When leaving class late at night, almost every restaurant in town is getting to their last customers of the night. The usual Number One combo at McDonald’s doesn’t sound all that appealing and the line for Taco Bell is wrapped around the building. Suddenly, the answer seems simple: hot and fresh fried dumplings.
The twinkling lights of downtown Harrisonburg can draw anyone in, but the aroma of cooked pork and steamed vegetables convinces them to stay.
Right outside the patio at Ruby’s Arcade sits a 1983 short bus, decorated with red and yellow graffiti, owned and operated by local, Luke Watson. With help from his brother, they specialize in late night food for a reasonable price.
Yucca fries cost $3 and the dumplings are $1. With prices like that, customers could easily get their fill for very little. This is perfect for college students who are struggling with funds and for anyone who doesn’t want to spend too much on a good meal.
Watson grew up eating Japanese cuisine, so choosing dumplings as the truck’s main dish was a no brainer. After testing samples at dinner parties, art galleries and breweries, he realized quickly that “people just love the dumplings.”
Watson explained that the name “tangi” meaning “tongue justice” came from a comic book he once read. According to Watson, he chose Tangi because it not only deals with the palette, but also with being honest and sincere in one’s daily life, a notion he likes to live by.
This passion for the culinary arts has stuck with Watson since high school and decided to pursue working with food shortly after graduating from JMU in 2005. “I love the pace of it, the social aspect of it and I care for the food.”
He started working in downtown Harrisonburg in 2007 and aimed to get all of his ingredients from local sources. Supporting the local community is important to him because of a genuine love for the area.
Tangi is known for it’s meat and veggie dumplings, yucca fries and dessert dumplings. The meat dumplings are usually pork, but have been substituted with chicken or beef on Monday nights when they serve specials. The veggie dumplings consist of sweet potato, yucca, broccoli and carrot.
“We put a lot of thought into our food and try to keep it relatively healthy,” Watson said. “But at the end of the day, they’re fried dumplings.” Tangi opens at 9 p.m. and closes around 2 a.m. everyday except Sunday and Tuesday.
As of now, the truck is under what Watson calls “the Clementine umbrella.” As an employee of Clementine, Watson gained help to start his food truck from the owner.
The best nights to go? According to Watson, Mondays and Wednesdays.
“It’s not too busy, but it’s consistent…a steady flow.”
Tangi gets many random passer-bys gets in their late night food rush, but they have several regulars that make a habit out of coming. Caleb Townsend, a recent graduate of Eastern Mennonite University, is one of those regulars. When asked what his favorite part of the food truck is, he said without hesitation that it’s the owners.
“The way that they’ve integrated themselves into a staple of downtown helps add to the social life. It feels like I’m popping in to hang with friends and the dumplings are just a bonus,” Townsend said.
Townsend, like many twenty-year-olds, enjoys going to Tangi because of their late hours.
“I generally try to hit it up at least once a week, but often I end up there on late nights out because it’s one of the only cheap food places open,” Townsend said.
As for now, Tangi is staying stationary outside of Ruby’s. Watson looks forward to owning a business license to be able to move around to busy lunch spots, cater big events and festivals and meet new people around the Harrisonburg area, and make Tangi available for all.