Street Food Profiles: Joes on the Nose in San Diego, California

"Joes on the Nose opened as a business designed to offer drinks to surfers and other beachgoers in San Diego county, so the only way to do this was to be completely mobile."


The Joes on the Nose signature orange truck. [Photographs: Joes on the Nose]

Name: Joes on the Nose
Twitter: @joesonthenose
Vendor: David Wasserman


Made with love!

What's on the menu? Beverages. We prefer to be known as a "drink truck" over a "food truck." We offer artisan espresso drinks, socially responsible coffee, teas, hot chocolates, cold brewed iced coffee and tea, blended drinks, smoothies, and more. Some of our "signature" drinks include our Aloha Latte, the Green Room, the Cheater Five, Flaming Chocolate, Horchata Latte, and more.

Location and hours? We park at three local farmers' markets a week, and also do private catering, festivals, and concert series.

How long have you been street fooding? Joes on the Nose opened up in May 2007. We just celebrated our third birthday by renting out a roller rink in San Diego.

How has Twitter affected business? Twitter's helped business. While we were already established "PT" (pre-Twitter), it's helped others find out about us as well as spread the word of our business. It's a great way to interact with customers, other truckers, media, and more. We use Twitter to further "explain ourselves," rather than as a tool to let customers know "where we are."


Don't get burned!

Why a mobile business over brick-and-mortar? Our concept was always to bring coffee "to the people." Joes on the Nose opened as a business designed to offer drinks to surfers and other beachgoers in San Diego county, so the only way to do this was to be completely mobile. It was also a great way to check the surf at the same time. We've since moved on to larger-scale events, where it's easier to sell more cups without driving around.

Who are your typical customers? Any special regulars? We have tons of regulars. Foodies and "coffee people" appreciate getting a drink with latte art; chefs coming to farmers' markets know that we're focused on drink quality. Our signature coffee drinks attract more people. We try to offer different styles of drink for different tastes. We're proud that all of our drinks are made with quality ingredients (certified organic/direct trade/socially responsible espresso and coffee from local coffee roaster, organic ground chocolate, etc) and with love. And with music blasting.

Describe a typical day. We make our coconut whipped cream each morning, turn the generator on, start warming up the coffee equipment and roll out. We grind and start brewing coffee when we arrive, and continue to do so as we unload and set up the truck. It's very important to have music blaring at this time, as the espresso machine isn't quite warmed up. People always show up a little before we're ready, and usually hang out and enjoy the tunes while watching us run in and around the truck. You kind of have to be a morning person if you work with us. The rest of the day we make drinks, clean up after customers (coffee is a messy business), and tell people to dance and/or sing along with us.

What were you doing before this? I grew up up in Brooklyn, New York, and worked in the film business as a grip for over ten years before moving to San Diego. I realized I was too old to become a professional surfer at the same time I realized surfers needed a fresh cup of joe when they got out of the water. Inspired, I built the truck in my driveway over a year while researching and tasting coffees and espressos.


Sweet gear.

What makes your drinks so special? Can anything else like it be found in the city? There's only a few places in San Diego where you can have a really well poured latte or cappuccino, or well-extracted espresso. We're proud of our ridiculously extensive (and sometimes silly) menu. Our sweet drinks aren't all that sweet, we use (real) tea in our tea lattes rather than an artificially flavored powder. We have something for everyone. We don't throw down an attitude at customers—though we do encourage people to dance while they wait for their drinks. OK, sometimes we make them.

How would you define "street food"? Whatever food's (er, drinks) "for the people." The newest wave of "street food" is certainly higher-quality food at a fair/lower price, which is apparently working out, due to the amazing expansion of this model. Good times.

The best street food city and why. First choice: San Diego, 'cause it's where we are. We have new additions to the food/drink truck world, which have unique more unique menus than I've seen elsewhere. Second: Oahu. It's where I first experienced quality food trucks (shrimp trucks of the North Shore, years ago), and where the water's always warm. There's a huge food truck scene there that is highly overlooked—go check it out. And I dig roots reggae.


Ready for service!

Your comfort food after a long day? Organic veggies from local farms, preferably in a salad, good bread. For a comfort drink, I'd make a double macchiato, or a black cup of coffee at home, french pressed or through my new Hario pourover. A good fish taco doesn't suck, too.

Advice for an aspiring vendor? Research. Look up other trucks, visit them, and research rules. I checked with the police department, local zoning and coastal commissions, and more before finding out (from a lifeguard) that retail sales were not legal alongside the beach. I usually suggest that people should think of their top three places where they want to/expect to sell and then to think about how to go about it.

Once that's figured out, come up with five completely different back up/alternative plans. Plans change, and it's best to be prepared, especially after investing time and money into a new business. Your back-up plans might actually work better than your original. (It did with Joes on Nose).

Also, lose any attitude you may have. You're not the first person to have a food/drink truck, and you must respect (and learn from) those that came before you. Source local ingredients if you can—they'll taste better and it's certainly better for marketing. And have fun.

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