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El Titi, Napa's secret barbecue food truck

El Titi, Napa's secret barbecue food truck

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El Titi Carnitas and Barbecue may be a bit off the beaten track for a food truck, but all you really need to do is look for the banners to discover some of the best barbecue in Napa.

Joel Cazares who grew up in Napa and played football at Napa High, met his future wife, Xochilt, while working at Buena Vista Winery. With her, he shared his dream of opening his own catering business specializing in barbecue. Three years ago, they launched El Titi Carnitas and Barbecue, named, Joel explained for his childhood nickname when his young cousins couldn’t pronounce his name.

El Titi catering was thriving, doing business around Napa Valley when Covid-19 hit, shutting down gatherings. Catering came to a halt.

The Cazares, however, came up with a new idea: They shifted to a food truck, and Joel struck a deal with Arthur and Lusine Hartunian, owners of Napa Valley Distillery, to set up in their parking lot on Stockton Street in Napa.

Today, this is where you can find the couple with their food truck parked next to the giant smoker, Thursday through Sunday. Xochilt (it’s an Aztec name, she explained), manages the “front of the truck,” taking and preparing orders, while Joel tends the racks of meat.

They serve up generous portions of succulent, falling-off-the-bone St. Louis-style ribs, as well as barbecued chicken, pulled pork and tri-tip, all prepared on-site and served with traditional sides, coleslaw, baked beans, smoked macaroni and cheese, potato salad, and fresh-baked cornbread muffins.

You can order your meats on a plate, sandwich, or a Caesar salad. El Titi also offers carnitas tacos, barbecued wings, and bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers. Orders come with Joel’s barbecue and mango-habanero sauces. He is working on a third, tequila-based sauce, he said, to pay tribute to his roots in Mexico where his family farm agave, the basis of tequila.

“All the ideas are his,” said Xochilt, who came to Napa Valley from Mexico. “He came up with the menu. He does the cooking.”

Fans of Napa Valley Distillery were among the first to discover El Titi. During the late summer, when restaurants were open for outdoor service, patrons of the Distillery could order food from El Titi, which the Cazares would deliver to tables set up outside.

Now, with outdoor as well as indoor dining on hold, it’s still popular to place an order at the El Titi food truck, walk over to the Distillery for a cocktail to go, by which time, the food orders are ready to go.

“They have been just great to us,” Joel Cazares said of the Hartunians.

Plates are $14 for one meat and two sides; $18 for two types of meat and two sides, and $24 for three types of meat and three sides. Enormous sandwiches (pulled pork, tri-tip, and barbecued chicken) are $15 are heaped with coleslaw and served with a side. Everything comes with a cornbread muffin. A Caesar salad is $8, or $12 with barbecued chicken, and $15 with tri-tip.

The bacon-wrapped poppers are $10 for four, and barbecued wings are $10 for $10.

On Sundays, they serve menudo, a classic Mexican soup made with tripe and hominy, from 8 to 11 a.m. It comes with home-made tortillas.

El Titi is in the parking lot of Napa Valley Distillery at 2485 Stockton St., Napa. Take the First Street exit off Highway 29, and go through the round-about to head south on California Boulevard. Stockton Street is a right turn off of California. Go all the way to the end of Stockton and turn left into the Distillery parking lot.

El Titi’s hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Sunday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Go early, as sometimes they sell out before closing time. Call 707-304-1457 for more information.

Kitchens of the Valley

Cazares recently joined Kitchens of the Valley to begin delivering family meals. Mark Raymond of Marks the Spot food truck fame, and Katharine Lenane, founded Kitchens of the Valley in 2020, as restaurants went through various stages of shut-downs, and patrons began ordering out.

According to the Kitchens of the Valley website, “Unfortunately, food from restaurants came fully cooked and was compromised during reheating (dried out and never the same). Other meal delivery services left them cold with sub-par food or too much work. Not to mention they loathed the idea that corporate delivery platforms were taking much-needed margins away from the operators.”

In response, they founded Kitchens of the Valley to deliver top-notch meals “as a way to support their own families, their hospitality colleagues, and our wine country community as a whole.”

The chef-prepared meals serve four are delivered ready to “open, heat, toss, enjoy.” Packed in a cardboard box with ice packs, meals are chilled and boxed in eco-friendly containers.

Other chef members of Kitchens of the Valley include Misty Philips owner of Getting Fresh with Misty, Adam Rowley, French Corner, and Dorothee Drouet owner of Petite Sweets.

Cazares’ dinners for delivery include carnitas, chicken mole, and grilled salmon with side dishes.

For more information and to order, go to kitchenofthevalley.com.

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Features Editor

Sasha Paulsen has been features editor at the Napa Valley Register since 1999. A graduate of Napa High School, she studied English at UC Berkeley and St. Mary's College and earned a Masters in Journalism from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

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