Another owner of a Columbia food truck is building on their success with a forthcoming brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Tati’s Island Cuisine, a Jamaican-Carribean food truck, owner Sasha Simpson is planning to open her restaurant at the end of November. The restaurant will initially be to-go only when it opens at its renovated space at 3601 Broad River Road.
“We were selling out so fast,” she said. “(With) the food truck we weren’t able to sell up to demand. We can’t do the food truck like that anymore.”
The food has been a quick hit at the private events and other pop-ups that Simpson and her partner frequent. They opened the food truck last October, after she realized it could be a legitimate opportunity for her.
Simpson’s the chef of the restaurant and said her food veers into hybrid territory, with her combining Jamaican food with Columbia’s “country cooking.”
That results in items like Rasta Pasta, which she compared to an alfredo pasta with Caribbean flavors, or egg rolls filled with jerk chicken or oxtail.
“When COVID-19 came, over the summer, I started cooking plates and giving it to my friends,” she said. “They would say ‘Sasha you can cook.’ ”
Simpson, who moved to Columbia seven years ago from Miami, learned to cook from her grandma Claudette and inside the church home her family lived in. The food truck has familial influence as well, with Simpson placing a cartoon version of her grandfather Carlton on the truck.
She underscored the importance of cooking in Jamaican culture and noted that cooking helped her overcome a bout with postpartum depression after she gave birth to her first daughter.
When she moved to Columbia, Simpson began experimenting with food she found here. It resulted in things like ox tail grilled cheese, jerk chicken pasta or putting curry on salmon.
“That’s how we came up with these crazy dishes … I’m just going to incorporate them both,” Simpson said.
Once opened, Tati’s restaurant on Broad River Road will be focused on grab-and-go food due to the pandemic. Simpson stressed it will be “luxury… (and) give you the feel of a restaurant still.”
The initial business model helps in other ways, too. Simpson said they are hiring a relatively slim staff upon opening, with three to four employees total.
“I feel like Columbia is a great and wonderful city … there are so many opportunities here and there’s great soul food already,” Simpson said. “I just want to jump into that.”
Tati’s Island Cuisine’s brick-and-mortar follows other recently announced plans by local food trucks. Java Juice Cafe announced in October that it planned to open a cafe in the Vista and, last year, popular Soda City stand Rambo’s Fat Cat Biscuits opened on North Main Street.
Also in the North Main area, Cottontown’s NOMA Warehouse launched a pseudo food hall for food trucks last month.