Luck of the lentil: Amy’s Truck bobs along
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • October 31, 2012 @ 4:13pm
Starting a food truck often fails to follow a comfortable, logical path—there are snags and breakthroughs, periods of discouragement and hope, just like the dawn of any other business. A food truck owner’s story, especially in an old-school city like Buffalo, is fascinating because it runs against the grain, since it takes “culinary cojones” to serve outside in the eight months of bitter cold, snow, rain and sleet.
A stroke of luck doesn’t hurt, either, as Amanda Amico found. Amy’s Truck—a mobile extension of the popular Amy’s Place, 3234 Main St., Buffalo—was a dream of Amico’s ever since the food truck craze began in Buffalo, but turning that dream into a Veggie-Wet-Shoes spitting machine wasn’t that simple.
After researching the mobile food business for over a year, Amico had prepared a detailed list of tools she needed for a workable food truck. Many of them were essentials—a sandwich cooler, a steam table, a char-grill, a fryer and so forth—but a reliable, affordable vehicle is usually the barrier that prevents many aspiring food truckers from starting business.
While spending time with her cousin in Rochester, Amico met one of her cousin’s friends, Carmen Gallo, the owner of CMG Trucking who fashions food trucks as a side business. After checking out the features of the truck he’d created—which was for sale—Amico was surprisingly satisfied.
“The truck really just fell into my lap,” Amico said with a laugh during our short phone interview. “I guess it was meant for me.”
After working for a decade at the restaurant, Amico had little trouble deciding on the menu items that her newly-purchased truck should carry. Specializing in vegetarian comfort food and acclaimed for its lentil-berry sandwich, Amy’s Place’s fare transitioned nicely to the mobile food setting. Amico opted against the majority of breakfast items for the truck, as keeping the menu manageable is a necessity for a business with limited employees.
Operating the truck on every other Wednesday at the First Niagara Center, every Thursday at Roswell and every Friday at Larkin—as well as several special events (see the full calendar here)—has life moving at a frenetic pace for Amico, who’s also working shifts at the restaurant. Although she’s currently using Amy’s Place as her commissary, which cuts down costs, she’s looking for financial assistance to help set her off on the right food. Using wepay.com, Amico is $1,505 of the way to $6,000 with 50 days left.
Though she admits that the fall isn’t the ideal time of year to start a food truck, Amico has learned a few lessons that would have been more difficult during the busy summer season.
“This time of the year is a little weird, but it’s allowed me to get into the swing of things,” Amico explained. “You really have to plan on places to park—I really thought there were more options. The vendor limitations at Buffalo Place have been tough, too.”
She hasn’t let her primary purpose for starting the truck leave her sights, however. If you’ve been to Amy’s Place for brunch on a Sunday or hungover a breakfast on the weekends—I’m looking at you, UB South students—you know that the place is wildly popular, but mostly just in a certain pocket of Buffalo. Amico wants the quality and mildly obscure Amy’s menu options—like lentil-berry sandwiches, for example—to be more widely available throughout the Queen City.
Amico wasn’t shy when discussing the lentil-berry wrap (below), which she claimed was the most popular in her first few days of operating the truck along with the lentil soup and the falafel.
“It’s just a giant, delicious lentil burrito,” she said. “People like the size, and it’s a really good recipe. We’re talking about a comfort food that’s been an Amy’s staple since 1981.” If it’s stood the test of time, it’s good enough for us.
The lentil soup is not boring by any means, as there’s a generous pool of hot sauce at the top of the bowl and noticeable spice throughout. The “Barb Special” (below) is a little cumbersome to eat—the pita that cradles the deep-fried eggplant, french fries, tomatoes and garlic spread tends to fall apart easily. The eggplant, however, is the equivalent of a Kobe burger for vegetarians and the French fries add an adventurous twist.
Still though, the Veggie Wet Shoes (Curly Q fries smothered with spicy lentils, grilled onions, peppers, tomatoes, topped with cheddar, with a side of sour cream) stole the show. Delicious and easily demolished when sober, I can’t imagine who heavenly these would be after a few beers or glasses of wine.
Keep an eye out for Amy’s Truck, as there’s nothing else quite like it on the move in Buffalo.
Also, Buffalo.com’s Katie enjoys it.