In the current issue of The Grid, David Sax says I’m boasting about wanting to revolutionize street food in Toronto. Boasting? Hmmmmm… Not sure how I feel about that. A couple years back in Gourmet Magazine Sax said I had a “modest goal” of selling great smoked meat sandwiches out of the Monarch Tavern. He was right. All I wanted was to make a living selling the food that I love to all comers.
Since that time much has changed but my ambition remains the same. What’s changed, you ask? Instead of using a 4 rack Bradley puck smoker, I use a 48 brisket Southern Pride. Instead of climbing the stairs of the Monarch every day, I’ve got a parking spot behind a dumpster on College Street where my very own restaurant bears my very own name (and way too many pictures of me). Instead of 6 or 8 of us slogging it out every day, there are over 30 of us now with all the baggage each of us carries. Mind you, I still rent an apartment by myself downtown. And I still have difficulty maintaining a relationship hence the living alone part.
However, my goal of serving the food that I love to the city that I love remains unchanged. And while others’ opinions may vary, I know that the food and service my team provides today is consistently better than its ever been. I couldn’t be prouder of what we do and I get asked all the time about opening other locations. My answer is always the same: “No thanks.” Why wouldn’t I want a chain of restaurants, you ask? I’m glad you asked…
I feel strongly that the deli business is intensely personal. Deli people tend to name the restaurants after themselves. It seems to me anyway that what we do is an expression of our passion for this food culture if not a sign of mental illness (or both). I mean, seriously, the stress of my job is unreal at times but maybe that’s just me. I’m losing my point (and my hair), which was that as the owner, I need to be there as much as possible. No one cares as much as I do about the fine details of what we do. The crispness of the fries, the temperature of the meat. That being said I’m blessed to have the most incredible team who really do care passionately about our guests and their experiences in the deli. Its only through their dedication that we’ve been able to achieve the consistency that we have achieved.
The bottom line is that if I were to have two locations something tells me I’d want to be in both places at once and that’s just not possible. However, to my way of thinking, a deli truck is the next best thing to having another restaurant. I don’t think people who buy sandwiches from the truck will expect to find me in it. And through ingenuity, technology and the miracles of social networking I think a deli on wheels will fill a huge void in this city and be the next best thing to eating in the restaurant.
A deli truck is better than another restaurant for soooooo many reason. First it costs a fraction of what a new space costs to outfit and decorate. Second, it solves the number one biggest challenge of a restaurant: finding a great location. Instead of making customers come to me, I’ll go to them – at any time of day. Location, location, location? You got that right. Favourable rents too. Add in the Hava Negila horn? Fuggedaboutit.
Michelle Rabin and I are doing deals with venues all over the city. This truck is going to make a lot of people happy in the city and I couldn’t be more excited. We had just hot dogs for many years then we had carts and now the era of the truck is dawning in Toronto. Launch date to be announced but it would be nice if it coincided with the three year anniversary of that first day at the Monarch, June 9 or my birthday June 17.
Good morning, city that I love. We look forward to serving you. Here’s my truck.