With Philly's L.O.S., Lucky Old Souls Are We
An interview with Matthew Feldman, founder of Philadelphia's Lucky Old Souls food truck
Philadelphia jazz impresario Matt "Feldie" Feldman’s Lucky Old Souls truck started out as a jazz radio show, and then a monthly concert series. Now, Feldie sources grass-fed beef from Lancaster County, and tops his L.O.S. burger with smoked Cheddar, pickled tomatoes, bacon cured by the truck, and sautéed onions, all whilst jazz plays from the Lucky Old Souls truck’s speakers. L.O.S. has gained quite the following and it hasn't gone unnoticed — it made The Daily Meal's 2012 list of 101 Best Food Trucks in America.
Read More: 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2012
When and how did Lucky Old Souls get its start? "October 16, 2011 at an event called The Switched-On Garden, the launch party for a new electronic music label called Datagarden," notes Feldie. "It was at Bartram’s Garden here in Philly." What was his inspiration? "I was frustrated that there was no place to take my family for burgers made with good, local, grass-fed beef."
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. In this interview, Feldie shares more about the story behind his truck's name, the realities of repairs, and what toppings to expect on burgers this winter.
What was the inspiration for going into this business?
My wife, who had previously been a vegetarian, was suddenly wanting to eat burgers all the time, so I started making them at home with beef from Rineer Family Farms and Wild Flour Bakery challah rolls (both of which we now use on the truck). After a particularly bad meal at a then-new burger place (which will remain nameless), I got the idea to open a burger truck. My wife said, "Great idea. Horrible timing." (Our son had just been born a month or so before.) Three months later, a food truck was for sale for what seemed like a very good price. I went to see it and put down a deposit that same day. That was late July 2011. We were open about two and a half months later. The idea has always been to serve food made with great, locally produced ingredients and to avoid as much as possible anything that is mass-produced. To that end, we quickly decided to make all our condiments from scratch and cure and smoke our own bacon. Basically, we wanted to serve food from the truck that we would feel good about serving to our own family.
What's the story behind the origin of your truck's name?
Lucky Old Souls is a name I first used for the radio show I hosted on G-town Radio, a community internet radio station based in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. The name is a hybrid of the old song "That Lucky Old Sun," which I was kind of obsessed with for a while (Louis Armstrong, The Isley Brothers, Yusef Lateef, and Johnny Cash have all recorded great versions of it) and the saying "he’s an old soul." I later used the name for the monthly concert series I hosted at Moonstone Arts Center. And when I was planning on opening a jazz club, "Lucky Old Souls" was going to be the name. It was a natural choice as the name for the truck.
How did you come up with your truck's design? Is there a designer you'd like to give a shout-out to?
Sara Selepouchin, of Girls Can Tell, lives in our neighborhood. We’d loved her stuff for a while. Shortly after we bought the truck, we ran into her at a first birthday party for the daughter of one of our other neighbors. I was telling her about the truck and I suddenly had the idea that she should do the artwork for the truck. All of Sara’s artwork consists of labeled diagrams. I loved the idea of labeled diagrams of all the things we’d serve from the truck, and even one of the truck itself! The artwork on the truck is all Sara’s, except for the logo, which my wife designed. Brands Imaging, a vinyl wrap company here in Philly, did a great job arranging Sara’s artwork and wrapping the truck.
What model truck do you have?
1986 GMC Value Van 35
What's your signature dish? Is it also your most popular dish?
The L.O.S. Burger is a burger with smoked Cheddar cheese, pickled green tomatoes, sautéed onions, our housemade bacon, and L.O.S. sauce (our version of a secret sauce). It’s very popular, but many of our customers also choose to build their own burgers. Our breakfast burger is also very popular at our weekend farmers’ market stops. It’s a burger topped with habañero Cheddar, a fried egg, our bacon, and blueberry jam. We also have a couple of unusual shake flavors: salted caramel (which is very popular) and maple black pepper (less popular, but equally good!).
What's the most challenging thing about running your food truck?
The two biggest challenges over the last year have been staffing and mechanical problems with the truck. If you take an old truck and put a commercial kitchen, a generator, a water tank, etc. on it, things are bound to go wrong. I’ve spent more money on repairs and maintenance this year than on rent for my commissary and insurance combined. As for staffing, right now I have a great group of people working for me, but it’s been very hard to find and keep good people.
What one piece of advice would you give someone looking to get into the food truck business?
Don’t underestimate how much money you’ll need for maintenance and repairs. You will miss vending days due to mechanical issues with your truck. This means lost revenue on top of whatever the repairs cost.
Any new upcoming dishes planned that you can tell us about?
This winter, sweet potatoes, cabbage, and carrots might all make appearances on special burgers. As for shakes, eggnog, ginger spice, and "hot" chocolate (with red chiles!) will likely return. And we might try a chocolate peppermint shake.
Arthur Bovino is The Daily Meal's executive editor. Follow Arthur on Twitter.
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