Cincinnati’s First Rolling Café Continues to Pioneer the Cincy Food Truck Scene
There’s a Dallas connection with Cincinnati’s pioneering food truck. Dallas resident Tony Acito moved to Cincinnati following a job offer. Much to his surprise, the job offer fell through, and Tony decided it was time to pursue a dream. Café de Wheels is the result – Cincinnati’s first food truck. Café de Wheels introduced food trucks to Cincinnati and Tony worked with the Cincinnati City Council to create an ordinance/pilot program allowing food trucks to park downtown. Being from Dallas, I had to eat at this truck. I caught up with Café de Wheels at Fountain Square, a place food trucks get to park only because of the effort Tony made with City Council to make it possible.
The menu has evolved over time. An early excerpt about the menu offered a daily fare of “burgers, pot pies, tortas cubanas, homemade desserts and coffee.” When I visited recently, the menu featured burgers with a limited number of other sandwiches and supporting items like Steak Fries (regular or sweet potato).
I know you are supposed to go with the feature item but I elected to go with the Spicy Panko Fried Chicken sandwich and Steak Fries. I admit I’m pretty spoiled by the unbelievably high quality food I get from home-based Dallas food trucks but, well …, based on this single experience I’m not sure Tony would be as successful in Dallas. Clearly, this is one person’s opinion based on a single visit and maybe I hit an off day. I spoke with some other diners and clearly Café de Wheels has a strong following in the Cincinnati market.
The chicken sandwich was nicely coated with a crispy, albeit slightly greasy, coating and the chicken itself was moist and tender. The bun was OK but did nothing to make the sandwich stand out. The spicy mayo added an uptick in the flavor and the lettuce and tomato joined in for their contribution to the taste and texture experience.
The Steak Fries were a real disappointment. I love great steak fries. The kind of steak fries that are big and fat — crispy outside, soft and comforting on the inside and spiced just enough you don’t need ketchup or other condiments. Despite a 10 minute plus wait for the meal, the fries were undercooked and greasy, overpowering any of the flavors that should have come from the sea salt, fresh cracked pepper and granulated garlic posted on the menu. Or maybe those gourmet seasonings have been dropped in favor of ordinary salt. Sorry, but I didn’t finish the fries.
I really wish I’d had the time to re-visit Café de Wheels. I hoped for more. I wanted more. And from other people that I talked to, I expected more. Business will take me back to Cincy at some point and fairness demands I give Café de Wheels a second chance.
Regardless of my first impression, Café de Wheels is doing well. In fact, Tony recently opened a fixed location – Base Camp Burgers & Fries. Located at Dive Bar on Short Vine in Corryville, Café de Wheels will serve food from a burger window, about the same size as the one on the truck, from 11 AM – 11 PM during the week and late on weekends. Tom will use this location as his commissary and plans to add new items to the menu at the bar including some breakfast items for late night bar patrons. The Café de Wheels food truck will continue to go to Fountain Square, local events and other locations.