Owner: Raquel Mello, Greg Petrillo, Alex Prindle and Josh Henderson
Chef: David Sargent
How they do it: “Few restaurants know the curbsides of the Emerald City’s streets better than Skillet,” says Ann Downs, company president. Skillet redefined and elevated street food from its original vintage Airstream food truck to brick-and-mortar restaurant locations throughout Seattle. “Pulling from the Pacific Northwest’s landscape and dynamic local flavors, it’s a concept that is approachable, easily portable, and affordable.”
Steal it: Be yourself, firmly root in your community, and commit to your local sense of place.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Owners: Sunny Lin, Sophia Woo, Matthew Kenner
Chef: Matthew Greiner
How they do it: Sophia Woo says the MOFU crew is obsessed with food, fun, and their community. “Our food is at the intersection of nature and nurture. We're Asian-Americans who grew up in the southern United States who have a sense of humor. We are believers that good food and cultural food don’t need to be unapproachable or fancy, but it does need to be enjoyed with friends in a fun environment.”
Steal it: Do you—stay true to yourself and throw out the external scorecard.
Owners: Bryce Gilmore, Mark Buley, Jason James, Dylan Gilmore
Chefs: Bryce Gilmore and Mark Buley
Pastry chef: Megan Mascola
How they do it: True partnership is at the heart of how things are done in the Odd Duck family, and with local farmers, too. “The team works in true partnership not just with each other, but local farmers as well,” says co-owner Bryce Gilmore. “Buying up as much as they can get their hands on, asking farmers to plant specific things and even buying surpluses to relieve the farmers or product, and then it’s up to the kitchen team to get creative.”
Steal it: Be a little off-trend in whatever way makes it your own.
Owners: Paolo Calamai and Elizabeth Petrosian
Chef: Paolo Calamai
How they do it: Husband-and-wife team Paolo Calamai and Elizabeth Petrosian aimed to set themselves apart by focusing on Calamai’s roots in Florance, Italy. “We offer the guest a total experience of terroir—from an old-school menu that plumbs the depths and little-known corners of Tuscany, to an essentially all-Tuscan wine list,” Petrosian says. “We also wanted to create an experience that is infused with warmth, unfussy hospitality, and that is all about creating relationships.”
Steal it: Cut your teeth. Running a food truck can be very punishing, but it’s a great way to test your limits. Then, the brick-and-mortar seems like a walk in the park.
Owners: Josh Thoma and Kevin Fitzgerald
Chef: Josh Thoma
How they do it: The lobster roll that Smack Shack first served in a food truck in 2010 is the same lobster roll found in the restaurant today. That consistency is what Josh Thoma says makes the brand stand out. “We are committed to serving the best possible ingredients using sustainable seafood in a fun and casual atmosphere. Where else can you enjoy a lobster boil dinner while playing pull tabs?”
Steal it: Don’t deviate, innovate, Thoma says. There’s always room for improvement, but don’t lose the essence of who and what you are.
Owner: Irene, Margaret and Andrew Li
Chef: Irene Li
How they do it: Chef Irene Li is dedicated to supporting New England farmers at Mei Mei where she serves only pasture-raised means. She’s also dedicated to her staff, providing growth opportunities and groundbreaking open-book management. She’s found passionate people and invested in them. “We’ve had our senior management team with us since we started our food truck and have kept them with the restaurant by creating new opporunities for advancement,” she says.
Steal it: Find your people and invest in them.
Owners: Akash and Rana Kapoor, Amir Hosseini
Chefs: Akash and Rana Kapoor
How they do it: Curry Up Now stakes claim to hitting San Francisco’s food truck scene before anyone else in 2009. Without it, owners and husband-and-wife team Akash and Rana Kapoor say they wouldn’t be where they are today. “We still serve food items that were designed for the food truck, our speed of service closely resembles our food truck service times and we bring the food truck experience inside our four walls with murals that include a painting of our truck.”
Steal it: Be authentic or get funky, but whatever you choose, stay true to that.
Owners: Mike Cho, Thomas Choi, Eric Tjahyadi, Erwin Tjahyadi
Chef: Erwin Tjahyadi
How they do it: For some food-truck owners, the brick-and-mortar is always a destination. Erwin Tjahyadi says Komodo always had the restaurant in mind. “Our concept translates well since the style of food we cook can be made anywhere and eaten anywhere. Having a physical location with a full kitchen has allowed us to expand our menu offerings that have become some of our most popular dishes, like our kimchi nachos and our salmon ponzu plate.
Steal it: Be adaptable; tastes change and not everything will go according to plan.
Owner: Eric Silverstein
Chef: Executive Chef Eric Silverstein; Chef de Cuisine Ryan Peace
How they do it: Opening a full-service space required The Peached Tortilla team to take what they did in trucks and elevate it to a dining experience. “We are a casual dining neighborhood restaurant that focuses on Asian street and comfort food dishes,” says Eric Silverstein, executive chef. “We pay homage to our core street food items off the truck while serving slightly elevated extensions of those items on our regular menu.”
Steal it: Make something your customer will demand.
Owner: Sean Fairbairn
Chef: Pete Joyce
How they do it: At Barrio, the transition went the other way—from table to street. After opening the restaurant in 2012, the team expanded into food trucks shortly after. Barrio has a total of four food trucks that serve festivals, company lunches and private events. The trucks serve a pared-down menu of Barrio favorites.”The tacos were inspired by our fans’ favorite build-your-own taco combinations, which are available at Barrio restaurants. Tacos can also be customized for special events with proteins like Thai-chili tofu, grilled shrimp with chili-lime butter, and braised short rib.”
Steal it: Take what you do best and simplify it for your truck.