Since opening STUFFED! in June 2013, Alex Gould and his team have been serving up comic book-themed burgers, mac n’ cheese, and tots to San Diego. He took some time to answer our burning questions about the food truck business for SDFT.
Why did you open a food truck?
I’ve always wanted to go out on my own and be my own boss. After moving to San Diego and interviewing with a handful of different restaurant groups, I decided to take a different route and do my own thing.
What did you do before you had the food truck?
After graduating from Johnson & Wales in RI, I spent about 10 years managing restaurants. I managed restaurants in Philadelphia with the Starr Restaurant Organization.
How would you describe your food?
Elevated comfort food.
What makes your truck awesome?
Our team–we are relentless and make eating fun! We’re a comic book themed truck that serves ridiculous burgers! We only use grass fed and organic meat to ensure everything we put out is as pure as it can be!
Underdogs Gastro Truck opened in June of 2012 and is run by two Steves, Steve Lee and Steve Kennard, who took some time to answer questions for sdfoodtrucks.com.
Why did you name your truck “Underdogs”?
Most people assume from our name that we do hot dogs, but really that name is a stand against those who tried to keep us down and tell us we wouldn’t make it in life. Underdogs almost always come out on top, they rally and give it all they can. The term underdog truly represents us.
Why did you open a food truck?
We were tired of working for “The Man” and we both have a passion for cooking, so after a few chit chats about the future we decided to venture out as a team.
After spending time in Naples, Justin searched for a comparable pizza experience in California. He then spent 4 years perfecting the dough recipe…and thus, Red Oven Artisanal Pizza was born in September of 2011. Justin’s authentic representation of la vera pizza Napoletana has earned rave reviews on Yelp — just try to find anything else like it in town. He took some time to answer questions for SDFT.
Why did you open a food truck? We wanted to bring this kind of pizza to San Diego and the food truck concept made the most sense. Being able to choose our hours, location, and cater parties with a 900 degree oven crackling on-site is a pretty cool experience.
What did you do before you had the food truck? I went to school for developmental psychology and spent a career in Sales Management. But when the kids were born, I chose to be a stay at home daddy for 3 years. What an awesome time!
In one sentence, how would you describe your food? I can’t say anything that matters in one sentence! We are an experience based business – our pizza is authentic representation of traditional la Vera pizza Napoletana; light, delicate, fragrant, and beautiful sight to be seen!
What makes your truck great/unique?
I have a hand-picked Italian built Mugnaini wood fired oven custom painted with Naples theme on top of a Ferrari red trailer. The oven produces 900 degree or more temperatures that cook a pizza in 60 seconds. The aroma of pizzas in the wood oven command a captive audience. It is our priority to make every pizza the best yet! This is why we are so great when you want a special experience at an event.
What’s the best part about running this business and what is your biggest challenge?
The best part is participating in a memorable experience with our clients. I love it when people try Red Oven and become passionate pizza enthusiasts following us everywhere. The biggest challenge is there’s not enough time in the week. I easily put in 90+ hours weekly to keep the ovens moving. We have a very dedicated group of employees but we’re in need of more. Wink. Wink.
How do you come up with menu items?
Tradition. Our menu items are true to their cultural origination and include authentic ingredients. We have our cheese flown in from Naples every Thursday, our tomatoes hand selected by Neapolitan farmers… We represent special pizzas for each event that capture the farm market fresh ingredients. Pizzas like fig and prosciutto, beets and sausage, sautéed endives and Gorgonzola dolce are what we’re currently making.
What would you say is your most popular item?
BUFALINA pizza. marinated cherry tomatoes in garlic, basil, and olive oil paired with Mozzarella di bufala. But, these crazy little bacon wrapped jalapeño’s are sure picking up momentum!
What’s the best reaction someone has had to your food?
“I’m from Napoli and this is Verace (authentic).”
Thanks to Justin for this interview. You can find Red Oven on Twitter, Facebook, and the web.
The InSlider opened in March 2012 and specializes in—you guessed it—sliders. Ravenous eaters can choose from Kobe beef, panko-crusted Jidori chicken, pulled kurobuta pork, or Balsamic marinated portabello mushrooms, with homemade sauces and toppings like jalapeno BBQ sauce and caramelized balsamic onions. These ain’t your run-of-the-mill sliders. These are gosh darn tasty. Owner Stacey Werner took the time to answer some questions about The InSlider for SDFT.
How would you describe the InSlider’s food?
We have quality food that appeals to the masses. The small sized sliders make it easy to try a few different menu items in one order.
Why did you decide to open a food truck?
In a million years, I never thought I would own a food truck. Back in the 1930s, my grandpa owned Twin Keys, one of the largest stool bars of the time. After he passed, my father and his two brothers took their inheritance and opened Emma’s, a luncheonette next to a burlesque theater. At the young age of 22, my pops was in heaven! Later on, he sold his part and my Uncle Murray stayed in the restaurant business. Uncle Walt went on to become a bar owner. I always thought I would follow in my dad’s footsteps. After my father became ill, life took a crazy turn. It was his passing which that led me to create The InSlider.
What is your favorite part about owning a food truck?
The best part of owning my own business is being able to give back to the community. Nothing trumps the joy I get from directly supporting charities for veterans. Meeting new people and learning what makes them tick is also a great thing about the food truck business. Our food truck scene in San Diego is made up of hard-working, gracious truck owners who are entertaining which makes work seem like fun.
How would you describe your menu?
The menu is centered on high quality, yummy food for all ages at affordable prices. That might sound like a cliché, but I each menu item that comes off The InSlider is what I’d feed guests in my own home. My style is a part drill sergeant, and all foodie. The InSlider approach is simple, it’s not about money; it’s about the quality and the customer’s experience.
What is your most popular item?
Hands down the “Cali”ente (Kobe beef, tomato, lettuce, grilled jalapenos, pepper jack cheese and chipotle aioli) and our sweet potato tater tots with chipotle are the most popular items. I’m from Jersey and had my first order of tots at the age of 40. Can you believe it? Those lunchroom favorites have since grown on me warp speed.
Is there something off-the-wall you want to serve but aren’t sure would fly?
Eggs. I want eggs on everything. Maybe not the pork, but I want a fried egg or poached egg – on top of just about any slider. I used to make my old man six eggs every morning for breakfast, and I think they are delicious, especially on a slider!
I’m always thinking about new items for our menu. We’ve been under construction for a dessert slider – but I’m not quite happy with it yet. Remember, nothing leaves the truck if it wouldn’t leave my own kitchen.
What do you find are the best events for you?
Wedding receptions and those crazy after parties are the best! When a wedding crowd keeps at it into the evening, they need fuel to keep on going! I also enjoy events with start-ups organizations. Charitable events are a close second.
What is the best reaction someone has had to your food?
The best reactions came from folks who’ve tasted InSlider food and then asked us cater their wedding! It’s a great compliment.
What is the best thing you’ve EVER eaten had from any food truck or cart?
The two best items I’ve ever eaten from a food truck have come from carts, pretzels and hot dogs. My suggestion is to follow your nose. If it smells good, go for it!
Thank you to Stacey for taking the time to do this interview. The InSlider can be found on Twitter at @TheInSliderSD or Facebook or their website.
Operacaffe Mobile opened in the summer of 2011 and is run by Kika Penn, who took some time to answer questions for sdfoodtrucks.com.
Why did you open a food truck? We wanted to bring fresh Tuscan cuisine to the streets of SD.
What did you do before you had the food truck? I worked at the Operacaffe restaurant in the Gaslamp that opened about 4 years ago and was also nominated this year as “BEST Authentic Italian restaurant in San Diego 2013”.
How would you describe your food? Authentic Italian experience, light yet fulfilling.
What makes your truck great/unique? We have dishes that you can only get in Florence, Italy like wild boar, pork shank out coccoli or ravioli fritti.
What’s the best part about running this business and what is your biggest challenge? The best part would be sharing our wonderful food with wonderful people the biggest challenge is probably getting the word out.
How do you come up with menu items? We try to please everyone’s taste and we cater from vegetarians and meat lovers.
What would you say is your most popular item? I would say it’s the Braised Pork Shank.
What is the best thing you’ve EVER eaten had from a food truck? Which truck was it and where? Most food trucks have an item that I Absolutely LOVE; some I haven’t tried yet.
Thank you to Operacaffe Mobile for taking the time to do this interview. Operacaffe Mobile can be found on Twitter at @operacaffemobil or Facebook or their website.
Pictured food: Ravioli Fritti stuffed with poblano pepper and ricotta cheese and Opera sandwich