HURRICANE, W.Va. — Saturday, April 14, marks the return of the West Virginia Food Truck Festival to Hurricane, West Virginia. The festival, which runs from noon to 5:30 p.m. on Main Street in Hurricane and which features live music in addition to a variety of food trucks, costs $15 for ages 12 and up, which includes three samples from the trucks of your choice and a Frisbee plate.
Hurricane is also home to one of the area's more unique restaurants — which began as a food truck.
Island Teriyaki serves up bowls of chicken, pork, steak and shrimp as well as a variety of sandwiches plus some unique items like their signature Yum Yum Balls. The food truck started in 2013 before moving to its brick-and-mortar location in 2016.
"The food truck was a good way for us to break into the local restaurant scene with very little money. I didn't have enough to open a place, and it can be very risky. It was kind of a test market," said Shawn Whittington, owner of Island Teriyaki.
He kept costs low by building his own RV and promoting the food truck on social media.
"It took about three years before we decided to open a full restaurant," he said. "The catalyst for us deciding to open up a brick-and-mortar location was winter. We had every issue you could, from propane freezing to water lines busting on us. It was a February snowy day when I decided to open a restaurant."
Island Teriyaki opened in the former home of Mountain Pie. "Their owners used to eat off of the truck, and the landlord here used to eat off the truck. So they approached me when this space was available," Whittington said.
He said part of the challenge was to transfer the menu from the food truck to a restaurant without taking away the food truck's roots. Island Teriyaki still sells a lot of food people can take with them on the go, he said.
"We started selling sandwiches and wraps on the truck initially because people wanted something they didn't have to sit down to eat."
The name Island Teriyaki comes from the eatery's Hawaiian-based teriyaki sauce. "It has flavors that you don't normally find in traditional teriyaki. Normal teriyaki is fairly straightforward - sugar, ginger and soy sauce. (Ours) has pineapple and some assorted other seasonings," Whittington said. "I got the recipe from someone from Guam who grew up in Hawaii. We get people who stop in from Hawaii sometimes and they say that this takes (them) home."
Customers can choose between a bowl ($7) or platter ($11.25) with their choice of protein, sauce and sides. Proteins include chicken, pork belly and tofu, and the housemade sauces include teriyaki, hot mustard and curry. Among the sides are white or brown rice, stir-fried veggies and udon noodles. There is an assortment of sandwiches including "The Dude" ($10), a chicken sandwich; "The Babe" ($10), a fried pork belly sandwich; and a blackened ahi tuna sandwich ($10).
Perhaps the restaurant's most famous invention is its Yum Yum Balls.
"Yum Yum Balls came from the truck as well," Whittington said. "One of the biggest problems with restaurants is food waste. At the end of the day, I have leftover chicken, vegetables and rice. At the end of the day most Asian restaurants will turn it into fried rice. In the truck we had a little tiny flat-top that made it hard to turn fried rice. ... So what we did was turn it into a ball and panko crust them before deep-frying it," he said.
"The tone of the sauce you choose dictates what you really get out of it. Some of our sauces are sweet, others spicy, some savory. We also started selling a bacon-wrapped ball. We served it with some eggs, and it was like breakfast, and my son was, 'Let's waffle it.' So we have a 'Chick'n Waffle' version that we serve with a fried egg."
Island Teriyaki is located at 3522A Teays Valley Road in Hurricane, West Virginia. It is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Cash and all major credit cards are accepted. For carry-out orders, catering options and more information, call 304-415-8644. For specials, visit https://www.facebook.com/IslandTeriyakiwv/.
If you go: Island Teriyaki
TYPE: Asian-Polynesian fusion.
ADDRESS: 35221 Teays Valley Road, Hurricane, West Virginia.
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
PAYMENTS ACCEPTED: Cash and all major credit cards.