the cluck truck & other pipe dreams

July 26, 2017

We first thought of it at Unicorn, a colorful bar in the once-alt Pike/Pine corridor known for its carnival-style food menu (corn dogs, funnel cake, etc.). It was a work happy hour, and we were the first ones there, so we bantered and batted ideas around for the next job, the fun one, the dream project that would get us away from our desks and computers and routines and out into the real world, where we’d work with our hands and interact with people and wake up every day pumped to get after it. “It isn’t work if you love what you do,” and all those millennial creative-isms ringing in our ears, visions of bearded chocolatiers and mason jar-peddling jam-makers filling our heads, well-dressed and cohabitating in a Kinfolk-worthy live/work/farm space with minimalist-eclectic décor, every meal a sunset gathering of friends in the style of a Bon Appétit aspirational lifestyle spread, my other car is a sailboat.

The Cluck Truck, we’d call it, and the slogan would be Keep on Cluckin’, and the menu would be narrow and niche and nostalgic: chicken nuggets, several different styles, several different sauces. A stranger behind us overheard and joined in, offering encouragement and a few flavor ideas—something maple bourbon, for a sophisticated spin, something in panko with a tangy katsu-style sauce. The idea for the food truck was a new one, but it wasn’t the first of its genre.  Patrick, the mastermind behind the Bagel Hole™ and ice cream dippers (you know, chips made of waffle cone) spearheaded most, but the group dynamic was needed to get the ball rolling.

Some of our enterprise ideas had been infinitely practical. We were all copywriters—let’s just start our own content company! Work for the clients we want. Set up shop in a cool co-working space closer to where we all live. Some were just ongoing comedy bits, like the bindle shop, in which we’d make turn-of-the-century hobo accessories hip again.

The Cluck Truck got some traction, though, and resurfaced every couple of weeks. What sort of sides would we offer? Some kind of slaw? French fries, maybe—but what kind, other than definitely not crinkle-cut? Tater tots? Tater tots made of some fancy array of root vegetables—daikon, maybe, or taro, or beets? And, chicken nuggets being the star of the show here after all, how many different breadings and sauces did we want? Not too many, to be sure, but an interesting variety—and would they be true nuggets, made of ground meat, or more like small tenders, sliced and brined and then battered for a firmer, fleshier bite?

And then we thought maybe we were getting ahead of ourselves. We needed to recipe test, to be sure, but before we went full on into menu development, we should do a little research. How much money it takes to get going, how to get a business license and the necessary permits for food, does anyone know how a deep fryer works, where are we sourcing our chicken—who has a chicken guy? Some preliminary googling wasn’t great news, as the capital needed for your standard food truck operation (according to Quora, and other authorities) was looking like more than guessed it at and when we pooled our resources we had roughly eleven dollars each that we were willing and able to put on the line.

We’ll keep looking into it, I’m sure, until we think of the next thing, and then we’ll look into that, and one day we’ll look back and think that if we had just put the time we spent talking about these ideas into actually making one of them happen, maybe instead of being in here now we’d be out there, peddling nuggets to the delighted passersby, pouring condiments into tiny paper cups, scrubbing fryer oil off the steel counters in our chicken-shaped truck.  But we all have jobs, comfortable and boring, and that’s the thing about decisions (and risks)—they’re only easy to make (and take) when there is nothing at all to lose.

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