The Twitter handle pretty much sums things up. Two food-obsessed moms try to have their cake and eat it too: Start a food truck and still be home with the kids.
Meet the newest truck on the block to hit the streets of Emeryville. You can’t miss the baby-blue colored vehicle emblazoned with the Ebbett’s Good To Go insignia. And there’s no mistaking this mobile food biz for some roach coach come to dish up cheap, tasteless chow.
These mamas are peddling a trio of gourmet sandwiches the Yelpers are already barking about: Spicy Cuban pulled pork with ham, gruyere, jalapeno relish and chipotle mayo; Guinness and coffee braised short ribs with horseradish mayo, pickled red onion and watercress; and shredded tofu and Vietnamese-style Banh Mi with house-baked Hodo Soy Beanery tofu, pickled carrots, cucs, piquillo peppers, spicy pesto and sriracha mayo, all served on Acme Bread rolls, all $8, with a complimentary chocolate chip cookie to go. Grab ’em while they last.
Shari Washburn, 42, lives in North Berkeley with her husband and daughter Etta. Suzanne Schafer, 46, lives in the ambiguous border area between The Uplands in Berkeley and Rockridge in Oakland with hubbie and son Beck. (Ebbett’s is a mash-up of the childrens’ names.) Their kids, who attend the same school, are good friends. While hanging out on the playground, these two stay-at-home mothers cooked up the idea of starting a sandwich cart together.
Three weeks into their launch the lunch ladies will whip up around 1,000 sammies this weekend at the Eat Real Food Festival in Oakland, along with more than 80 other street food sellers. Oh, and did I mention Washburn is out of town so Schafer will be flying solo? She’s recruited a crew to help prep and get those sangers into hungry hands as quickly as humanly possible.
You can follow the trials and tribulations of these two novice street food vendors (think permit problems, parking challenges, and a last minute name change) on the often witty blog written by Washburn.
I spoke with the budding street food entrepreneurs several weeks ago at an impromptu picnic (sandwiches, of course) near the Julia Morgan Theater.
Why start a food cart selling sandwiches?
Washburn: We have no formal kitchen training but we both love food. We wanted to start our own food-related business and we thought a food truck was a simple, more affordable way to do that rather than shelling out big money for a brick-and-mortar place. We both have husbands who work long hours and young kids, so we wanted something that would work with a school pick-up schedule. And we did our research and we felt that there wasn’t anywhere in town selling really good sandwiches, so there was a market we could fill.
You live in Berkeley but you’ve chosen to take the truck to Emeryville in your first few weeks — why?
Washburn: We feel like that area is underserved by good food options and there are several big companies there, like Pixar, so it’s a good place to bring in foot traffic. Other local food carts, such as Liba, Jons Street Eats, and CupKates, have all done well there. Emeryville is an easier place to get a permit and it’s easier to park there too. In Oakland it’s either International Boulevard or private property. Berkeley is a tough, though not impossible, city to get a permit.
Do you have a favorite local food store?
Schafer: Star Grocery. This little market has been in business since 1922 and it offers high quality produce from local farms like Full Belly, Knoll, and Happy Girl. They really know the growers. I’ve been going there for years, it’s got a corner store feel and yet it sells local artisan products like June Taylor preserves and Phoenix Pastificio olive bread, and local, organic, sustainable meat and dairy.
What’s good about the food scene in Berkeley?
Schafer: Everything. Without even trying too hard everything grows here. When I travel I’m reminded that we live in the best U.S. city for food and produce.
What’s your schedule like and where do you see the truck heading next?
Washburn: Our schedule is a work in progress but right now we’re in Emeryville from 11:30 until 2:00 on Tuesday at 53rd & Hollis Streets, Wednesday at 64th & Hollis, and Friday also 64th & Hollis, when CupKate’s is there, including today.
Ideally, we’d like to find a few places outside of Emeryville. Starting in September we have something lined up for every other Friday in the city at a soon-to-be announced location. We’d love to be in Oakland, maybe near Summit Medical Center or Kaiser or on the Cal Campus. I look at those Watergate Towers and think what a food wasteland that area is. We’re open to hearing from people who want delicious lunch options about good places for us.
[Photos of Schafer & Washburn in kitchen, logo, and sandwich: Kristen Policy. Photo of truck: Cathy Stanley.]
Each Friday in this space food writer Sarah Henry asks a well-known, up-and-coming, or under-the-radar food aficionado about their favorite tastes in town, preferred food purveyors and other local culinary gems worth sharing.
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