Village Taco's owners revive vegan fare in the former home of Hal & Al's on Parsons Avenue.
Some folks roll out a welcome mat. Jonny and Heidi Stone roll out their dusty orange Volkswagen van to greet diners in the parking lot of The Joint, their 6-month-old bar and restaurant offshoot of Village Taco in Alexandria, which closed in late December.
This camper van has been with the Stones through long days selling homemade pizzas on Shakedown Street at Phish shows. It served as the mobile home for their first pop-up in Granville in 2016. And, over the last few months, it’s the Parsons Avenue landmark customers look for when picking up takeout during the COVID-19 shutdown.
The old-school VW perfectly illustrates The Joint’s hippie-local aesthetic, and the tone of the menu follows suit. The vegan versions of protein are intentionally misspelled (beaf, chickun, porq). Various smoky, sweet and spicy iterations of the house sauce are referred to as “krack.” And the marijuana innuendo is as thick as the smoke flowing out of Cheech & Chong’s Chevy Impala.Like what you’re reading? Subscribe to our weekly newsletters.
Jokes aside, there’s serious cooking happening here. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas and a rotating list of specials (always worth a second look) are thoughtful, colorful, spiced well and as layered as an onion.
Take the 3 Dirty Sunsets ($11), tacos with so much polish they practically shine. They start with crisp shredded cabbage-carrot slaw, bright pico de gallo, smoky-sweet pepper sauce and crunchy little taquitos that pop like bang snaps. But the real star is Jonny’s most successful vegan meat riff—a ground “beaf” seasoned with 35 spices and made with vegetable protein that crumbles like the real thing. The more modestly topped 3 VT Style Tacos ($10), with slaw, pico and house sauce, are lighter but just as satisfying.
The Popcorn Chickun ($10) is everything that’s right in a bar snack—breaded and fried extra-firm tofu with a meaty bite and burnt-orange Buffalo sauce with a smoky chipotle edge that’ll make your cheeks glow in the dark. Pair this starter with the exceptional guacamole and poppy salsa ($7) and fresh chips for a perfect hot-cool combo.
The Chronic Enchiladas ($15) are eye-catching, with three blue corn tortillas smothered in a zebra print of green, red and orange sauces, and stuffed with rice and “porq” (jackfruit cooked like carnitas). But, when compared to the giant Rollin Green burrito ($15), with its citrus-bomb rice and every crisp vegetable under the sun tucked inside—cabbage, carrot, jicama, pepper—it lacks a little zip. Though the fork-lickingly delicious sides that come with the enchiladas—spicy potatoes and earthy black beans—more than pick up the slack.
Like so many restaurateurs before them, the Stones want to fight the stigma around vegan restaurants. “We set out to change the perception,” Jonny says. “We want anyone to come in and enjoy our food.” From what I’ve tried so far, all I can say is—far out.