The number of food trucks in Milwaukee has increased exponentially over the past few years, with offerings ranging from Mexican, Filipino and Jamaican fare to burgers, barbecue and more. In fact, it’s become nearly impossible to keep track of them all.
But a new truck, which made its debut this past week at Morgan Park in Bay View, aims to offer something that not many trucks have attempted: restaurant-quality fare.
The Fox Fire Food Truck is the brainchild of chefs Jacob Faber and Bryan Phillips, two chefs who once worked together at Honeypie Cafe along with Kari Faber, an industry veteran whose experience includes extensive event planning. The Fabers’ daughter also had a hand in the concept – drawing the adorable fox that adorns their logo.
Jacob, an accomplished carpenter who has worked in a variety of kitchens in Milwaukee, Chicago and Los Angeles, says the idea for a food truck began when he and his wife Kari lived in Los Angeles.
"At the time, the food truck scene in the area was established and really starting to blow up," says Kari. "We lived in Koreatown, as well, so there were street vendors everywhere."
"On one corner, you could get your Mexican corn, and on another corner, you could find a papusa that was being made on an electric frying pan on top of a shopping cart," notes Jacob, who says that, in addition to street food, the scene also included a variety of trucks serving up entree-style fare.
The couple moved back to Milwaukee in 2010 to be closer to family as well as to settle down as their daughter reached school age. And in the years that followed, the food truck idea kept circulating in their heads.
"More recently, I went back to working in carpentry," notes Jacob. "But I really wanted to find a way to get back into cooking and still support my family. The food truck concept seemed the right way to do that."
Plans began to solidify after a relatively recent dinner at Hinterland in Milwaukee’s Third Ward.
"We ran into Bryan there and talked with him about what we were planning. And he expressed an interest in being involved."
Phillips, whose experience includes a two-season stint cooking for Ed Carpenter and Team Penske on the Indy Car Race League circuit, says that experience gave him a good sense of the challenges faced with mobile cuisine.
From there, the three sat down to flesh out the concept – which they decided would include a seasonal menu offering up a variety of world-inspired comfort-food cuisine.
"I’ve always enjoyed learning about different cuisines," notes Jacob. "And I’ve always loved reading cookbooks and learning about the foods in various cultures and really seeing the similarities. I love the idea of combining those things and making something new. It’s a good example of what happens in America, with American cuisine."
With an emphasis on fresh and local, Fox Fire will begin by offering a rotating menu of sandwiches ($8) and sides ($3-4), including fried brussels sprouts; shoestring potatoes; Mexican corn on the cob; a banh mi made with beef short ribs; a hot buttermilk fried chicken sandwich basted in spicy bacon fat; po boys featuring fried green tomatoes and shrimp; and tortas stuffed with traditional refried beans and Oaxacan cheese along with non-traditional ingredients like meatloaf and duck confit.
During the Food Truck Friday at Morgan Park, the truck offered up a number of options including a pulled pork torta, a fried chicken sandwich and a hot fried chicken sandwich (each $8).
There were also crisp, hot hand-cut parmesan french fries ($4).
And smoked salmon tostadas ($5).
As the weather grows cooler, Phillips notes, they’d also like to roll out noodle soups like ramen or pho.
Ultimately, they also hope to offer more experimental dishes, including shareable items and entrees, which they can offer for dinner.
"We’d also love to offer larger format items that people could take home to feed their family for dinner or to take home for Packers games or gatherings," says Phillips.
Catering will also be part of the plan, notes Kari, who says they’ll keep the food truck running "as long as people are willing to stand outside and order,"
"We’re really looking to offer people an interesting menu that changes with the seasons, using things that look good at the market," Jacob says of the menu. "We’re looking to push the limits of what you can get from a food truck."
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.