Photos By: Jason Richards
Knoxville's 2nd Food Truck Revs Up for Success
Driving down Magnolia Ave. in downtown Knoxville, I was excited to experience the town’s newest, unique food truck. It’s one of those spring days where the sun shines, and the rain comes and goes.
But the weather is no concern for Byron and Nikisha Sambat, the owners and operators of the Savory & Sweet Truck. The truck sets up right at the door of Marble City Brewing Company on Saturdays, and Bearden Beer Market on Fridays.
Both of these locations serve beer, but no food. “The combination works well for both businesses,” says Byron Sambat. “People drinking beer and relaxing may want something to eat, just as those that come out to eat at the truck will more than likely have a beer with their dinner.”
But the Sambats are not serving your typical bar food. The menu is not limited, a distinguishing characteristic from other trucks around the country.
“We are not a burger truck, or a vegan truck. We have a wide range of foods available and the menu changes seasonally, says Sambat. “However, our name is Savory & Sweet Truck, so our specialty items combine the two concepts that produce a balanced result.”
This concept is brought close to perfection in the local bacon-wrapped almond stuffed dates. It’s a perfect combination of “savory” fulfilling bacon and almond, with a “sweet” kick that leaves you wanting another.
Other specialties include the Strong Stock Farm sliders, topped with homemade pimento cheese and candied jalapenos. These are served on Harry’s Deli’s delicatessen bun, where Savory & Sweet purchases its’ bread products.
I chose the pulled pork tacos and order them extra spicy, by recommendation of a friend, along with roasted red pepper hummus, dates, and apricot tea.
Every item was delicious to every detail. To the tender juiciness of the pork, to the fresh pita bread and homemade hummus, to the mind-blowing taste of the dates, my stomach was overjoyed.
There are only a few food trucks in Knoxville, a couple of hard to find taco trucks, some catering trailers, and the Petro’s Chili and Chips truck. But the Savory and Sweet truck’s concept is “completely different.”
“Our focus is on the food and sourcing local ingredients for our food. The concept to take normal street food and elevate it to a gourmet level, but not too high that people are uncomfortable trying it.”
One example is the regular carnitas (pork) taco. It’s a coffee braised local pork shoulder taco, served with cilantro-lime slaw, and topped with a chipotle crème on a handmade corn tortilla.
“We want to show people that they can enjoy quality local food, even it comes out of a truck.”
And that is exactly what they do. However, preparing and researching for this concept was no easy task.
“Getting a truck up and running requires a large amount of time and planning,” says Sambat. “We thought about the idea almost two years before committing. You have to think through all the angles of your ideas and concepts.”
They chose to pursue a food truck business because of the freedom to find and choose locations.
“You can figure out where hungry people are and take the food to them. The possibilities of what you can do are endless, including catering, parties, fundraisers, tailgating, late night, festivals and more.”
“Sooner than later, we will also own the truck, instead of leasing or renting a building.”
Nikisha Sambat started a domestic kitchen last year called Kiki Foods. The Sambats sold baked goods at local farmers markets, hence the “sweet” part of the concept.
“Starting the food truck was a natural progression and gave us the opportunity to develop the ‘savory’ side of the business.”
After developing concepts, finding and decorating a truck, and securing local suppliers and places to vend on a weekly basis, the Savory and Sweet Truck was ready to launch.
The truck established itself downtown for March’s First Friday, despite the threat of a tornado that night.
“We still had a good crowd and we were able to see, for the first time, the genuine excitement that people have about food trucks in Knoxville.”
Their success relies completely on social media, updating their Facebook status and “Tweeting” their locations, current menu, future events and much more.
The Savory & Sweet Truck is currently working on setting up at several locations and events.
They will be at the Dogwood Arts Fair, April 13-15 and Rhythm & Blooms on April 22. They will also be participating in the Market Square Farmers’ Market serving on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the summer and fall starting May 2nd.
“We have plenty of requests for the truck to serve lunch at office complexes and cater private parties.”
The Sambats are still working out the details for an official launch party sometime in April or May.
“We would like to have a band or two come out and invite other food trucks to really make a destination event out of it,” says Sambat.
Sambat believes the food truck trend will catch on very soon in Knoxville. He anticipates several other trucks will be up and running by the summer of 2013.
With the boom in mobile food in cities such as Atlanta, Sambat says he “does not anticipate the trend losing any momentum anytime soon.”
“We would definitely like to see more food trucks on the road here in Knoxville.”
But for now, the Savory and Sweet Truck continues to expand creativity with its’ menu, testing what customers like the best. They aim to please the hungry stomachs of Knoxville, conveniently and creatively. A fine art indeed.
The Sambats have set themselves up for success. With research, planning, hard work and dedication, it is often hard not to.
“We have had, and are having, a great response from the truck so far and are excited to add more times and locations very soon.”
For times, locations, events and more information, follow Savory and Sweet Truck on Facebook or Twitter. Tell them BLANK sent you.