Getting Messy Is A Good Thing At Sloppie Joe’s Food Truck
Grab a few extra napkins when noshing at this Yonkers–based food truck.
Photos by John Bruno Turiano
High on the list of iconic American comfort meals, the ones that your mom could assemble even if she wasn’t a great cook, is the Sloppy Joe. Consisting of ground hamburger meat, onions, and green peppers in a tomato sauce on a spilt bun, it’s messy to eat but quick to prepare and makes for a hearty, crowd-pleasing main dish.
Chef Joe Defeis of Yonkers is using this untidy sandwich (made with 100% Angus beef) as the basis for Sloppie Joe’s Gourmet Grub, a food truck he started in October 2017. We talked to Defeis about his business and what it’s like to head up a food truck.
WM: Why a Sloppy Joe truck? Is it a favorite food of yours or is it more the case you want to be something different?
Joe Defeis: “I knew I was doing a food truck but was unsure of a concept. There was this one day when I came home to my girlfriend and we were in the process of moving things in and out of storage so our house was a bit of a mess and she said to me as a joke ‘Why don’t you just name the truck Sloppie Joe’s?’ Right there it snapped and I looked at her and said, ‘You know what, that is a great idea.’ I looked into it and realized it is something that has not been done in the way I wanted to do it so I then worked on recipes for a few months until I nailed it.”
WM: What was the catalyst for you to get into the food truck business?
JD: “I’ve always loved food trucks. I worked one for a few months as a teenager and then owned a hot dog truck for a short period of time when I was 20. I decided to go full force and quit my full-time job to run the business now. I am a father and a father-to-be next month to my second child so I really just want to do something that can be a stepping stone towards a bright future for my children.”
WM: What did your significant other/family/friends say when you told them you were gong to go into the food truck biz?
JD: “My significant other was the one who really pushed me to follow my passion. She knew I was unhappy in my day-to-day work life and just wanted to see me happy. I mean, she technically did create the name. She is my other half in all aspects of life and my family is also an amazing support system, they trust that the decisions I make at this point in life are what is best for me and my family.”
WM: How much was your truck to purchase and what was it previously?
JD: “It was an old Tastykake truck, 1985 actually. I took out two loans to purchase it for an all-in more than 50K.”
WM: What is your bestseller?
JD: “The bestseller would be the Slop-a-cado Joe. Lettuce, tomato, thick-cut Applewood smoked bacon, signature Sloppie Sauce, and avocado on a multigrain or brioche bun.”
WM: What did you do previously for work and do you have any culinary training?
JD: “I worked for some popular burger chains [e.g., BurgerFi] and worked up the ranks from an assistant manager to a general manager to district manager to a regional manager for two different companies in the last six years but owning my own was always my ultimate goal.”
WM: What are your regular locations for people to find you?
JD: “Locations vary depending on a day-to-day basis. I always post my location on Facebook and Instagram so its best to just follow our page @sloppiejoesny to see where we will be.”
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