W.E.B. DuBois had a simple formula for selecting his wife. He made a list of all the pretty women and a second list with all the women who were good cooks. Then he looked to see which woman appeared on both, and voila, he had his choice. Ten-year-old OneMethod Digital + Design is trying something similar with La Carnita, a pop-up food brand they launched earlier this summer. In a marriage of gastronomy, street culture and art, Toronto-based OneMethod has been making tacos and bundling them with a limited-edition print for $10. They’re impressing the locals and attracting local businesses looking for agencies who can blend aesthetics with community-building.
Canucks, hungry for some Mexican flavor, have flocked in droves. Twice, the advertising, digital and social media agency dished homemade tacos from their second-floor office on the near the corner of King and Spadina streets. Then, when a neighbor complained about endless lines, La Carnita called on food-trucking friend el Gastronomo Vagabundo from Niagara’s wine district like Mike Knight on KITT and ran the operation from the truck. Last week, One Method served Voltron Fish, braised beef rib and Yucatan pork tacos; and they’re planning on returning for Food Truck Eats in Toronto.
La Carnita is a marriage of OneMethod’s love of food, street culture and organic buzz say Creative Director Steve Miller and Design Director Andrew Richmond. Richmond used to fly out to Silicon Valley on business and relish in the California tacos, burritos and sopas. Back north, he missed the quality and started experimenting in the kitchen. “I destroyed my palate one Saturday afternoon trying to figure it out,” he says about the sampling and sampling and sampling he put in to perfect the Voltron hot sauce. The La Carnita menu includes fish tacos with Pacific cod, the Voltron sauce, lime yogourt crema, red and nappa cabbage and cilantro. The Mexican chorizo tacos have peach salsa and beet sprouts. The cochinita (slow-roasted pork) taco is topped with achote fruit, oranges and pickled onions.
Fresh food, live case studies
For a 22-person company whose business is advertising, digital campaigns and social media, taco time is quite a change of pace. OneMethod invests $600 to $700 per pop up and threw down some loot on LA Dodgers hats for the crew to rep the “La” in La Carnita. The day of the pop up, ten or eleven employees work on prep, and then for the few hours, the whole studio shuts down, changes and pops back as La Carnita. Local businesses see locals supporting OneMethod and want to tap that magic. The results have been fantastic, says Richmond. “I think it’s just being transparent that you’re doing it out of a passion rather than selling a product.” By generating lots of buzz online (their Twitter following is at 1,340 with only 290 tweets) and in the streets, La Carnita has attracted the attention of two potential clients. Their street cred has increased, too, driving 125 then 150 then 200 people to La Carnita.
La Carnita’s secret ingredient: A culinary workaround
Without a commercial kitchen, OneMethod isn’t technically allowed to serve food. To rope-a-dope around that Canadian law, La Carnita sells limited-edition drawings made by guest artists. The $10 a guest pays buys the print and gets them the tacos for “free.” For each of the three pop ups, they invited a guest artist to interpret the taco brand’s Meathead mascot, a nice touch to differentiate the art and draw in multiple communities. Instead of drawing art lovers with a glass of wine or a slice of cheese as art galleries often do, La Carnita executes their pop ups in the opposite direction. “We created an art show atmosphere,” Richmond says. Then, when OneMethod took their show to the food truck, they did so on a friend’s private property where serving food without a license is legal. (To quell people who might feel like they are waiting in line a long time, La Carnita serves them hibiscus limonata at the half-way point.)
La Carnita and One Method are forever blended
OneMethod plans to continue running La Carnita with more guests chefs and guest artists. “Our goal is to do an art show in six months where we have the artists’ originals and sell the art,” Richmond says. In true pop-up fashion, they plan on expanding out of the neighborhood west of Toronto’s business district and throughout the city.
Greg Spielberg | August 9 2011