Thursday, August 18, 2011

Want a Burger and a Shake with that Pork Bun?

Richard Hales, chef/owner of Sakaya Kitchen, was not in pole position when the Miami food truck trend started. But when he unveiled his Dim Ssam a Gogo truck about a year ago, it quickly rolled to among the front of the pack, mobilizing Sakaya's offerings with some street-friendly contemporary Asian dishes and expanding them with some truck-only items. A few months ago Hales added a second truck, initially dubbed, somewhat uninspiredly, the "Sakaya Kitchen" truck. With a menu that was mostly a short-form version of the regular restaurant menu, the second truck primarily enabled Sakaya to be in two places at once (three, if you count the brick-and-mortar location in Midtown).[*]

Now that's all changed. Hales is rolling out not one, but two new trucks: the "Baketress" and "Burger Cheese Bun."

The "Baketress" will offer "a homey American dessert menu with an old southern soul," meaning soft-serve ice cream, fresh baked pies, made to order "hot now" doughnuts, handmade ice cream sandwiches, shakes and "re-created ice cream truck novelties." But while Hales has a sweet tooth, he doesn't claim to be a pastry chef. Instead he's bringing in some big guns to help: Vanessa Paz, formerly the pastry chef for Michelle Bernstein's restaurants. Those of you who were in attendance at our "Cobakayapaz" Cobaya dinner, when Chef Paz tried to kill us with more than a half-dozen gorgeous desserts (after seven savory courses from Chef Hales) will be anticipating good things.

(continued ...)

Meanwhile, the Sakaya Kitchen truck is going to become "Burger Cheese Bun." The minimalist name reflects the simple, straight-ahead concept: burgers, ground daily in-house with a blend of sirloin, brisket and oxtail; Martin's Potato Rolls (along with house-baked black bread for patty melts); and a simple list of toppings, using local and organic sources following the Sakaya Kitchen model. If you've tried the Sakaya "Bulgogi Burger," you know Hales can make a great burger.

I'll confess: the last thing I thought Miami needed was another place to get a burger. With at least a dozen new burger joints having opened in Miami the past couple years, and practically every local truck offering some variation on a burger, this is not exactly a matter of filling a vacuum. Another dessert truck wouldn't have been the first thing to jump to mind either, with roughly a dozen trucks on the road already offering some form of sweetness.

To stand out among that pack, you've got to do it right, and do it better. Hales has done that successfully with Sakaya Kitchen and the Dim Ssam a Gogo truck, and he's got some great help with Vanessa Paz on board for this latest venture. I'm interested to see if he can repeat those successes with the "Baketress" and "Burger Cheese Bun."

[*] Old-timey Firesign Theater fans are free to wonder how you can be in two places at once if you're not anywhere at all.

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