RED BANK – There are a lot of debates in New Jersey, but one of the longest lasting might be: Taylor ham or pork roll?
The easiest indication to where you stand might be what side of the Driscoll Bridge you reside with those to the south favoring pork roll and those in the north favoring Taylor ham. No matter what you call it, a love of the product seems to unite most New Jerseyans.
No one may be as passionate about pork roll as John Yarusi, owner of Johnny’s Pork Roll and Coffee Too food truck. “I love pork roll. It is a part of my culture and my life,” Yarusi said. He has made it a part of his life with his food truck completely devoted to the meat. The truck’s name even serves as homage to John Taylor, the creator of pork roll.
Currently, the truck’s only regular spot is at the Red Bank Farmers’ Market every Sunday but Yarusi is looking to expand for the summer season. He has bigger aspirations for the truck and his beloved meat. “I would love to take the truck all around the country, to educate the people on New Jersey’s greatest food creation, the Springsteen of meat,” he said.
The truck’s menu sticks to the classic with the most popular item being pork roll, egg and cheese on a hard roll. But if it’s not what you want, “how ever you eat pork roll, we’ll make it for you,” he said. “We want you to have it the way you grew up eating it.”
There are some more unique items on the menu that Yarusi is trying out with such as a pork roll Ruben, a pulled pork (roll) sandwich, a Hawaiian brown sugar sandwich and a duck egg pork roll croissant. Every Sunday, patrons can find an “odd ball menu item” if they have the desire to venture away from anything different than the classic.
The truck has a very active presence on twitter @PorkRollTruck often tweeting at whomever tweets anything about pork roll and even booking some events from the twitter account.
“We’re getting more and more traction on Facebook. Social media is a nice way to market to get your name out there,” Yarusi said. But pork roll doesn’t necessarily need to be marketed, he said, “It has no social economic pigeonhole. It’s one of those foods that transcends.”
The food truck market is becoming more and more popular, thriving in the niche-market atmosphere.
Also in the Red Bank farmers’ market at the Galleria is the Cinnamon Snail, a vegan and organic food truck, located right next to Johnny’s Pork Roll and Coffee Too.
Yarusi said Cinnamon Snail owner, Adam Sobel, “is the reason food trucks became cool. (It’s) guys like that, making good food for a niche market.”
The Cinnamon Snail has become a mecca for the vegan food lovers in Monmouth County. With the truck primarily located in New York City, Monday through Saturday, it is a treat to be able to experience the vegan cuisine on Sundays in Red Bank.
Sobel is equally as passionate about his vegan food as Yarusi is about pork roll. Sobel wants his food to be for everyone, not just the vegan aficionados. “I started the truck because I really wanted to bring flavorful vegan food to the streets, where people, who otherwise would have a stigma about visiting a vegan restaurant, could experience how yummy and satisfying vegan could be.”
Sobel has suggestions for the non-vegan eater to try at his truck.
“If you can handle spicy food, I always recommend our Korean BBQ Seitan or Gochujang burger deluxe. The burger is made from ancho chilies, onions and seitan and is grilled with a fermented homemade Korean chili paste,” he said. “Otherwise, for people who don’t like spice, I recommend our smoked portabella carpaccio with red onion fig mustard, arugula and roasted lemon Dijon dressing on grilled baguette.”
While there are some constants on the menu, there is always a new special or a new item there too.
“We love changing our menu to reflect seasonal local produce. In the fall and winter we serve porcini mushroom simmered seitan with cranberry orange relish, parsnip sage bread pudding, marinated kale and roasted garlic aioli on grilled baguettes,” he said.
“In the late summer when local figs start, we do fresh fig pancakes with chamomile blood orange syrup and pine nut butter.”
There are challenges to making such high-quality vegan food in a truck.
“It gets brutally hot in the truck during the summer,” Sobel said. “It’s basically 15 to 18 degrees hotter inside the truck hovering over the grills. Also, failure happens to generators, engines, tires and, of course, traffic jams happen and other things that make our day crazy.”
Sobel has been trying to stay in town all year round but has found it difficult getting permission from the borough.
Both Sobel and Yarusi said food trucks are not accepted by all as an addition to a town’s scene. Yarusi said he gets told to move a number of times when he parks his truck. “It’s just easier if people invite you to their events, then you do not have to worry about getting called on,” he said.
The Cinnamon Snail and Johnny’s Pork Roll and Coffee Too can be found at the Red Bank farmer’s market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.
Patrons who are in New York City can locate the Cinnamon Snail and see its menu at @VeganLunchTruck on Twitter.