In 2014, Jacob Hunter and Will Fung, who met while working together for Matchbox Food Group, decided to take to the streets and open up a food truck. Their truck is called Dirty South Deli and it specializes in providing unique and delicious sandwiches to the DC area.
To Hunter and Fung, sandwiches are about more than just bread, cheese, and meat. There isn’t much these guys won’t try putting between two slices of bread. Since opening, DSD has served over 100 different sandwiches and continues to change up their menu to fit the seasons and trends.
Their most popular sandwich is named Mr. Chips after Hunters deceased cat (it’s not sad, he assured me) and it’s stuffed with chopped pork, bread and butter jalapenos, Manchego cheese, cilantro and citrus mayonnaise.
Hunter and Fung’s efforts have not gone unrecognized, as Dirty South Deli has been met with much public enthusiasm. They were recently named “Food Truck of the Year” by the DMV Food Truck Association. Their Mr. Chips sandwich also won editor’s choice for best sandwich by the Washington City Paper.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Hunter and Fung to talk about what it takes to run a food truck, what they’ve enjoyed about the experience, and what they see for the future of DSD.
Spoon: What made you decide to do the truck?
JH: Like I said, we were both working for Matchbox and my time was coming to an end there and [Fung] was on a leave. A buddy of mine had bought a truck and was looking for more of an investment opportunity for us to do on the side. I was like “Okay, I can do this, I can leave this position.” We kind of jumped into it feet first.
Opening a truck is also cheaper than opening a brick and mortar restaurant, so if it failed we were out maybe 60 grand as opposed to four or five hundred grand.
Spoon: You’re known for having a lot of unique and crazy sandwiches. What inspires those sandwiches?
JH: We try to source locally as much as we can. Seasonality is a big inspiration, there’s so much cool stuff coming out right now, so winter was a little harder. I always try to take meals that you would eat and make it into a sandwich. It’s really just whatever pops into my head.
I wanted to do a sandwich with sea urchin on it so we may do that soon with scrambled eggs and tobiko, like a really high end sandwich. We can probably only sell five of them a day or we’ll go broke, but just fun stuff like that.
We wanted to bring something different for people, bringing restaurant quality sandwiches to the truck instead of just using processed deli meats. We roast all of our meats in-house and make our own cheese when we can. We are just trying to take a more creative spin on the food truck, especially because we didn’t see any other sandwich food trucks like ours.
Spoon: Do you have a favorite sandwich?
JH: I guess Mr. Chips, it’s our most popular one. It actually was kind of a happy accident, I just threw some stuff together that I thought would be good and it ended up winning critic’s choice in the City Paper last year. It has helped get our name out there. I’ve had some favorites that are a little too strange for some people, and the people that get it like it, but it’s not the everyday thing.
I really like doing the vegetarian sandwiches especially with the seasonality, there’s so much available right now. I’m not a vegetarian by any means, but I really like making vegetarian sandwiches because you can put so many cool things together.
Food trucks don’t usually cater to the vegetarian and vegan crowd, they may have one option but we make some really cool stuff. Right now we are using purple sweet potato and pesto and queso fresco and some greens. So we try and always outdo the vegetarian sandwiches. And I think people really appreciate it, I have lots of people come up and order them that aren’t vegetarians.
What do you think the food trends of 2016 will or should be?
WF: I think they should be about making food more accessible and not being super fine dining but thinking about how we can feed people of all income spectrums. I also love restaurants that just do one thing and do it really well. I really have respect for people that stick to exactly what they want to do and execute it really well.
JH: I’d like to see more use of local products but more in terms of vastness. You tend to see people using the same things, so I’d like to see more broadness in the use of local products. I also like clothing companies that sponsor chefs, like Vans or Stan’s Socks. So if you can get a clothing company to sponsor me, that would be awesome for me as well. And Lululemon shorts.
Spoon: Where do you see yourselves in the future, or are you focusing on the now?
JH: Both I guess. Like I was saying, we do want to grow and expand and eventually have a brick and mortar. But there’s also no rush, we are still figuring out what we do. When we find the right place and the right next step for us we will take it.
WF: We are starting to build traction, and you start to get in a better situation the more traction you have. People are starting to want us places.
Spoon: Any last words on how college students can make it in the food industry?
WF: If you’re in school looking to go into the food industry, never burn bridges, try to work in as many places as you can and grab the best elements out of all the places you work.
JH: What you see on TV and movies and what you learn in school, throw it out the window for real life. I went to culinary school, but if you can’t keep up in real life it doesn’t matter what you did in school. Its nothing like the movie Chef — it’s hard work.