In food-truck culture, having a clever, quippy name for one’s restaurant-on-wheels is almost required at this point. Consider two of the five new entrants in the annual Asheville Food Truck Showdown, turning four this year in a new venue, the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher. Deli LlaMMMa memorably styles itself as “locally sourced Gramamma-style cuisine with a raunchy ethnic flare,” and Bun Intended is a rising Thai truck cooked up by Erica “Shorty” Imhoff — raised in Louisiana by a Thai restaurateur mother and a German-American father — with fellow head chefs Matt Rhoades and Carter James.
Bun Intended offers authentic flavors in a street-food format, including locally sourced pork, chicken, and vegetables, plus dessert options, in the steamed buns of the title — a sandwich style known as “bao.” “This is our first year in the food-truck showdown,” confirms Kyle James, another partner in the operation (and Carter’s older brother) who handles PR.
“We couldn’t be more excited to compete against the best food trucks in [the region],” he adds. Praised for going beyond the expected Pad Thai, “we have been overwhelmed with the positive feedback from the people of Asheville and surrounding areas,” says Kyle. “We feel like we can compete with anyone out there, and we were lucky enough that the folks around town decided to give us a chance. What we love about this city is that people are spoiled with amazing food and food trucks, so they won’t accept or appreciate anything but the best. This motivates us.
“We fuel off of this competition,” he adds. “It ensures we put our best foot — rather plate — forward every day to make sure we are living up to expectations.”
For foodies attending the truck competition, Bun Intended will prepare special dishes — however, “You’ll have to come to find out what they are,” says Kyle.
Seventeen food trucks will compete in the showdown, sponsored by Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. Winners are determined by three judges (Stu Helm of Food Fan, WLOS anchor Evan Donovan, and Joe Scully, owner of Chestnut and Corner Kitchen). VIP ticket holders will cast separate ballots.
This year, it’s all about a push for a festival atmosphere, including live music. “After three years of amazing success at the Masonic Lodge … in downtown Asheville, [moving to the Ag Center] will accommodate more food trucks and more of the community,” event director Carey Harnash said in a press statement.
Three-time defending champs Root Down won last year for their smoked lamb ribs, with meat sourced from the Virginia farm Mountain Memories (part of the regional-foods consortium New Appalachia). Root Down was also named one of the South’s top-ten food trucks last year, by Southern Living magazine. Truck co-owner Dano Holcomb notes that their menu changes every day, although he says “we always offer three or four [signature] items — otherwise we’d get in trouble with our regulars.” Holcomb plans a surprise for this year’s festival, a dish still under wraps, and says that “everybody’s pumped” for the big show — and curious about how it’ll all boil down in the larger Henderson County venue.
The Fourth Annual Asheville Food Truck Showdown happens Saturday, March 25, at the Boone Building at the WNC Agricultural Center (1301 Fanning Bridge Road, Fletcher). 11am-7pm. Free admission; vendors priced individually. VIP tickets are $35. For more information, see ashevillefoodtruckshowdown.com.