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Bridge Road Bistro dream lives on

Kenny Kemp
Lisa Coche takes an order of freshly prepared soft tacos from the Bridge Road Bistro truck's window to a customer.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Bridge Road Bistro's launch of a food truck last week marked another step on the restaurant's journey to further the vision of its late owner, Chef Robert Wong, who died last June. 

The popular and charismatic chef had big plans to further the Bridge Road Bistro brand, including a stepped-up catering program, corporate food services and the food truck.

Executive chef John Wright and manager Sandy Call, along with Wong's wife, restaurant owner Sherri Wong, weren't about to let his dreams fade away.

"He would have looked down and shaken his finger at us," Wright said.

"We're staying motivated and building his empire," said Call.

Since June, the Bistro has taken over the food service in the NiSource building on MacCorkle Avenue and at the Charleston Tennis Club. Catering volume has increased, partially because the spacious kitchen in the NiSource building provides plenty of preparation space and storage.

But the most visible change is the large black truck emblazoned with the restaurant's logo that's parking around town.

Last week, people queued up for items such as steak or shrimp soft tacos served with fresh pico de gallo or Asian slaw, chicken nachos, wraps, salads and desserts when the truck was parked at the West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston.

The stop was officially the truck's first. It caught Tech Center employees by surprise. They asked when the truck would return and seemed pleased to hear they'd be back in a week.

For now, the truck will stop at the Tech Center, the Levee, Capitol grounds, the armories in St. Albans and Charleston, Northgate, the Chase Building and the DEP building in Kanawha City. Additional stops will be scheduled as requested. The black truck will be parked on Capitol Street late on weekend evenings and at Live on the Levee, as well as assorted other fairs and festivals.

"Especially for the night life, there will be nice, healthy food for sale at reasonable prices," Call said.

They intend for the truck to provide food service in areas that lack easy access to restaurants and say they won't park near existing establishments. The changing menu and locations will be posted on Bridge Road Bistro Black Truck's Facebook page.

And, yes, there's an app for that, or there will be soon, Call said. It's already available for Android users and should be in the App Store for iPhones next week, Call said.

Wright, who came to the Bistro two years ago from Cleveland, agreed with Wong that the time was right for a food truck in Charleston.

"It's something I'd always wanted to do. They were just getting popular in Cleveland before I left," Wright said.

The rotating menu will likely also feature items such as pulled pork sliders, fish tacos, empanadas and occasionally lobster rolls. Most items will be priced from $5 to $8. Chips, drinks and cookies are $1 each.

"It's not exactly the same as the Bistro's menu, but we're transferring the same idea of fresh quality food made with great ingredients," Wright said.

Although items such as salads and wraps are assembled before the truck hits the road, truck manager Brandon Aubrey scrambles inside the vehicle's minuscule galley kitchen to prepare hot items as they are ordered.

The menu is similar to the one the Bridge Road Bistro's food service provides at the NiSource cafeteria. Employees there say they appreciate the fresh sandwiches, wraps and salads, as well as hot menu items available in the cafeteria.

The Bistro's increasing endeavors such as daily corporate food service and catering have provided additional employment opportunities. "We probably have 25 more people than we did a year ago," Wright said.

Call, Wright and Sherri Wong also strive to continue Robert Wong's emphasis on community involvement and service. He frequently gave to and volunteered at charitable events.

The Wongs started an outreach program, Breaking Bread, at Christ Church United Methodist, where they serve dinner to people in need on Wednesday evenings. Wright and his staff continue to prepare the weekly meals.

Bridge Road Bistro continues to contribute to events such as Girls Night Out, Symphony Sunday and Canstruction.

"We want to be out there in the eyes of the community. That's something that was important to Robert," Call said.

Reach Julie Robinson at julier@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1230.


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