Published August 10, 2012
Food trucks have been capitalizing on the everyday busy (and hungry) lunchgoer for years. These restaurants on wheels serve up everything from thick homemade waffles to sizzling and savory tacos, satisfying even the pickiest of grab-and-go foodies.
Nationwide food truck revenue is up 15 percent over the past five years and took in about 37 percent of the $1.4 billion revenue in street vending last year alone, according to research done by IBISWorld Inc.
“Consumers have responded in a tremendous way, waiting hours in line to sample the goods from trucks around the country- this trend offers accessible, inexpensive and diverse food choices,” Tyler Florence, celebrity chef and host of Food Network’s "The Great Food Truck Race" told FoxNews.com.
Though it may seem like the ever-evolving food truck industry has cooked up everyone’s favorite feasts, one pair of Brooklyn Brothers are bringing a hot new cuisine to New York City taste buds.
Driving onto the food truck scene two months ago Nick Russo and his brother-in-law Mike Zelman opened up Hibachi Heaven, the first-ever mobile hibachi truck in New York City.
Since these tough-looking guys from New York don’t have any Japanese roots in their blood, Russo credits his 9-year old niece for giving them the hibachi idea.
“We’ve always been interested in food trucks and it just so happened my niece came back from a birthday party at a hibachi restaurant and said how about hibachi,” Nick told FoxNews.com. “That’s how we got into hibachi, you know she came home one day, gave us the idea and we rolled with it.”
On one giant hibachi grill that practically covers the length of the truck, Russo’s chef, Izac Kao (a former Benihana’s chef) cooks up a hearty dish of meats, veggies and rice. Their menu offers an array of proteins like beef, chicken, shrimp and tofu along with fresh vegetables and your choice of brown or fried rice topped with delicious homemade sauces (heavenly ginger, yum yum and wasabi mayo). Nick boasts that it’s his signature ‘yum yum sauce” (a mix of mayo, Cajun spices and garlic) that has really made a name for them with finicky New Yorkers.
“That’s all we hear ‘we want that yum yum sauce,’ people can’t seem to get enough of it. Maybe we’ll bottle it up someday and call it heavenly yum yum,” Russo told FoxNews.com.
Unlike most hibachi restaurants, you won’t find Russo and his crew juggling knifes or building volcanoes out of onion rings, “unless we had some sake in the truck to squirt customers in the mouth with, we just don’t have enough time for tricks," he said.
Although Russo insists there is no room or time for tricks on his truck, some food experts say it doesn’t hurt to have a little showboating.
“It’s ok to have a shtick, it can help, but don’t just have a shtick. Make some good food. The best way for a new food truck to distinguish itself from its peers is to just make some really good food,” Arthur Bovino, executive director, The Daily Meal told FoxNews.com.
But despite the trick-less truck, Hibachi Heaven is souped-up with four huge speakers blasting popular dance beats for their patient patrons. “The customers love it. I’ve had people walk by and just start to dance right in the middle of the street. It makes it a more fun and exciting atmosphere for people to come and wait for their food in,” Nick said.
Of course it’s not all fun and games, Hibachi Heaven dishes out about 200 lunches in three hours and many food truck veterans stress that the hard work comes with the territory. Everyday, five days a week, the truck moves to a different location in the City, from downtown, to Wall Street, to midtown. Days for the team start before sunrise and don't end until the last lunch is dished out.
“This industry is for people who are passionate about what they do. It’s really hard work, you have to constantly be on the up and up finding new locations and catering contacts,” Daniel Shemtob, owner of The Lime Truck and winner of Food Network’s 2011 "The Great Food Truck Race" told FoxNews.com.
“Having amazing, fresh and locally sourced food is the most important thing. If your food is good, they will come and eat,” Matt Chernus, co-owner of the successful Grill 'Em All food truck in Los Angeles said.
Like opening up a hip new restaurant, once the hype fades it’s the quality of good food that keeps any kind of kitchen (on wheels or not) open for business.