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Food & Drink

Owners of San Antonio's food trucks credit flexibility of location and creativity of menu creation for their mobile choices

Photo: Photos by Miranda Koerner, License: N/A

Photos by Miranda Koerner

Terrance Jefferson of Porky J's

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Photos by Miranda Koerner

Wheelie Gourmet owner Neil Hajji

After fighting a sour economy and poor locations for years, the Memphis-style barbecue joint Porky J's traded in its brick-and-mortar operation to take their pulled pork out for a spin in a shiny new food truck. "It's all pretty much the same," shrugs owner Ray Jefferson. "My pit burns off of wood just like theirs does. It's just mine is on a truck and theirs is brick in a building."

For Jefferson, going mobile in the new 'pork mobile' was a no-brainer. Porky J's struggled in Leon Valley at two different locations before a short stint on the West Side. With the aid of social media and strong word of mouth, the truck allowed Jefferson to take on catering jobs in any number of small towns ringing San Antonio. His father, Lawrence, retired from Brooks Air Force Base, smokes the pork ribs and brisket in the truck while his mother Sharon and brother Terrance cook and visit with customers.

"It simplifies the family business," Ray said. "We're able to be more creative. We can go outside the box. People are looking for stuff that is different. As long as the brisket sandwich tastes the same, no one cares where you're serving from."

And these customers don't just want brisket and ribs. They want the "Elvis Special," a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, or an "Interstate 61" sausage on a stick. With fries, not potato salad (though it is available.)

It doesn't hurt that his earnings stayed the same as the work week grew shorter.

"A lot of people post on the corner," Ray said. "I already got a customer base, so I don't have to sit on the corner and get noticed trying to get into a food park. If you hit a motorcycle rally or festival, carnival, you can make up to $3,000 in a weekend.

Low overhead and freedom to post your own hours are attractive to many culinary dreamers who want a restaurant without the mortgage. Kaycee Davies, owner of KC's Cones, says her truck at Boardwalk on Bulverde lets her moonlight as a snow cone guru while keeping her day job as a kindergarten teacher. "It's cheaper, and you actually own the truck," Davies said. "You're seeing more people go to food trucks. And you can go to the customer."

However, food trucks have their own set of problems. If a truck can't get into a food park, customers must eat standing up or go back to their car or home. City laws require a food truck stay at least 300 feet from a brick-and-mortar restaurant and require special permits from businesses wanting to host food trucks on their grounds.

While companies like Rackspace welcome food trucks, competition for space can be fierce. Add in tight quarters, long hours, and the freedom (and responsibility) of being your own boss, and starry-eyed culinary graduates might want to think hard before plunking down money for an Airstream. But despite all the hard work, many food truck owners say it's worth it. Emery Bueratiaz, a former Seattle restaurant owner opened Guilty Pleasures food truck at Boardwalk on Bulverde and loves it.

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