harvers’ trailer. Their mouths watered while at work, the Harringtons said. “We had to try it,” said Lori Harrington, who bit into her taco and nodded with approval.
Harver said he got his cooking skills from his mother and his wife – Elyse has a degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University. His Hampton firehouse colleagues, whom he called his harshest critics, helped him perfect his menu.
“The Truth” taco has been deemed the most popular, he said: beer-battered flounder, homemade pico de gallo and a choice of four signature sauces – topped off with the all-important lime wedge.
The plan is eventually to have multiple trucks across Hampton Roads, Harver said. But city ordinances limit such business to private property, like the market’s parking lot.
“The law makes it tough,” he added. “You can’t set up on public property unless it’s a city function.”
Caryl Thompson of the Parks and Recreation Department confirmed that vendors may not operate on city property without a permit. Harver expressed hope that changes will be made.
“We are just trying to go to business parks where people don’t have a lot of options for lunch,” he said.
Maria Miglioretti, Whole Foods’ marketing team leader, said store officials were pleased with the turnout, which she estimated to be in the hundreds. Word spread through social media, she said.
“They tweeted and people came out,” she said.
The idea is to help local business owners who support the market’s philosophy of using natural ingredients free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats. The hope is to increase the number of vendors, she said.
Nathan and Meghan Alley walked over to Whole Foods after they noticed the crowd. Nathan held a sandwich of blackened grilled chicken and pineapple chutney from the Hubcap Grill, and waited patiently in line with his wife, who wanted a taco.
“I’m surprised this hasn’t been going on before,” he said.
While traveling for his job, he has seen quite a few food trucks in other areas of the country. Why not Virginia Beach? he asked.
“This gives you a good sense of community and keeps the locals local,” he said. “We need more of this around here.”