The I Luv Elotes cart is now open in Tacoma. Try the Cajun Corn
Count I Luv Elotes, serving gussied up corn on the cob, as another food business born out of the pandemic.
Owner William Terry, a lifelong Tacoman, has operated a security company, has worked as a barber and helped run a youth housing organization. When the pandemic hit, the events for which he provided security dried up, as did his other work..
“We were trying to make ends meet,” said Terry, who initially served at several pop-up events last summer focused on promoting Black business owners.
When the fresh corn-on-the-cob season ended, I Luv Elotes went on hiatus. Terry had been operating without the licenses he needed and winter was the perfect time to work on those licenses. He got that licensing almost a month ago. He credits community support and stimulus checks to help him get his business off the ground. Plus, he’s so thankful for the community support he’s received – in the form of customers and through the family’s Go Fund Me campaign.
I LUV ELOTES LAUNCHES IN APRIL
He found a home in the parking lot of Young’s Mart, a convenience store at 4002 Center St. in Tacoma’s Oakland neighborhood. If you’re as big a fan of mobile restaurants as I am, you already know that spot and you likely have read stories I’ve written about mobile restaurants that have rolled through the bumpy gravel lot at Young’s Mart.
It previously was home to Jay Dogs, and before that, it hosted my favorite taco truck in the South Sound for spicy pork tortas and aqua de jamaica, La Sinoloense/Norma’s Tacos (I still miss that truck and it’s been gone for almost 10 years).
Occasionally, the Terry family will close up the mobile cart and serve at catering events, such as the youth football event I Luv Elotes served at two weekend ago (check their social for the schedule before heading to the cart).
The Terry family hopes to encourage other pop-up businesses to locate at that gravel lot. “We’d love to build a community of business owners there,” he said.
Terry, who is a Foss High School graduate and whose family co-owns the beloved Sam & Terry’s Barber Shop in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, operates the I Luv Elotes cart with assistance from son Dakauri Terry, who is 13 years old. As his dad describes him, “His business mind is incredible.” Like a lot of teens, he also really likes to eat corn on the cob coated in all kinds of funky ingredients.
Flavor inspiration also comes from C.J. Johnson, who starts culinary school at Bates Technical College this month.
“We were home on quarantine when we started research,” said Terry. “We started looking for food options. We looked at hot dogs. But my son and I found there were so many hot dog carts.”
He added, “While we were looking, we found a corn cart. It was similar for cooking. You boil them like a hot dog. What made us go farther into that, we started exploring recipes for corn and we saw all the topping options.”
Plus, there was the parent stamp of approval he thought he could get. “I thought that parents would be OK with their kids eating corn because it’s a vegetable. And the kids love it because there’s Hot Cheetos and Takis. It’s the best of both worlds,” he said.
THE MENU AT I LUV ELOTES
For the uninitiated, elote is a Mexican street snack. It’s corn on the cob slathered in mayo, dusted with parmesan and a kick of chili seasoning, among other flavorings. Meant to be eaten by hand, it’s the perfect portable summer snacking food. It’s also expanded well beyond the Mexican palate and has been embraced on the fair food circuit.
At the Puyallup Fair (also known as the Washington State Fair by you kids), Murph’s probably is best known for its corn on the cob with inventive flavor combos. I Luv Elotes takes that concept and runs with it in a big way.
Want your corn on the cob dunked in crushed Takis or Cool Ranch Doritos? They’ve got that at I Luv Elotes. There are also fun flavor combinations, such as a Cajun version, called Bayou Elote, dusted with shrimp powder, coated in two kinds of crushed chips and sprinkled with Cajun seasoning and/or Old Bay. The traditional elote comes with the standard ingredients – butter, mayo, parmesan, chili powder and lime juice (ask them to go easy on the lime juice if you want it less citrusy).
There’s also a cinnamon sugar elote that my dining partner described as, “like Sugar Corn Pops and Cinnamon Toast Crunch in one.” And for kids? There’s even a pizza-themed elote.
For those who prefer the cousin of elote – esquites – I Luv Elotes has fans of corn-in-a-cup covered. Diners can order any style of elote in a cup with mayo, seasonings and crushed chips or whatever topping you desire. The real treat of ordering esquites is watching the staffer cut the kernels fresh from the cob to fill a cup that is mixed up with a myriad of topping choices.
Elote are $5 to $8 each, depending on the topping. Plain corn on the cob with butter is $5. Esquites cups are $4 to $6 and up.
I Luv Elotes is open 12-9 p.m. every day except Mondays and Wednesdays. Check the social media for the corn cart to make sure they’re not serving at a private catering event.
New: They’re coming to Door Dash soon.
I LUV ELOTES
Where: 4002 Center St., Tacoma
MOBILE RESTAURANT WITH LUMPIA AND CHICKEN WINGS OPENING THIS MONTH
BukBuk’s Island Chicken and Lumpia opening in Tacoma. Read more here.