Street Food Profiles: Sugar Philly Truck in Philadelphia
What's on the menu? It's seasonal so we switch it up to offer the best we can. Right now, it's our Chocolate Bread Pudding with an Earl Grey Tea or Vanilla Creme Anglaise, Peanut Panna Cotta, Mango Rice Pudding with Basil Syrup and Coconut Meringue, Vanilla Crème Brulée, Creme Fraiche Cheesecake, Spicy Mexican Layered Chocolate Cake, and our French Macarons (Chocolate Ganache, Milk & Honey, or Chocolate with Hazelnut flavors).
Location/hours? The university students love us so we're mostly at 38th and Sansom (map), but we do move around Philly for special events and requests. That gives us variable hours, but we try to adhere to the lunch crowd from 12 to 3 and during the school year we serve the night sometime between 6 to 9.
How long have you been street fooding? We just started this year, unless you're talking about eating. Then the earliest between the three of us was probably back in '99!
How has Twitter affected business? It's great because it lets us tell our customers about where we are, special events, and any deals or discounts we may be having.
Why a mobile business over brick-and-mortar? Mobile lets us cover much more of the city if we need to. It's not about only bringing customers to the truck, but bringing the store to them. That way they can enjoy our desserts while still being in their favorite parts of the city.
Who are your typical customers? Mostly college students, University of Pennsylvania faculty, and office workers in the area. We have regulars who come by every week. It's great to be able to see the same people and develop a relationship with us. To us, that's whats its all been about. All of us at some point have had instances where we had gone to that one special places to get something comforting to eat from people who knew you already. We want to be there for our customers not only when they have a craving for our food, but also to give them a chance to smile knowing that we also care about them.
Describe a typical day from start to finish. A typical day will start around 7 a.m. In the kitchen, Dan (our chef) and our intern will have a 10 to 15 minute meeting talk about what to do for the day and review any kind of catering orders that must be addressed. We leave the kitchen around 11 a.m. and head over to the truck. Once we get there, we start the truck up, get everything to the right temperature and we open at noon. From there we vend until 3 p.m. During the school year we also open from 6 to 8 p.m. on certain days (check sugarphillytruck.com for opening times). We close up shop, take care of all the the maintenance that the truck requires.
What were you doing before this? With a business mindset, Franklin became a serial entrepreneur and currently enjoys working on three businesses. John attended Drexel in University City as well and works as a trader at a financial institution. John knew Dan during college and called him up. With some convincing, Sugar Philly got its chef. Dan always liked to do pastry work and worked in some restaurants.
What makes your food so special? Can anything else like it be found in the city? Our food is special because our desserts are truly gourmet. We aimed to bring food that a person generally doesn't make at home or find at a grocery store. Our whole concept is to provide desserts you would find at fine dining without the need to make a reservation and pay for a whole meal. Restaurant-styled desserts available and served to go. We skip the middle man. Have whatever meal you like and end it with a dessert from us. Because of that, you can't find desserts like ours anywhere else except for at the end of a meal at a nice restaurant.
How would you define "street food"? Meals on Wheels on steroids.
The best street food city and why. John would say LA since he's the only one that has been exposed to the mobile food scene there. But it's definitely between LA and New York. Both cities have great diversity of food you can get from a truck. From either city you can get a gourmet meal without ever stepping into a restaurant. Philly is just growing. It's not about going to trucks because you don't have time for a real restaurants, but now it's about going to trucks for real restaurant food because you want that unique experience.
Your comfort food after a long day? Depends who you talk to. Between the three of us, you can't go wrong with soup dumplings, hand drawn noodles, burgers and fries, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, nachos, Wawa, noodle soup, vietnamese sandwiches, and basically anything with rice.
Advice for an aspiring vendor? You have to experiment sometimes, but just be prepared for the experience to take longer than you think. To make things easier, do your research and prep to make the actual cooking easier. Don't be afraid to ask for help and refuse to give up. If you can do all that while not forgetting to have fun, you'll have a fine meal (or business) in your hands.