Hoover Alexander re-opens "Texa-Mexi-Que" Soular Foods Trailer on the East Side
Last year when Hoover Alexander first explained the details behind his veggie-centric, East Side trailer — Soular Foods Trailer— I told Hoover that I thought the trailer was something I — and many other people — would be honored to frequent.
In the back of my mind, however, I worried that this pale yellow trailer that served fresh garden cuisine might not succeed. It's not that I didn't trust Hoover's obvious culinary talents (he opened Hoover's Cooking 13 years ago) or the potential of the trailer's seasonal menu; I'm just all too familiar with the unforgiving nature of Austin's trailer scene.
For years, I've watched creative chefs and ambitious entrepreneurs roll their wheels onto crowded streets and busy boulevards only to see their bold concepts boarded up within a few months. Not too long ago, in fact, one of my favorite trailers — Yumé Burger — served its last Japanese-inspired dish.
In this time, I've learned that it doesn't matter how great your food tastes or how talented you are as a chef; the restaurant industry is merciless. It's disheartening — even downright infuriating — to watch people you've developed close bonds with to fail at something they've invested their heart and soul into. At some point, you start to take it personally.
Earlier this summer, a friend of mine mentioned that Soular Foods Trailer hadn't been open for a few weeks. Naturally, I assumed that Hoover's East Side trailer hadn't found a steady enough customer base and was yet another food establishment to fall victim to the shutter bug. Yet if there is one thing I've come to learn about Hoover from the times I've spoken with him, it's that he's not easily defeated or discouraged.
"People can still eat fresh from the garden and have some great meat to go with it. Ideally, I want to bring both meat eaters and vegetarians out to the trailer and have them break bread over the picnic tables under the trees." - Hoover Alexander
Though Soular Foods Trailer was closed for most of the summer, Hoover reopened the trailer on August 31 with new menu items and exciting plans on the horizon. When the trailer first opened last fall, Hoover sourced a menu of veggie-centric dishes, but now says he wants to make the trailer's cuisine accessible to a variety of palates. Soular Foods' new "Texa-Mexi-Que" menu is something Hoover describes as a combination of his favorite types of Texas cuisine: barbecue, Tex-Mex and Czech.
"I've taken one of our two trailers and incorporated a barbecue pit into it," Hoover says. "When I started, I wanted to focus on plant-based food and health and wellness, but I've learned that I can't be an either-or guy. People can still eat fresh from the garden and have some great meat to go with it. Ideally, I want to bring both meat eaters and vegetarians out to the trailer and have them break bread over the picnic tables under the trees."
Items such as the black-eyed pea collard green wraps, pickled beets and the RawBella platter are still featured on the revised menu at Soular Foods Trailer, but Hoover has also included a host of meat-centric options as well, including slow-cooked brisket, juicy pork loin, lean turkey breast, and a speciality "Hoover's Hot Sausage" from the Texas Sausage Company.
The meats can be ordered in three specific styles: Texas-barbecue style with white bread, barbecue sauce, pickles and onions; Tex-Mex style with salsa and tortillas; or Texa-Czech style with mustard and kolache sliders.
"It's basically great meat with three different bread vehicles," Hoover says. "It's the type of cooking [Hoover's Cooking] is known for, but we get to play with it here at the trailer in ways we usually don't get to at the restaurant."
One goal Hoover fervently remains committed to is working to improve and strengthen the East Side community he grew up in and still loves. In the future, Hoover plans to host a calendar of events, including nutrition classes, local music concerts, gardening classes, and exercise meetups on the trailer's small plot of land.
"I haven't abandoned my plans of tying the trailer to the community. I still talk about this as being the divine stirring of the pudding for me." - Hoover
"I haven't abandoned my plans of tying the trailer to the community," Hoover says. "I still talk about this as being the divine stirring of the pudding for me. The pieces are still coming together and aligning. I'm working on actualizing many of the ideas and goals I've had for awhile."
Hoover has experienced his fair share of adversity in the restaurant business, including the closure of Hoover's Cooking's second location on Highway 183. But the second act of Soular Foods Trailer has re-energized the passion Hoover has always felt for delicious Southern fare and East Side community development.
"I know what I'm up against, but I still very much believe in the potential of the trailer and its mission," Hoover says. "I'm fired up as we go into the fall season. We're moving into the fourteenth year of Hoover's Cooking, and as that anniversary comes around we'll start reassessing what works and what doesn't. I'm always going to keep pushing forward until all the puzzle pieces come together."
Hoover's Soular Foods Trailer is located at 1110 E. 12th Street.