Adam Wilcox is a self-proclaimed surfer dude from sunny San Luis Obispo, California, who now slings tacos in snowy Millvale. And he couldn’t happier about it.
“A lot of the menu items are pure nostalgia for me,” he says. “I love the area and it feels good to have a taste of home in our new stomping grounds. We are here to live the good life.”
SLO Coast Taco Shop is technically a food truck, but the vehicle stays put year-round at 205 North Ave. The site’s courtyard, which boasts three heated tents, seating for 36 and a Southern California vibe, is owned by Element Church, where Wilcox’s brother-in-law is the pastor.
It might not be divine intervention, but it’s the perfect spot for a quick bite to eat.
The menu features an array of tacos, including a veggie option, and appetizers such as wine salt tortilla chips and salsa, queso dip, carne asada fries and shrimp ceviche. The stuffed avocado is a house specialty that’s lightly fried, filled with fresh Mexican shrimp, spicy aioli, lemon garlic aioli, micro cilantro and wine salt.
The Califia, the lone burrito on the list, is named after the “Queen of California” and includes your choice of steak, chicken or carnitas, crispy fries, marinated tomatoes, cilantro, onions, guacamole, queso and spicy aioli all wrapped up in a white corn tortilla. Wash the Queen down with Mexican cola or Topo Chico mineral water.
“We keep it simple,” says Wilcox, who runs the business with his wife, Ashley Wilcox, and General Manager Shayarah Palermo. “I do believe that all of the ingredients need to stand out on their own before you put them together on a taco. We pride ourselves on making everything pair well.”
Wilcox worked in fine dining restaurants in the Golden State as well as in Arizona, where he operated a barbecue food truck.
Wilcox moved to Pittsburgh with his family six months ago and opened SLO Coast on Nov. 1, complete with a catering service.
Millvale residents responded enthusiastically and fill the courtyard every Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The SLO Coast crew breaks up the day to wash dishes and restock at their nearby commissary kitchen, where everything is made from scratch.
Despite the drastic change in weather, Wilcox feels right at home in the borough. Local artists Max Gonzales and Shane Pilster tricked out the food truck with Cali-centric graffiti and there are surfboards hanging on the walls. Even the wooden picnic tables got a psychedelic makeover with a stain called Unicorn Spit.
When spring comes, Wilcox and his crew plan to build a deck, host live music and serve tri-tip beef sandwiches, a San Luis Obispo culinary staple.
Wilcox wants SLO Coast to become a part of the riverside town. He’s keeping an eye out for a brick-and-mortar location and is thinking of ways to use the vacated courtyard as a restaurant incubator.
In the meantime, he’s happy building his brand, experimenting with local ingredients and feeding the community one taco at a time.
“A tortilla is a blank slate,” Wilcox says, “a fresh canvas.”