About the only things missing from the big gray truck with the compass and orange shrimp painted on the side are thick clumps of Spanish moss and blasts of salty ocean air.
Lowcountry cuisine — the kind of foods found in the coastal regions of South Carolina that lean heavily on fresh seafood, rice and black-eyed peas, and fresh vegetables, such as okra and tomatoes — has rolled into town.
LOWCO Eatery is among the newest food trucks to hit the roads around Richmond. Owner Aaron Pietzyk, formerly chef de cuisine at Charleston’s renowned Poogan’s Porch, moved to Richmond last year to get ready for two things that happened this year: getting married and joining Richmond’s food scene in some way.
Check and check.
LOWCO Eatery will feature a variety of dishes, including fried chicken and Pietzyk’s take on shrimp and grits, made with creamy white cheddar grits, shrimp, flavor-packed Portuguese linguiça sausage, onions, peppers and bacon, plus a few dashes of this and that. He’s also created a collard melt, which incorporates his homemade collard greens into a grilled cheese sandwich on rye bread with coleslaw and dressing.
Pork rind nachos with smoked pork barbecue, shrimp rolls (like a lobster roll, but with the other crustaceans instead), fried catfish and oysters, duck fat potato salad, pork chops — all are on the horizon.
Food has always been a central part of Pietzyk’s life, he said. He was born in Kansas but grew up in Kentucky and Georgia. Family dinners were eaten at the table every night, and his earliest jobs were in restaurants. When mechanical engineering and food science didn’t turn into career options, Pietzyk followed his heart — all the way back to the kitchen.
He enrolled in culinary school and began working in Charleston.
“It’s just always been in my heart,” Pietzyk said about cooking. “Everything I prep, I make from scratch.”
Erica Pietzyk, a pharmacist, plans to help her husband with the truck whenever she can, she said. The goal is to offer catering at some point for private events, and with expanded seafood dishes using mahi mahi, grouper and more.
“Opening up a restaurant is a lot of work,” she said, noting that the couple toyed with the idea of a bricks-and-mortar restaurant before deciding to go with a food truck instead. One benefit of a truck is that it’s something they can do together — and it helps when the current food truck landscape isn’t already saturated with lowcountry dishes.
“We wanted a good balance of a life together,” Erica Pietzyk said. After surveying Richmond’s food truck landscape, “we found that little niche — and it happens to be his forte.”