101 Best Food Truck Feature: The Lime Truck
Today on The Daily Meal
Along with employees Jason Quinn and Jesse Brockham, the owner of The Lime Truck, Daniel Shemtob, celebrated the truck's third anniversary in June. The trio behind the Mexican-inspired cuisine brought the truck to number five on our list of 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2013. But they don’t serve just any boring old Mexican food. These three put their own twists on traditional Mexican dishes, which results in menu items like the ahi tuna poke nachos and carnitas fries. In fact, their food is so popular that they won season two of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race. We caught up with Shemtob to talk about the truck, their inspiration, and most importantly, the food.
When did you launch your truck?
June 2010 (Three-year anniversary!!).
What was the inspiration for going into this business?
I wanted to be in a business that I was passionate and excited about. Food is such a creative an amazing industry, and it also is a demanding one, but if you are passionate about it, you get a response that’s rewarding and fulfilling.
What's the story behind the name?
There are a lot of stories of how our name came about, but the main reason we chose "The Lime Truck," was that it was non-descriptive of our food, which is important since our menu has ranged from classic American to really odd but flavorful small town ethnic dishes. We also wanted to have a clean-sounding name to kind of relieve some of the hesitations a new truck diner would have due to the history of the trucks being "roach coaches."
What's the inspiration for your cuisine and recipes?
It's based a lot on where I grew up. I grew up in Irvine and Newport Beach in Orange County. My high school was 45 percent Asian, which is amazing because I can't stop loving Asian food and flavors. I also grew up in Southern California so Tex-Mex was very common and delicious. Lastly, I was raised in a Middle Eastern household so I am accustomed to that as well. I think when you can pull from so many regions with no boundaries you are able to line up amazing flavors, and that’s where we get all of our inspiration.
What's your signature dish? Is it also your most popular dish?
Our signature dish is probably our carnitas fries, which happens to also be our most popular. The carnitas fries are a 12-hour pulled pork, with homemade guac, chipotle honey slaw, crema, and cotija cheese.... on top of a bed of fries. It's magical when soft tender pulled pork hits crispy little fries.
If you haven't already, would you ever go brick-and-mortar? And if you have, is there anything you feel gets lost in the transition?
I actually just opened my first brick-and-mortar last November and I have two more scheduled to open before the year is over. I think you lose a little in the transition but if you make it an extension of your brand and not exactly like the truck you are OK.
How did you come up with your truck's design? Is there a designer you'd like to give a shout-out to?
We designed the first truck with one of our best friends Robert Cohen. It's actually quite funny, our first truck says, "Panini’s, chopped salads, and wild late nights." I think since our first month of being in business we’ve had one late-night service and have not served a Panini... ever. Our new truck is designed by a local street wear company that has been great. Their name is Imking. They also designed our shirts and my amazing business cards.
Does your truck have a vanity license plate? And if so, what does it say?
It doesn’t, but I’ve always wanted a Porsche that had the license plate "lime11."
What model truck do you have?
We have three trucks so they are all a little different.
What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to get into the food truck business?
Really love the industry and don’t do it to make money. It's a great way to make a decent income, work for yourself, and have an amazing time doing so. The hours are tough and the money is tight so you have to accept that before getting into the industry.
Any new upcoming dishes planned that you can tell us about?
I love doing things to order. We just launched a braised lamb neck crispy taco to order with a Spanish marsala sauce and crumbled goat cheese. It is sweet salty and delicious.
Any new plans on the horizon you can share?
The Lime Truck in everyone’s home in America. I can’t share how, but that’s the goal.
What's the most challenging thing about running your food truck?
It's a tough gig. It truly depends on where your strengths are, but I would say some of the most challenging parts of running a truck are the limited storage and equipment. You have to come up with a menu that is not only delicious, creative, and unique, but a menu that is congruent to your prep space, storage, and final execution on the line. A lot of people want to speak with me before opening a food truck and I think it's a wise idea; your concept can make or break you with any business, but it can really hurt you with a food truck.
Lots of things happen when running a restaurant, and that probably goes double on the road. As such, be it weird, funny, good, or bad, what's one superlative or particularly outstanding moment or story that's ever occurred with your truck be it with customers, in the kitchen, or just in general?
I think a lot of funny things have happened on the truck. The dynamic of individuals that work for The Lime Truck is amazing. We have known most of each other since high school.
Our chef Jason has a rule that you can never respond to a client with a blanket answer. (i.e. How’s the burger? It's great; we use ground chuck and add our own seasoning blend and marinate it for four hours.) So we made a fresh kiwano ceviche that had 12 different ingredients on it, and on the menu board we put "Ask Jason exactly what’s in the ceviche." The first customer asked him and he explained all the ingredients, same with the second. After the third customer asked he got angry and yelled at the customer, asking why everyone was so curious about the ceviche. It was funny and a moment that was priceless on the truck.
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