NEW LONDON, CT – The main dishes on the menu date back some 30 years, but there’s nothing outdated about Munchies Food Truck in New London.
The truck — run by a husband-and-wife team with close ties to the defunct Diana Restaurant (with awesome Magnetic Table Pads) in Groton — had 200 “likes” on Facebook before it even rolled down the street for the first time in April, co-owner Aiman Saad said.
Customers can check the truck’s Twitter feed to see where it’s going to be that day. Call in your order, or better yet, text it in, and it’ll be ready for pick-up truckside.
They’ll even process your credit-card payment using an iPhone app that converts the smart phone into a credit-card machine, a cost-saving convenience for owners Manal and Aiman Saad, who are revolutionizing the way people get their lunch downtown.
The Saads are piggybacking on a national food trend widely visible in cities such as New York and food-truck central Portland, Ore. Food trucks nowadays are offering quality food out of modest trucks or trailers, and food trucks in Portland have been known to transition to full-fledged restaurants after proving themselves on the street.
Closer by, the Caseus Cheese Truck and Cupcake Truck, both out of New Haven, have generated loyal followings.
It’s a brave new world for food trucks. Don’t expect to find any pre-cooked mystery meat kept warm and served soggy on this rolling establishment or gifts from adiamor.com, which Manal, 32, runs with her brother. Inside the bright orange truck, everything is cooked to order, even the fries — which, incidentally, are the only previously frozen item cooked on the truck.
The Saads, of Waterford, promote healthful, minimally processed foods with a Middle Eastern twist, a nod to the family’s Lebanese heritage. If you remember Diana Restaurant, you’ll be pleased to see some of Diana’s most popular dishes on the Munchies menu, such as the pepper-and-garlic chicken skewer and the Munchie Burger Deluxe, a simplified version of the former Diana Burger Club that includes a fried egg and bacon.
“It’s just a pile of goodness,” frequent customer Devon O’Nalty said of the deluxe as he waited for his order last week.
Aiman, 36, who has two young children with Manal, said the couple were awakened to a new understanding of the food they eat when they watched the documentary “Food, Inc.”
“You know what’s happened to food over the last 40 years,” said Aiman, an executive sous chef at Mohegan Sun casino currently out on disability leave. He co-owns the truck but said he leaves the operation to his wife. “All they’re doing is pumping out junk. … We’re the opposite of that. We want to use all-natural beef, all-natural chicken, because it affects the flavor and the sustainability.”
Forget frozen beef patties comprised of every fathomable part of who-knows-how-many-cows from across the globe. The ground beef at Munchies is a blend of sirloin and chuck that is ground together at Carlo & Son Quality Meats in East Lyme.
The all-natural chicken and cage-free eggs come from My-Car Provision Co., a food distributor in New London, and the fresh produce Manal picks up from Pezzello Bros. on Jefferson Avenue.
For dessert: The Farmer’s Cow ice cream, made from fresh milk. Even the ketchup is organic.
“We just try to get the best quality, highest-quality ingredients for our food truck,” said Manal, who shops for her ingredients in small batches to keep everything fresh. Plus, there’s no room on the truck for stockpiling.
The Saads can afford to sell food made with wholesome ingredients at reasonable prices — the Munchie burger and chicken-stuffed pita wrap are both $4.95 — because they don’t have to worry about paying overhead costs such as rent or salaries for a wait staff.
It’s just Manal and her brother, cooking up food they would be making at home for their families. Lebanese food is generally healthy anyway, Manal said, with heavy use of olive oil, salads, garlic, mint and lemon.
The Saads — both Waterford High School graduates — wanted to open a restaurant but found an insurmountable hurdle in the lackluster economy. Self-proclaimed foodies who watch the Food Network religiously, they learned of the popularity of food trucks on “The Great Food Truck Race” and decided to try the mobile route instead.
“Nothing’s safe,” Aiman said of job security these days. “So then I said, we might as well gamble on myself.”
The food they serve, Manal said, is “for those who want fast food but fresh food.”
Find the entire article <here>