MIHO Gastrotruck has quickly become one of the most popular and highly regarded food trucks in San Diego since their opening in May 2010. This San Diego food truck is owned and operated by Juan Miron and Kevin Ho (Kevin answered the interview questions below). Their philosophy is to “use fresh, local, and thoughtfully sourced ingredients to create hand crafted street food that is affordable, convenient, and delicious.”
1. How many people work inside the truck at one time? What’s going on in there anyway?
We roll with a crew of 4 for each shift – cashier, expo, plancha (grill), and cold line.
2. What’s your favorite thing about running the truck and what is your biggest challenge?
The most rewarding aspect is developing a sense of community at each of our locations. Our customers, or HOMI’s as we like to call them, are mostly regulars that come on a weekly basis. We really enjoy getting to know them and giving them something to be proud of in their “work” community – a lot like the sense of belonging and attachment you have with your local bar or favorite restaurant. The Cheers theme song got it right – sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.
On top of that, our menu changes every 2-3 weeks based on what the local farms are growing seasonally and what flavors or cultures are inspiring us. It’s very demanding on our chefs and kitchen staff to be constantly creating and perfecting new dishes. Nonetheless, we believe this is how real food should be crafted and that dedication is what sets us apart.
3. What is something about running the truck that is different than you expected it would be?
We kind of knew this going in, but a truck is a completely different operation than a restaurant. Our background and experience has been really helpful in ensuring that our food and service is restaurant quality, but everything else you have to learn and adapt as you go.
4. What would you say is your most popular menu item?
We change our menu every 2-3 weeks, so we’ve had a lot of popular items. But consistently the most popular item is definitely the grass fed burger. We use all natural grass fed beef, we change the toppings every couple weeks to keep it seasonal and interesting, and we make all the condiments from scratch. A burger is quintessential American street food.
5. What is something “off the wall” that you would love to put on your menu but aren’t sure people would go for?
I don’t think we’ve ever really been restricted by what we think people will like. Our constraints come more from a lack of diverse cooking equipment on the truck and only sourcing locally and all naturally. For example, we wanted to do a portobello burger for a while, but we couldn’t source them locally until just recently. So that just hit the menu this week. We would also do a lot more Asian cuisine if we had stovetop burners. But in the end, we do what we can.
Our best locations are weekday lunches near office buildings. Each location has a different clientele and a different sense of community. A lot of it has to do with the type of businesses and industries nearby. Our collaborations with other local businesses are really fun too. We have regularly scheduled events with places like Ballast Point Brewing, Blind Lady Ale House, Whistle Stop Bar, art galleries, etc.
7. Some people get excited about finding a truck and trying something new. Why do you think food trucks really capture peoples’ imaginations?
I think the new wave food trucks are intriguing to the public because it defies their expectations. They see a roach coach, but then they’re pleasantly surprised when the food is really high quality. Being mobile is another advantage. We can bring food to areas that don’t have a lot of dining options or to businesses and events that want food available. We can be at the San Diego Brewer’s Guild Festival one day and at an art exhibit in Little Italy the next.
We don’t watch very much TV so we never got a chance to see the last season, but we heard it was really entertaining. A lot of HOMI’s have encouraged us to try out. One day, these ladies even printed out the forms and brought them to us. I’ll make sure to watch the next season.
9. We get a lot of questions on the Facebook page about starting a truck. What advice would you give to someone trying to start their own mobile food business? (Also, I believe you offer a consulting service for new trucks, no?)
My first advice would be to understand that this isn’t the “miracle business” or “golden ticket.” Just because there is a thriving movement across the US doesn’t mean that the success rate is any higher than brick and mortar restaurants. Next, I would recommend having a really comprehensive, well-thought-out business plan. And yes, if anyone’s interested, we do offer consulting services.
10. What is the best thing you’ve ever eaten had from a food truck/cart? Which truck was it and where?
Street food in TJ is the best, especially the street tacos – birria, pastor, lengua, cabeza! Juan grew up in TJ, so he’s taken me to some unbelievable local spots. Seeing those guys bust out so much hand made food with such little equipment is amazing. It’s so authentic. Working class people feeding their friends and neighbors. That’s what it’s all about. That, and Chinese food with my parents, is the only time I’ll cheat and eat commodity food.
11. If you could open another truck in San Diego that served completely different food than you serve now, what would it be?
Hmmm, maybe a taco truck?
12. What’s coming up in the future for MIHO?
We have big plans…but you’ll just have to wait and see. See you on the street…
You can find MIHO at http://www.mihogastrotruck.com/ or on Twitter as @mihogastrotruck. They are also available for catering.