Eight years ago and 140 miles south of Starland, Chris Dickerson moved Corner Taco from its original oceanfront bar home to an 1965 Airstream GlobeTrotter that he had completely gutted and outfitted himself.
It did not take long for a crew of three to serve more than a thousand tacos in a day from that unique and cozy mobile kitchen.
For the last five years, though, once Corner Taco became a brick-and-mortar restaurant, the Airstream was parked in a lot, awaiting its next victual voyage.
With a glint in his eye, Dickerson called it his Millennium Falcon.
“It always pulls through,” he said, sounding exactly like Han Solo about to make the Kessel Run armed with tin-foil and tortillas.
Since December, the owner of Squirrel’s Pizza has rolled out the retooled and renamed classic trailer at a half-dozen Savannah pop-ups, including at Starland Yard and in the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum’s back lot during two nights of the Savannah Stopover Music Festival.
These initial outings were really R&D more than they were an announcement of Burrito Royale’s entry in the local food truck convoy, allowing Dickerson and his team to develop and to test menu items and to gauge whether or not people wanted burritos.
We want burritos.
“The response has been great,” he said. “It seemed like people came to Ships of the Sea just for us last week.”
Savannah is certainly home to plenty of places that serve big tortillas filled with rice, beans, and proteins, but what Dickerson plans to provide will be ready for any wrap battle.
“We’re ready to go.”
My apologies for writing the obvious, but an actual food truck is just that: a truck with seats and a steering wheel and an engine. It goes places. This vintage trailer literally houses a less-locomotive kitchen and requires a special wiring adapter depending on the vehicle pulling it.
Hence, Dickerson’s ideal intention is that Burrito Royale will not be an ‘event’ food truck, and he said that he has already turned down more invitations and inquiries than he can count.
“What you say ‘no’ to is as important as what you say ‘yes’ to,” he reasoned. “We aspire to have a brand, not a label. A label is when you try to be all things to all people, and we wouldn’t sell something we weren’t proud of.”
“At this point, the next step,” Dickerson added, “is we want a permanent spot. That’s the goal.”
Quite purposefully, he and his team have booked no additional pop-ups because he wants to have “an open road” to realize that goal as soon as a lease can be obtained.
If Dickerson’s wish comes true, Burrito Royale will soon have a set site in a Starland piece of property, thereby obviating the need to find gastronomic gigs and the inherent complications that come with a restaurant that keeps changing locations.
Even though the Airstream has only rolled out a handful of times under its new Mexican moniker, he could not be more eager to make it his second Savannah eatery.
“In my opinion,” said Dickerson, “you put it out there, and then you constantly refine,” putting his own spin on the apocryphal innovation dictum “real artists ship.”
“If you wait until it’s perfect,” he explained, “you’re never going to put it out there.”
Managing Partner Jimmy Powell oversees everything at Squirrel’s and will do the same for Burrito Royale.
“He’s amazing. He’s my right hand,” Dickerson said. “As we grow, he’s going to run the show.”
Deliciously, this new establishment, once established, will exist in the same culinary culture present at Squirrel’s, and Dickerson said that “we want to always be in a state of questioning why we do what we do and always answering whether or not it still makes sense. If it doesn’t, we’ll change.”
SALADS? WE DON’T NEED STINKING SALADS
The name is what it is: burritos. Do not sidle up to the window and ask for tacos.
“We can pop out burritos really quickly and make them consistent,” said Dickerson. “If we start adding other things, it’s just much more complicated.”
He admitted that Corner Taco’s trailer iteration “became more complicated than I would have liked” when he added guacamole, queso, and nachos to its menu, but once those ‘side items’ were offered, he could not take them away. Still, that made it more difficult to expedite the food emblazoned on the side of the trailer.
In its Airstream heyday, Corner Taco could dish out 1300 tacos in a day, and Dickerson insisted that keeping the options limited, say just two tacos on the menu board, was key.
The aim will be the same at Burrito Royale.
Last weekend at Stopover, three options were written on the chalkboard door: General Tso’s chicken, Dijon buttermilk fried chicken with housemade salsa, and Korean buffalo chicken.
“Our General Tso’s burrito is, by far, our most popular,” Dickerson said, proud of the homemade eponymous sauce.
The fried chicken burrito is marinated in a vinaigrette before it is soaked in the mustard-milk mixture and then fried up in a tempura-style batter and topped with a homemade sriracha.
All of the burritos are enfolded with sharp white cheddar, black beans made with porcini mushrooms, and basmati rice tossed with finely chopped cilantro.
“We’re able to do little tweaks to make it slightly elevated but not pretentious. That’s my thing,” said Dickerson, “street food stepped up.”
He touted the sour cherry tenderloin asada, that will feature the same Halperns’ beef used in Squirrel’s sandwiches and sliders, marinated in a dried cherries, tamari, and fresh lime juice and served with Brie.
“It’s killer,” Dickerson promised. “A familiar flavor with a little twist.”
The seared asparagus burrito is a nice vegetarian option: jumbo sizzled spears, still al dente in the middle, that can be finished off plain or in the General Tso’s style.
All burritos will also be served with a side of chips and a fire-roasted tomato and chipotle salsa.
Dickerson expects that the menu will change based on what sells and that no more than three or four different burritos will be available at a time, all in order to maintain both quality and efficiency.
First things first, though: let’s find this trailer a home.