(Updated with details of Taqueria Autentica truck at Montclair farmers market, after the jump)
Take two inspired men, a passion for healthy, tasty food and a vision of running a restaurant one day, and what do you get? Well, Two Pitas in a Pod, to start with. A kitchen on wheels which they hope will grow legs as their business idea, and Mediterranean-themed food offerings, take off, leading to bigger and better things.
Owners Scot Sherwood and Athos Kyriakides say that Two Pitas is the compromise between realizing their restaurant dream and making some of it happen right now.
“We discussed opening a falafel business for a year and a half, but the overhead expenses with a brick-and-mortar were too high. That’s still the ultimate plan though, in about two years’ time,” said Kyriakides, 35, who lives in Jersey City.
Kyriakides, ’93 grad of MKA who later majored in English, is the marketing master of the duo, and Atlantic Culinary Academy-trained Sherwood, 34, the executive chef from Wayne with a masterly touch of converting the dubious.
“Scot (on the left in photo) has always been interested in food and always does the cooking when we get together,” said Kyriakides (pictured on the right). “He once came over to my house with a turkey breast that he had marinated overnight. Now, I never liked turkey and wouldn’t touch the stuff normally, but Scot grilled it, and wow, it turned out so moist and really, really delicious.”
America’s taste for gourmet meals on wheels began to develop on the west coast and, since then, such trucks have dotted densely populated areas such as Manhattan, NYC, Austin, TX, and Los Angeles, CA, with a plethora of menus. The trend has been helped, no doubt, by demand for fresh and tasty food and a struggling economy.
Montclair saw its first gourmet food truck in March, when Qba Cuban Cuisine – owned by residents Lynna Martinez and Marilyn Sanchez – began its rounds at parks and train stations.
And a welcome sight at the local farmers’ market has been that of the Taqueria Autentica food truck. Taqueria‘s owner Michael Natiello said that what started as a taco stand at the market transformed into a truck earlier this year and became a routine feature at the market weekly since June.
Still, while other cities in the state may be familiar with food trucks, Montclair and Baristaville are yet to catch up, so the more offerings, the merrier.
So, what exactly can we look forward to from Two Pitas in a Pod?
For starters, everything will be made fresh.
There’ll be falafel galore, several types of meat skewers and a choice of eight vegetarian toppings including white bean hummus, tomato and cucumber salad, red cabbage slaw with sesame seeds, pickled onions, pickled zucchini, curried carrots, jalapeno ginger chutney and lemon-mint roasted beets, along with the basic lettuce and tomato toppings.
Sauces include tahini, chimichurri and tzatziki. There will be chef’s specials, and the Pod will operate all year round.
Belgian-style frites will also be on offer, with homemade aioli. The falafels will sell for about $5 apiece, frites at $2 and truffle frites at $3. Meat skewers will include lemon and coriander chicken, Greek red wine pork and kefta kebabs (lamb) for $6-7.
And while they’re starting off with white pita, they’re happy to include wholegrain pita bread, if that’s what their customers want.
Are the Two Pitas worried about the competition (Qba)?
“Well, there’s friendly competition, to get our brands out there. But they (Qba’s owners Sanchez and Martinez) do Manhattan a lot,” Kyriakides said.
The duo plan to operate in Montclair and Hoboken from the first or second week of September, probably, in the former, from the Watchung and Walnut train stations.
“We love Montclair, it’s got lots of character and we spent lots of time in Montclair in our younger years,” said Kyriakides.
Overhead costs with a restaurant were a worry, so Kyriakides and Sherwood plowed $70,000 of hard-earned savings into their Pod – a truck with a custom-built professional kitchen befitting executive chef Sherwood.
Equipped with a two-burner range, charbroiler for meat, a deep fryer for falafel and plenty of refrigeration, it’s set to be delivered around mid-August, and once the duo receive the township’s approval in the way of a mobile food-vending permit (contingent upon inspection of the truck), it will be all systems go.
“There are few options for great falafel in Jersey,” said Kyriakides. “We’re hoping to fill that gap and offer something to everyone that’s fast, fresh and healthy.”