Courtesy of Fair to Middlin'

Owner Nicholas Taylor (left) stands beside his mobile kitchen at a recent engagement party the business catered.

Hard work means hearty eating—something new business owner Nicholas Taylor aims to accommodate with his pop-up restaurant and catering service Fair to Middlin’.

“There’s definitely a desire for street food. There’s a need for street food,” Taylor. “What we’re doing with Fair to Middlin’ is providing an experience completely unexpected. You wouldn’t expect to go up to a food cart on Fourth Avenue in the middle of the night and find fine dining but that’s what I want to do.”

Fair to Middlin’ will serve customers Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. during Go Skate Day presented by Harris Riverfront Skate Park.

“Go Skate Day will be a sort of soft opening for us, and our hopes are to have a grand opening in July,” Taylor said.

Currently, Fair to Middlin’ is operating as a pop-up restaurant serving a late-night menu in metered parking lots like that of local bar The Lantern and providing catering for private events.

Taylor’s goal for the business is to set up in parking lots near local businesses Tuesday through Friday to serve a five-item menu that changes weekly to people on their lunch breaks.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, the plan is to set up in parking lots along Fourth Avenue to serve a late-night menu. His plans also include Saturday evening dinner at the Ritter Park Amphitheater and brunch on Sunday mornings by the fountain in Ritter Park.

A series of events in Taylor’s life led him to the creation of Fair to Middlin’. He graduated culinary school in Lexington from Sullivan University and moved to Pittsburgh where he worked at a gastropub (a pub specializing in high-end food) called Meat & Potatoes for about a year.

He moved back to Lexington and worked on a food truck there called The Gastro Gnomes for a while before deciding to move home to Huntington about four months ago. It was working at The Gastro Gnomes that Taylor said instilled in him a love of street food.

Back in Huntington he found work as a chef, but said, in an already full kitchen, didn’t feel like he was doing enough to make it worth staying there. He wanted to do his own thing and friends urged him to do it in Huntington, so Fair to Middlin’ was born.

The name of the business is homage to Taylor’s grandfather who owned Gladwell Pharmacy in Huntington for about 50 years. According to Taylor, his grandfather was dedicated to the community and a strong supporter of local business and it felt right to name the restaurant for him.

“I grew up in the store and was raised my grandfather,” Taylor said. “Any time you asked him how he was doing he would say, ‘Fair to middlin.’ He left a legacy and it’s kind of just carrying on what he had originally done.”

There’s a lot to do in this city if we make it happen. We have a lot going on and this can get better. I think it’s time for the younger crowd to really step it up with their local businesses.

— Nicholas Taylor

Taylor’s grandfather inspired the name, but it says something about the cuisine, too.

“Also, it’s just kind of fun because ‘fair to middlin’’ just means right in the middle, but I feel like my food is better than that,” Taylor said. “But we are a food cart, so it’s nothing fancy by any means, but it brings an Appalachian feel to it.”

The food is described as “a fresh take on Appalachian cuisine” but Taylor doesn’t want to pigeonhole what the possibilities for Appalachian cuisine could be. Some of the most popular items from Fair to Middlin’ are its specialty tacos and a variation on chicken and waffles.

“There’s not really Appalachian cuisine, but I am hoping my menus are what becomes Appalachian cuisine,” Taylor said. “I will be sourcing everything locally. Specifically, all of my produce will come from the farmer’s market. I am hoping to build a repertoire with local farmers and get local pig, local cow.”

Taylor said he hopes Fair to Middlin’ will be the start of a food revolution in Huntington and lead to other pop-up businesses.

“I do believe that food can change and make a city better,” he said. “I believe that this is a true food revolution. It’s bringing food to unexpected locals and providing it in a way that is almost like you stepped into an alternate universe. There’s a lot to do in this city if we make it happen. We have a lot going on and this can get better. I think it’s time for the younger crowd to really step it up with their local businesses.”

Jocelyn Gibson can be contacted at [email protected].