Aloha my friends. I know spring starts Saturday, but a couple beautiful days of sunny skies and mild temperatures has us dreaming of turquoise waters, lounging on a beach, sipping mixed drinks from coconuts and eating fresh seafood. What if I said you can travel to Hawaii without ever leaving Greenville? Let’s take a trip to the islands as I introduce you to the PreVail Hawaiian Food truck.
It all started a year ago when owner and chef Matt Cole moved here from Charleston with his wife, Shaina. A top student at the Culinary Institute of America, he worked under James Beard winning chefs at luxury resorts in South Carolina. While working in a kitchen that centered on Hawaiian cuisine, he fell in love with the delicious and inspiring flavors of the islands and enjoyed creating dishes with the fish overnighted from Hawaii each day.
Fast forward a few years to when Cole decided to bring the unique tastes of Hawaii to Greenville. He purchased a vintage 1953 Chevy fire truck converted to make wood fired pizza. He restored it, added bright pops of color and turned it into his very first food truck. It has beach inspired décor with a turquoise cab and side walls adorned with Hawaiian green leaves.
A wooden surf board displays the menu and offers up five-star flavors with options I have never seen on a food truck. They include dishes inspired by Japanese, Asian, Polynesian and Hawaiian flavors. The menu is fuzed with eastern North Carolina ingredients for a high-end yet casual meal anytime.
Dishes include the fan-favorite Japanese fried chicken sandwich with Asian slaw, ramen croutons and a sweet Hawaiian yum yum sauce, the Kalua pork sliders, or honey-sriracha fried shrimp burger, just to name a few. You can even enjoy street fries topped with rib-eye bulgogi, topped with melted white cheese, chopped tomatoes, scallions and the sweet and tangy yum yum sauce.
For my Aloha food tasting, I went straight for the the smoked pork belly tacos. Start with a slightly crispy flour tortilla filled with a generous portion of grilled pork belly topped with Asian slaw, crunchy ramen noodle croutons and drizzled with yum yum sauce. Pork belly is bacon’s big brother. The thick strip has the same texture and flavor, too, with the caramelized edges and a strip of fat that melts in your mouth and adds a luxurious component that cuts through the heat of the Asian slaw.
The tangy slaw is made with Nappa cabbage mixed in a Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce that is mildly spicy, bright and sweet with confetti flecks of chili throughout. The tacos are topped with a Sriracha style aioli sauce made with kewpie, a Japanese mayo that has more egg yolks than traditional American mayo, so it has a creamier and richer flavor with hints of ginger. It was a hula dance in my mouth and each layer and texture built on the other in perfect harmony.
Next, I went vegan, with the Hawaiian “Impossible” cheeseburger with seasoned fries. Start with a totally vegan burger in a potato roll topped with vegan smoked Gouda cheese, sliced pineapple, BBQ sauce and topped with fried onions. This dairy-free girl has just found her happy place. It tasted just like a real beef burger with the same grilled smokey flavor. And the tanginess of barbecue sauce paired with the sweetness of pineapple was heaven in my mouth along with the crispy onions and soft potato bun brought this dish home. Vegan friends will delight in this entree.
To end my PreVail Street Food tour, I went for the dessert option, the malasadas, or Hawaiian doughnuts. Made from small balls of yeast dough fried and coated with sugar and cinnamon, they are topped with toasted coconut, chocolate chips, chocolate sauce and drizzled with caramel sauce. They remind me of a Louisiana style beignets, which have pillows of fluffy yeasty dough inside and a buttery crisp outer-shell. You get an initial pull from the crispy exterior then the inside is as soft as snow. These dreamy and sweet doughnuts were so good, there is no way I would ever be able to share them when I order them again.
I was so impressed with Cole and his ability to totally meld and fuse together a myriad of flavors and cultures while still maintaining a relateable and down-home feel. The entire experience was top-notch and worthy of five stars. As they say in Hawaiian, “hauoli ka ai ana,” or in English, happy eating.