h La Cart serves fresh, upscale food from local ingredients in a bright orange trailer located in a part of town where the competition is normally limited to taco trailers.
Trailer owners Ron Richison and his wife, Julie Sokol, wanted to give something back to the neighborhood in which they live, so they located the trailer on Pack Saddle Pass, just south of Ben White Boulevard.
"In South Austin, we have strip malls and fast food. I think South Austin needs healthier options so you don't have to go downtown or to South Lamar or Congress to sit down in a very expensive restaurant to have the same meal," Richison said.
Richison brings his extensive industry experience to the food trailer.
He started working in restaurants when he was 12 years old washing dishes. He worked his way up from there. After washing dishes for two years, he started work on a prep line. He started cooking in restaurants when he was 16 and enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu culinary academy in Portland, Ore.
"That was kind of my way of putting it on paper that I have a passion for this industry, and I wanted to move forward in this career," Richison said.
After graduating from culinary school, Richison worked for a Provencal chef in Slydell, La., which he said was his reintroduction to fine dining.
He then returned to Portland and worked his way around the city, cooking everything from casual breakfasts to high-end dinners. Richison and Sokol moved to Austin two years ago in search of warmer weather.
Richison eased into the culinary scene in Austin by working at Fabi and Rosi European Kitchen, a German restaurant near Westlake, and by working as a personal chef for John Paul Dejoria, founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and Patrn tequila.
"That allowed me to meet some of the local farmers through the farmers markets and kind of figure out what the Texas food scene was like. Agriculture is quite different down here than it is in the Northwest," he said.
"The growing seasons are completely opposite. Up there right now, we're just getting into lettuces and tomatoes and heartier greens. That already happened down here six months ago."
Richison started planning for Ah La Cart about a year ago, and he opened the trailer Nov. 15, 2011. He said he and Sokol did not formulate any kind of a firm concept around the food itself and just decided on a seasonal, local approach to food and to share that with the neighborhood in a food trailer.
"It seemed to be the most accessible and financially approachable way to get into the industry and the culinary scene here," Richison said.
He said the couple plans to open a brick-and-mortar location in the near future and will announce more about those plans in the coming months.
A diverse menu
Ah La Cart features dishes that accommodate a variety of palates and dietary needs, from vegetarian options to dishes loaded with pork.
- Goat-N-Greens salad has Texas pecan-crusted goat cheese, cranberries, fennel and lemon vinaigrette ($5)
- Smoked Mac-N-Cheese features whole wheat pasta, bchamel, cheddar and smoked salt ($4)
- The Plucker has oven roasted chicken, mustard, cucumber, chili and greens ($8)
- Pig-N-Melon features slow-braised pork shoulder, watermelon pickles, cheddar and mustard ($8)
- Veggie burger salad is a homemade patty crumbled and tossed with greens ($8)
Farm to table
Co-owner Ron Richison has relationships with many area farms and farmers, and he sources his menu with fresh, seasonal produce and other ingredients.
Local farms and suppliers:
- Johnson's Backyard Garden
- River Bottom Farms
- Richardson Farms
Ah La Cart, 4418 Pack Saddle Pass, 298-9595, www.facebook.com/ahlacart
Mon.–Fri. noon–3 p.m., 5–8 p.m.