As with Sussex Farm, Basan is all about love — a love of food, one another, and sharing food with others. After Naylor and Gardner each spent years cooking at some of Charlottesville’s top restaurants (Naylor at Public, L’etoile, TEN, The Alley Light; Gardner at Public, The Ivy Inn, Junction, Oakhurst Inn), their love of Japanese cuisine took them to a year abroad, where they lived in the small rural Japanese city Miyakonojo. There they found a close-knit and hospitable community eager to share their culture. One friendly local named Yuki invited Naylor to took cook at her local izakaya – an informal bar that serves small bites to enjoy with drinks. A crash course in Japanese cooking, Naylor loved it. And, her love of Japanese food only grew.
When Naylor and Gardner returned to Virginia, they initially opened a pizza business, Pye Dog Pizza, an instant smash that allowed them to explore their creativity. Despite its success, their passion for Japanese food beckoned. And so, in 2020, Basan was born. “Basan in a lot of ways is shaped by the meals we cooked in our apartment in Miyakonojo, for ourselves, for Yuki, and for other friends,” said Naylor.
The menu is built around ramen and Japanese-style nuggets of karaage and katsu.
As delicious as these staples are, though, it is the weekly specials that draw crowds lining up to get one before they are gone. The love really shows. “I started cooking to my taste, and my memories, and the taste of the people that I love,” said Naylor. “That’s where the specials come from. Does the idea of this make us feel something?”
Keeping the front of the house straight and cheerful is industry veteran Job Bray, who sometimes gets in on the cooking too, bringing some Filipino flair.
Charlottesville is blessed with many outstanding food trucks. Among a stellar group of finalists, the 2021 Best Food Truck/Stand is Basan.