28. Willoughby Road

A couple of months ago I was in the back seat of someone's car in Santa Monica going to or coming from somewhere. As we drove along we passed a food truck I had never seen or heard of before. I could just make it out as we whizzed by: Willoughby Road. Curious. I thought I was pretty on top of this stuff. How could this one have slipped past me?

 As soon as I got home I scrambled to my computer to do some research. Breakdown: two chefs, both graduates of Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. One, Adrian Ochoa, worked under Ludo at Bastide, while the other, Jeshua Garza, rigorously studied the savory science of bbq throughout Massachusetts. These two friends, from way back in high school, then reunited in Southern California selling their food on Sundays at the Eagle Rock farmers' market and soon after found themselves at the helm of - what else - a food truck serving "classic Southern cuisine, redefined."

It's like the food truck version of When Harry Met Sally.

My friend, Brandon, was recently working on an article about Southern food trucks in LA for Oxford American and called me to talk trucks. Sadly, while I had a world of wonderful words about Mattie's, I knew nothing of Willoughby Road. Perhaps it's because they are one of the quieter trucks in the Twitter world and don't often appear along my preferred stretch of truck-lunch-land, Miracle Mile. Eventually, it actually was Brandon who told me these guys were the bomb diggety.

And so I waited patiently for the right time and place. That was yesterday.

I got one of their sparse Tweets an hour before they opened their window on Miracle Mile. They would be serving from 12-1pm. 1 Hour. I jumped in the car and away I went. I texted Brandon on my way to tell him how excited I was to finally get my hands on this food. He replied that I should say hi to Jeshua and that they were "good folk". Excitement was mounting.

And, I might add, I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day to sit in a sun spot, by a fountain with my truck fare. This was one of those perfect, sunny, warm with a cool breeze, clear, perfect LA days.

As I sidled up I noticed little to no line. Good. I poked my head in the window and asked the guy if he was Jeshua. He was. So after a few kind words about Brandon and his article, and introducing me to his partner, Adrian, I told him to lead the way - to serve me whatever he thought needed to grace my palate.

After a very short wait he handed me a pulled pork sandwich with Thai slaw and apple chipotle bbq sauce ($6) and an order of candied yams with blue cheese and truffle honey ($4). He said he remembered Brandon being quite fond of the yams. Oh! And being the sweetness that he clearly is, Jeshua gave me a bottle of water - on the house. And so, with my treasures, off to a little wall with a little sun spot by a little fountain I went.

Ok. The food, damnit!

The first bite I took was of the yams. I was so intrigued. They were divine (although I added a scant pinch of salt (which I do to everything)). The yams were cooked to perfection, soft and warm. The blue cheese added a pleasant surprise of savory and bite. And somehow the truffle honey, in its subtlety, brought the three flavors together in unison. They were meant to be.

The sandwich was no joke either, folks. The bun was ever so slightly crisped on the exterior but became immediately delicate upon biting down. It held the bounty inside together brilliantly. The Thai slaw was tangy and the slightest bit spicy, but completely fresh. The pork was tender, succulent, a bit sweet and plentiful. The two elements in the sandwich danced playfully across my tongue. The portions are generous and the food is delicious. So much so that I really wanted to finish my sandwich, but I simply could not as I was stuffed.

An hour later, however, I wanted to go back and try a pile of other stuff on the menu. Brandon said the grits were impressive. And as a fellow Southerner, I trust that what he says is true.

Oh, I'll be traveling down Willoughby Road again, my friends. And I hope to see you there.

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