By Greg Brown
The Freeport Asian Market had its grand opening last week and it was anything but grand. When I walked in there was a female teenager behind the register. I had a few questions but she had no answers. Looked to me like she was babysitting two younger siblings, too.
The store wasn’t really stocked to the gills with Asian specialty food. Their hot food section wasn’t so hot. They mostly offered dry goods like dry mushrooms, noodles, and fish. They did have a whole aisle of Chinese treats like umbrella cookies, cream wafers, and rice snacks.
Perhaps they’ll stock up in the New Year.
Then I crossed the street over to Ho Chin, a small Asian mom and pop grocery store with lots of character. Ho Chin is dark, dingy and packed wall to wall up to the ceiling with Chinese groceries. They have it all…even dried octopus and chicken feet for the adventurous eater. Anthony Bourdain wouldn’t bat an eye.
Ho Chin has been at the same location for over 20 years. They even have a kitchen in the back where you can order hot Chinese food to go.
I wanted to ask them what they thought about the new Chinese market across the street. They were crowded on a Saturday morning with long lines of Asian folks stocking up on their favorite Chinese goods. They had no time for some pesky writer.
I seriously doubt Ho Chin is worried about the competition across the street. A new food truck has been hanging out at the former Capital Nursery spot on Freeport Boulevard. Move over King of Curls RV! North Border Taco has been parking its food truck in the empty lot for a couple months.
Every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Damian Avalos and his mother Maria cook up some tasty Tex-Mex tacos, tortas, burritos, quesadillas and more. Mom does most of the cooking and taught Damian everything he knows.
The North Border Taco truck has a large array of Mexican food on the menu. They even offer the Southern Boy Taco. It’s beef or pork coupled up with bacon then topped with onions, cilantro, guacamole, and corn. Yeehaw! A taco fit for a good old boy.
Damian told me between orders the best seller is the Taco Truck Taco. And it’s only $1.50! Damian quipped “That’s the Stockton price right there.”
North Border Taco is a brick and mortar inside the Sherwood Mall food court in Stockton. They recently launched the food truck business and are invading Sacramento every week.
Out of nowhere a group of hungry people started to gather and order the Tex- Mex creations. Richard Andaya dropped by to check it out. He ordered the Asada burrito and said it was “awesome”. He added it was “not quite as good as Zocalo’s but much better than Lagarancha’s” as he wolfed down an asada burrito.
North Border Taco will be hanging out every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. along Freeport Boulevard. Slow down. Stop by. Check it out. New Helvetia 2.0 is coming and the food trucks are going. Let’s just call it Phase 2. The brewery on Broadway and 18th will soon be serving up some tasty pub grub to go with the delicious craft beers via a new kitchen. When I dropped by New Helvetia on a Saturday afternoon owner David Gull told me, “We have plans for some burgers, fries, sandwiches and salads. The standard fare you would expect but I think the way the kitchen is being designed, there will be an opportunity to do much nicer stuff as well. We’ll have a couple items on the menu that will push the limits beyond the pub grub.”
I hope it involves bacon.
Gull unraveled the blueprints and showed me how it’s all being planned. The kitchen will be located in a small 400-square-foot room behind the courtyard of the brewery. There will be minor changes to the courtyard like a cut-through window and an overhang to keep the bird droppings off the tater tots. Other than that, the brewery will still have the same feel. “It keeps us essentially like a brewery tasting room that we are now except we don’t have to worry about a food truck now showing up,” Gull said.
Gull added, “We’re not going to have valet parking; we’re not going to have a hostess stand or the vibrating red light gizmos.“ The kitchen will operate much in the same way the food trucks operate. It will stay casual.
The small 400-square-foot room will cost as much to improve as the entire brewery when they first launched it more than a year ago. It‘s a major financial investment. The costs of expanding have skyrocketed. Gull said, “It doesn’t help little guys like us to get our dreams built, but I suppose in the grand scheme of the economy it’s a good thing.”
New Helvetia will also remain a family operation. Gull has brought in his cousin Steve McKay and his wife Rita to handle kitchen duties. They’re both Cordon Bleu trained chefs who live in Hollywood Park. They know the culinary arts.
The kitchen will also allow New Helvetia to expand their days and hours. They’ll add Mondays and Tuesdays; they’re currently closed those days, and they’ll also have lunch hours. Gull hopes to get some of the DMV State workers to walk over, grab some lunch, and maybe a pint once the kitchen is up and running.
And when will the kitchen be up and running? As fast as New Helvetia and the City Of Sacramento can make it happen. And yes, there will be a phase 3 coming to New Helvetia. Stay tuned.
In other brewery news, New Helvetia Brewing Company is having a Name That Buffalo Head Contest. Owner David Gull just came up with the spur-of-the-moment idea after a couple craft beers. Some of the best ideas come after a refreshing pint! Gull purchased the large wooden Buffalo head off eBay. Some of the names have come from Facebook and others via hand written name tags in the brewery. Gull said, “Not sure how we’ll give credit to name tag entries since no one wrote their name or contact info.” So far, the name Lou is the frontrunner. Other suggested names are Woody, Buffy, and Herman, the original brewer at Buffalo Brewing Company.
If you have any local newsy news or items of interest e-mail me. Greg@valcomnews.com