We at TSD are celebrating the end of 2011 with the year’s best posts. It’s been a year filled with great stories and strong opinions, always reflecting the best of the First State.
ORIGINAL PUBLISHING DATE: May 15, 2011
I’m a cheap date.
The way to my heart is most certainly with food (well, okay and maybe some reality TV). For those fellow food lovers, you might have also caught America’s Next Great Restaurant. It came down to three aspiring restaurateurs in last week’s finals. The winner was a restaurant concept entitled Soul Daddy, selected for the atmosphere, vibe, style and most importantly FOOD. His menu was packed with creative items and soul food that was sure to kept the viewers mouths watering and the customers coming back for more.
But what struck me about all three finalists in the show was that they all wanted to open casual gourmet take-out places.
This may sound like a contradiction, but in today’s fast paced world, this style of restaurant has proven to be a sure fire success across the country. In digging a little deeper into this trend, I learned why: it’s a win-win. It allows customers to try some of the most creative gourmet dishes on the go, and allows professional chefs to live their dream without the unpleasant reality of an 80-hour work week.
Wilmington, small as it, has not missed this trend.
Just over one year ago, El Diablo opened up it’s doors in Trolley Square, bringing this trend of “casual street food” to life in Wilmington. The menu, ranging from braised short rib, to marinated mushrooms, to now even fish tacos for the summer, has been more than well-received by Trolley Square regulars.
I caught up with one of the partner’s, Roger Andrews, on Cinco de Mayo to learn a little bit more about one of my personal favorite spots.
Vision and Ideas
Their vision: to take the burrito one step further, and use the freshest and best ingredients out there to come up creations that keep the customers happy (Oh, and they use green to-go products too!).
“If I can put a smile on someone’s face, I’ve done my job.” Said Roger.
They picked Trolley Square for its versatility of clientele. Roger drew my attention to the two costumers in the store: “There’s one guy in a suit, another in a skating outfit – the community center appealed to us, we get business people, families, ladies for lunch, skaters…”
The team consists of Roger Andrews, the chef, Dean Vilone, the owner and idea man, and Shannon Stevens, the design consultant.
Clearly a winning combo, the three made their dreams a reality in just over a year, turning an old Trolley Square dry cleaners a quick stop for hungry Wilmingtonians with a refined palate.
Day in the Life
So what is a typical day life of this restaurateur? Roger, a father and family man, wakes up each day, comes into the restaurant and starts the prep work…fresh chicken, fresh guacamole, making salsa…I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
“We spend a lot of energy focusing on freshness and quality – everything is made daily. And, we set ourselves apart by surrounding ourselves with good staff who are equally driven,” said Roger.
Not many Mexican restaurants can say that.
Then after the lunch rush, he focused time on researching food ingredients and a little bit of marketing – you can find them on facebook and even vote on the next salsa and more.
And you may be wondering about the quote board behind the cash register. That may be the next thing you can have a say in on facebook, so stayed tuned.
On my favorite’s list: the braised pork, the pineapple salsa, the newly added fish tacos, and of course the taco sampler, for when you can’t pick just one thing.
Next time you’re passing by that little devil in Trolley, stop on in!
The only thing missing on the menu: ice cold margaritas.