Written by Aaron-Michael Fox
Residents of, and frequent visitors to, downtown Huntington have no doubt about the city center’s burgeoning restaurant scene. But for those of us who are really into food, there’s nothing like eating some deliciousness out of a disposable container from a streetside food truck.
Over the past few years Huntington has seen a steady increase in food trucks and I am happy to announce that the latest one, Truckin’ Cheesy, just launched a couple weeks ago.
According to owner/chef Tyler Shelton, Truckin’ Cheesy is setting out to put a new spin on traditional American fare with some multicultural flare. From the Kujo Tacos (made with grilled cheese sandwiches instead of taco shells), to the Big Bang Burger served on a doughnut bun, the menu at Truckin’ Cheesy is full of familiar flavors combined in experimental ways.
I got to sit down with Mr. Shelton and discuss his culinary vision.
AMF: Okay, so I’ll start with the obvious question. Why did you launch Truckin’ Cheesy? And why a food truck instead of a proper restaurant?
TS: We launched Truckin’ Cheesy because we love cooking and serving the people. We’ve been in the restaurant industry over 10 years and been in a lot of restaurants and trucks and the truck aspect is a lot more fun, but can be a lot more work. Being outside and enjoying the weather is a big part of it, although it’s really cold in the winter!
AMF: I’m guessing it’s warmer in the truck.
TS: (laughing) Sometimes. Due to the hood system, it does pull a lot of cold air into the truck though.
AMF: So have you been specifically into the food truck scene for a while? I know many cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles pride themselves on their food truck scene.
TS: I have mostly not in this area, but I’ve always loved seeing them at the fairs, with the funnel cakes and such, but really after running a truck for someone else, that’s when I realized I can do this. I have a history in construction before I started cooking, so the two experiences just collided into building my own truck.
AMF: I like food trucks because I like being out in the city. I like sidewalk cafes and communing with other people. I think that’s my favorite thing about food trucks, they take the food out of the “restaurant.” I’m not judged for what I’m wearing and the food isn’t judged by its plating.
TS: Exactly. I’ve never been big into going in and dining [and have] mostly just cooked for myself. Always have enjoyed firing up the grill and cooking outside.
AMF: It’s primal. As close as we can get to a prehistoric community campfire in downtown Huntington in 2019.
TS: So true. I’ve seen people sit down on the sidewalk and still love what they are eating.
AMF: I’m not going to lie, I’ve sat down on the edge of the sidewalk with my food before.
TS: With a restaurant, you have to build that atmosphere. Somewhere people can feel comfortable in and enjoy. I guess with the truck your food better be really good [to get] some people out of their comfort zone of that built atmosphere.
AMF: On that note, is there anything specific you think you can do with a food truck you couldn’t do in a walled restaurant?
TS: Well in most restaurants, the chef or cook doesn’t get to engage with the customers, so I think sometimes it is much more personal. You know a restaurant may have 10 cooks, sometimes the food is going to be different. With just one cook in the truck it stays consistent and the customer can always holler at me and say “Hey, make sure that’s well done!”
AMF: For some reason, a lot of people seem to think of food trucks as being akin to fast food, but that’s not been the case in my experience. Food trucks are just regular restaurants without the walls.
TS: Yeah, not with my truck. We spend top dollar on our product. We wanted to have high quality restaurant food. No soy filler, no cheap substitutes.
AMF: And what do you have to say to the people who might criticize you for putting a hamburger on a doughnut bun?
TS: I mean, don’t knock it until you try it. Literally two weeks ago, a woman came asking about it, and asked what came on it. We said “Well, everything.” She says “Well, that’s sounds weird.” But she tried it–with everything–and she loved it. I thought having different bun options would be fun, and different, just put a spin on your ordinary restaurant experience. You may try my burger one week on an ordinary brioche roll, then the next week on our pretzel roll or doughnuts, each time it will be a different experience. I love our pretzel rolls, but I also love a bacon, egg, and cheeseburger on grilled Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
AMF: Well, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve tried so far and I wish you the best of luck.
TS: Thank you!
Truckin’ Cheesy is still finalizing their regular daily schedule, but you can count on them being on Fourth Avenue on Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Follow them on Facebook or go to their website TruckinCheesy.com to keep up with where they’ll be this week.