Taco Virgo owner, J. Washington, parks her food truck at the Eureka Springs Brewery on US 62 East. J., who was born and raised in Little Rock, visited Eureka Springs for about 20 years for the music, hiking, fishing and kayaking before moving here in April 2019.
“It was a combination of reasons why God led me here, but mostly just to figure out who I am and what my purpose is,” J. said. “And what more beautiful setting than Eureka Springs to help figure myself out?”
When she was 12, she started cooking breakfast for her dad. Her 20-year career in the food industry began when she waited tables in Little Rock before transitioning to the back of the house where she learned cooking.
“My whole family is big into food,” J. said. “I get a kick watching cooking shows on TV like Top Chef and Chopped. I got into cooking seriously about 10 to 15 years ago. Food took a bite out of me. It is hooked into me now.”
When she first moved to town, she got a job in the kitchen at Aquarius Taqueria, then worked in the kitchen at the Mud Street Café. With entrepreneurial spirit, she decided to go out on her own with a food truck. But the timing was problematic.
“I started my business in the beginning of the pandemic,” J. said. “Stepping out when the pandemic began was a leap of faith. It was tough and scary. At the same time, I could not see myself waiting on the stimulus check or the unemployment check. That was rough for me. Tacos weren’t my first choice. I was going to do soul food. But when I lost my job at Mud Street in March 2020, I had to roll out the food truck quickly. Tacos seemed to be something I could make something out of.”
She created unique flavor profiles that are welcome to customers looking for something that is fresh and different.
“My number one seller is the sweet chicken chili lime,” she said. “A lot of people like chicken. The sauce I make is more of a Thai flavor.”
While not vegetarian, her personal favorite is the portobello red pepper taco with a balsamic reduction and horseradish sauce. Another favorite taco is spicy chicken.
“You have to bring your own personal fire extinguisher for that one,” J. said. “In fact, we had the fire department visit a couple times and they love that one. Ingredients are fresh, avocadoes aren’t cut until someone orders. Cilantro is chopped fresh. That is what everyone is wanting. People want to eat better. People are being mindful of their health. A lot of the produce I’ve been gathering from local farms and businesses.”
Taco Virgo also offers a dessert taco. The current offering, rum berry, has a tortilla buttered and grilled on both sides, with one side dipped in a sugar and cinnamon mixture. Cream cheese, rum extract and powdered sugar go on top followed by fresh berries that were marinated in sugar, balsamic vinegar and water for 24 hours. It’s finished off with fresh mint.
When she first started the food truck, it was in the parking lot of Hobbies and Homestead on US62. That was followed by a stint at Gotahold Brewery on 62 West. Then the Eureka Springs Brewery invited her to set up shop there.
“My dad always told me that drinks and food go together,” she said. “If you can find a place where they are serving drinks and have music, try to go there. As word got out, other breweries in the region have been inviting me. It is really a lovely experience.”
One challenge has been that her background is in cooking, not business. She had to have faith that she could incorporate the business side into her food background and creativity.
“My business persona is definitely Virgo,” J. said. “It is in my chart that I’m very friendly and eager to please. Hospitality could be my middle name. I’ve always enjoyed making people happy and letting them get what they want. That’s what’s important, pleasing people. I’m happy because I’m doing what I love.”
One challenge can be operating alone without helpers.
“I recognize that people really do understand the issues and I’m grateful they are very patient and loving,” J. said. “I do my utmost to make sure the wait is worth it. Sometimes people order six to eight tacos at a time. That is why I’m so grateful to be at the brewery. People order, go inside, get a beer, watch a game or play outside with the dog, come out and their food is ready.”
Food trucks have become increasing popular across the country. J. sees them as a wonderful opportunity for people who have been working in the industry for a long time to step out and showcase their cooking talents.
Hours change when Taco Virgo is invited to other venues, but primarily the hours at the Eureka Springs Brewery are Mondays noon 7:30 p.m., Tuesdays noon to 7 p.m., and Wednesdays through Saturdays noon to 8 p.m. It is open every other Sunday from noon to 6:30 p.m.
“I’m looking to start hiring some help as I approach my first year,” J. said. “April 9 is my one-year year anniversary. I plan to do some hiring and expanding. My vision is to have food trailers in Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.”