two wooden boats filled with food sitting on top of a table

You may notice a new queue of patrons forming between the hours of noon and 8 p.m. on most days driving past MM 102 in Key Largo. This culinary gem people are in line for is Keys Wok n’ Roll, and they have been causing quite a stir among local foodies because it is not your typical brick-and-mortar location. 

Now we all know food trucks are nothing new, but many cannot wrap their head around a streetside cookhouse serving sushi. I, however, was on board immediately. To me, it made the most sense. All you need for sushi is refrigeration, a talented chef and high-quality ingredients, and all three fit perfectly in a mobile eatery. 

Chef David Valencia is the mastermind behind Keys Wok n’ Roll’s unique menu, and he has quite an impressive resume, with years of experience handling and preparing sushi. He was head sushi chef in multiple restaurants, of which some have been previous winners of the Keys Weekly’s Bubba Awards in Key West. He finally decided it was time to open his own spot and do things his way.

Hailing from Colombia and professionally trained in Asian cuisine, he attributes his love for the art of sushi to the fact that his grandfather was Japanese. “I think it runs in my blood,” he said. In my opinion, his background and training together are what brings these eclectic flavorful rolls to life. He makes sure he always has the freshest fish and produce available.  

Pulling up to this “curb kitchen,” there is an undeniable sense of adventure and spontaneity that comes with dining here. The excitement is met with attentive and friendly service the minute you step up to the window. It makes you feel like a valued guest and soon to be a valued regular. 

Not to brag, but one of my favorite items on the menu is the “Sammy Roll,” named and created for, you guessed it, me! The Sammy roll has krab and cream cheese rolled into tender sticky rice. It’s fried with tempura batter for a warm crunch. The top is absolutely smothered in gorgeous vibrant chunks of high-grade tuna to bring the umami flavor, then paired with the ripest mango I’ve ever had. In there somewhere is a few feisty pops of jalapeno to keep you on your toes. 

As I’m typing this I’m just now realizing Keys Wok n’ Roll is the only sushi place I’ve ever ordered from that I do not bother to request soy or eel sauce. Everything is served to perfection and needs nothing extra. One of the unique items on the menu with equal “wow” factor and taste level is the crispy sushi sandwich. Sticky rice is flattened between seaweed wrappers and flash fried, which makes up the top and bottom “buns.” Between that is smoked salmon, krab salad, avocado, masago, scallion, spicy mayo and sesame seeds. This whole thing is plated as a convenient tasty sandwich. 

I eat here almost weekly and every time I try something it just feels like each ingredient is carefully selected and thoughtfully combined to create a sensory experience like no other. Nearly every menu item hits the marks of soft, crunchy, umami, sweet and citrus all in one. You can order your meal online to go for a quick pickup or walk up to the window. There is even an option to request your rolls plated on a boat to have a little picnic-table date night. 

I love ordering in person because part of the appeal of food trucks, to me, is the intimate and interactive dining experience where customers get to engage directly with the chef. Valencia has a level of transparency and connection that works well for the setting; you can ask him anything and he is happy to answer. Unlike brick-and-mortar restaurants, having a smaller mobile location for any passionate chef allows the flexibility to experiment with new ideas and dishes, and like Keys Wok n’ Roll, they draw inspiration from local ingredients and culinary traditions. 

Not fond of sushi? Here is where the word wok comes into play. Pad Thai, fried rice, stir fry, curry, soups and even boba tea are all available at Keys Wok n’ Roll. It works out ideally for nights when I’m in a lighter mood and Mark is wanting a hearty warm meal. Every time I show up for dinner, there is a line alongside the truck and that just assures me this new sushi hotspot is here to stay. 

Food trucks add to the very fabric of our community. Gathering outdoors, talking to other locals in line and enjoying a new space that didn’t take a year to build. What truly sets apart this spot from others is the passion and originality of the owner. Trust me, once you experience the magic of sushi on wheels, you’ll never look at traditional sushi spots the same way again. Valencia really puts in the “wok” and it shows. 
Valencia’s dream was able to come true with the generous help of the husband-and-wife-duo Kenneth and Yuvadee Marcinak. Yuvadee is Thai American and is always at the truck cooking up a few of her favorite menu items for everyone to try.

Samantha Dellilo
Samantha Dellilo has been in the Keys since she was 1 day old, so definitely consider her a Conch. Holding a passion for food since she can remember, while most kids were watching Barney, she was watching Emeril. "Being half Cuban and half Italian, food in those cultures is considered a love language. It's a total experience whether eating out or cooking." She's been with her other half, Marky, going on 17 years. The two met when they were 9 years old at Key Largo School. Samantha owns Florida Keys Eats, which is a blog of "must eat, must see, and must dos" from Key Largo to Key West.