Brunswick food truck owner hopes to be ‘Taco the Town’

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BRUNSWICK — Tai Choo is bringing the “spicy meat.”

That’s what Choo’s 2-year-old son calls his father’s style of authentic Mexican cooking.

In an interview at his home April 25, Choo elaborated on what kinds of spicy meat he would be serving at his new venture, a food truck called “Taco the Town,” which opens next week on the Town Mall.

“(We’ll) have a grilled haddock taco, with shredded cabbage, fresh pico de gallo, a house-made crema, and chopped fresh cilantro,” he said. There will be a pork taco “al pastor,” and “I’m playing with a bunch of different salsas,” he added.

For his vegetarian customers, he promised roasted sweet potatoes.

In a way, Choo said, he has been developing the recipes since he was his son’s age.

Choo grew up in a large Mexican-Korean family in Sacramento, California. He said he spent hours in the kitchen watching his grandmother, “Nana Sarah,” cook Mexican dishes.

Nana Sarah’s food “brought our family together,” Choo said. “It was like Thanksgiving every week.”

He went from his grandmother’s kitchen to culinary school at Chico State University, and then worked his way east, cooking at restaurants in Nevada, Colorado, and Florida, before becoming chef at the East Wind Inn in Tenants Harbor.

He met his partner, Jess, at the East Wind, and they moved to Brunswick three years ago to start a family.

After years of cooking in restaurants owned by others, Choo said he and Jess agreed “it was time for Tai to work for Tai.”

Choo always wanted to cook out of a food truck, and said he saw a good market for Mexican food in the area. A popular taco truck, Lola’s, left Brunswick a few years ago, and Choo believed people were hungry for a new option.

He bought a food trailer from a shop in Fort Lauderdale, and started developing recipes for tacos, burritos and quesadillas in his grandmother’s style.

He said he’s most excited for people to try the “al pastor:” marinated pork, mixed with chopped pineapple, and seared on a grill.

“The pineapple kind of caramelizes,” he said. “It is so good.”

Taco the Town will be one of five food trucks parked on the mall this year. The town received so many permit applications for the season that on March 21 the Town Council voted to change the number of vendors allowed on the mall from four to five.

Council Chairwoman Sarah Brayman said Tuesday that she is excited about the change.

“There was enthusiasm on the council to rather than just pick four applicants … see if we could expand (space) for five,” she said.

On a personal note, Brayman adde, “I love food trucks and am thrilled to have more selection. I’m glad to have something akin to the food truck craze coming to Brunswick.”

About 150 people have already tried Choo’s food. Taco the Town opened informally April 22, for a block party centered around the family’s Bouchard Drive home.

Choo dished up free samples while a band played and a neighbor set up a margarita bar.

He said the experience gave him confidence he’ll be able to handle the truck’s official opening Monday, May 2.

“I don’t feel ‘cocky’ confident,” he said. “I just feel confident the community will dig what I’m doing.”

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

Tai Choo in his new food truck Taco the Town on April 25. After practicing on his Brunswick neighbors, Choo plans to open for business on the Town Mall Monday, May 2.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.