Talking with Rachel and Donny of South In Your Mouth
1. Tell us about South In Your Mouth
We’re a food truck serving Southern cuisine. There’s no secret to our menu - we look for what tastes good and what’s Southern. We also look to what each of us, or our kids, would enjoy if we were going out to a food truck to eat.
All our food is hand made from scratch. Everything from the rub used on the pork butt, to the macaroni and cheese, and the black beans and rice - there’s nothing pre-made on the truck that comes out of a package. There’s a lot of prep work that goes into it but what comes out is a really delicious, high quality product. And our portions are enormous - nobody leaves hungry!
During the week we’re located at Browns Creek Fish Camp on Heckscher Drive and on the weekends we’ll either be at the Fish Camp or attending a festival or special event.
2. Can you describe Browns Creek Fish Camp?
It’s a waterfront facility on the north side about a mile from Blount Island. We have bait, tackle, 3 piers to fish on, a big grassy area for picnics, boat storage, drinks, ice, beer and that type of thing. It’s basically a one stop shop to come in and get whatever you need to go fishing. Then you can go out to fish or stay and fish from our place.
3. What are your respective roles at South In Your Mouth?
Rachel: Donny likes to cook and I like to eat, so we’re the perfect combination. When we got married there was a sign in my kitchen saying “I made my favorite thing for dinner - a reservation.” I’ve learned to cook (ha ha) but my background is on the business side. I have a business here in town and a marketing background. I also run a number of family businesses during the week but help on the truck for all the special events and with the business side of things.
Donny: my background is in cooking and construction. I still own a construction company and can help out as necessary, but the truck is my main focus. I cooked all through high school at various restaurants around town and got into the construction industry after college. I’ve always wanted to get back into the restaurant business and the truck allows me to do that.
Rachel: Our family purchased Browns Creek Fish Camp in 1994 and we've been thinking of adding a full time restaurant to the Fish Camp for a long time. When Donny decided to get back into the restaurant business it was a perfect fit. We started the food truck to get our name out there and to gain experience, while getting our processes down and having fun in the meantime. Each of us has our own distinct roles in the business and they come together to make it complete.
4. How did you come up with the name, South In Your Mouth?
We’d been trying to come up with a name. We’d gone through over 50 ideas and couldn’t agree on something we both liked. This went on for weeks. One night we were watching the Cooking Channel, like we always do. One of the chefs said “wow, that tastes like a little South in my mouth.” We both looked at each other and thought “there it is!” We’ve had more people take pictures of our logo - when we were in Daytona I’d count 200 - 300 people a day who ate with us and at least half of them stopped to take a picture of our logo.
Rachel: My favorite part is when they come up to the window and I say “what can I put in your mouth today?” That’s always fun.
5. When did you launch?
Rachel: We picked up our truck and our trailer in mid-February . Literally, as we were picking up our truck we were looking into Bike Week in Daytona. We both looked at each other and said “we can do this.” We needed to find a place to go and spots are both rare and highly coveted. It was really the last minute so I spent 3 or 4 days on the phone smiling and dialing to Daytona trying to find a place to vend for Bike Week. I finally found a place at The White Eagle Lounge. It’s a bar in the middle of nowhere. They normally had a barbecue truck from up North that came down during Bike Week but it had broken down so they had an opening for us. With a place secured we decided to commit to Bike Week. We did a trial run, serving about 10 people in our neighborhood from the truck in our driveway. The next day we drove to Daytona where we cooked for 10 days straight.
6. How was the launch?
Rachel: It was really fluid. With Donny’s cooking knowledge, our great crew for the week, effective advertising and focus on getting the menus perfected, we actually looked like we knew what we were doing. The guy next to us saw that we had a line going and was asking how long we’d been doing it. I had to say that we’d only be going for about 2 days! He smiled and walked away.
While we were at Bike Week we stayed in a camping tent behind the truck at this bar. We were only sleeping about 5-6 hours a night because we had to be cooking the rest of the time. It was a fun experience but we were ready to go home by the end, as were our 3 kids ready for us to return.
We learned a couple of things from our Daytona experience. Number one is that drunk people can’t read menus - you need to have pictures. Number two is that bikers come in all sizes, shapes and forms and they’re all really nice people.
7. Donny, did you go to culinary school? And do you have a particular style to your cooking?
Donny: No and no. I’m self taught. As for my style, I cook whatever tastes good. When I come up with something new I’ll try it out on the specials board.
Rachel: One day Donny made Smoked Meat Loaf. It was so delicious - juicy and melt in your mouth! We’ve only offered it as a special so far but it’s sold out every time we’ve had it.
Donny: I also have help from Jessica, who works with us full time. She’s been a friend of our family and is a graduate from Le Cordon Bleu. She’s fantastic and can cook anyone we’ve ever met under the table. She’s working on a menu of daily dessert specials for us now. It’s a challenge because we have to cook everything on the truck - we can’t cook in our house and bring it onto the truck.
8. What would you recommend for a first time visitor?
A good place to start is with the Knucklehead Sandwich. At Bike Week we wanted to relate to the people we were serving so we named our first 3 sandwiches after motorcycles - they were the Knucklehead, the Panhead and the Springhead. The names have now stuck. The Knucklehead is an amazing sandwich. It’s loaded with pulled pork that we top with a layer of homemade macaroni and cheese. We make our own cheese sauce and everything.
Our homemade Black Beans and Rice are amazing and make a great side to the Knucklehead Sandwich.
Donny: another great option is our Pork Soft Taco. It's made in a light, grilled tortilla that’s piled high with pulled pork and topped with salsa, sour cream, jalapeños, cheese, cabbage, black beans, Texas Pete and cilantro. It’s so big you can’t roll it - you need a fork.
9. What would you recommend for someone who’s more adventurous?
Rachel: The Dixieline Chili. It’s my favorite item on the menu. It’s from an old family recipe that Donny's grandmother originally wrote on her recipe cards about 50 years ago. It starts with a pile of steaming spaghetti that’s covered with melt in your mouth chili and a huge layer of cheese on top of the chili. All that is sprinkled with Texas Pete hot sauce and topped with oyster crackers. It’s ridiculously amazing. It’s served as a 3-way, 4-way or 5-way. The 3-way is the regular. The 4-way adds diced onions on top and the 5-way adds black beans on top of everything else.
10. Are there any items you’d consider to be hidden gems on the menu?
The one thing that’s surprised us is that when we do ribs for a special they don’t seem to sell. They’re tender, melt in your mouth ribs that fall off the bone. They're one of the best things on our menu but we have to work hard to let people know about them.
11. Why do you think that is?
Rachel: I’m not sure. I’ve asked a few people and the only feedback I’ve gotten is that they can be messy to eat. A lot of people like to take their food on the go and ribs can be more of a sit down meal with a stack of napkins.
12. What’s your most popular item?
It’s between the Knucklehead Sandwich, the Pork Soft Taco and our Baked Potato. We bake a large potato in the oven, then squeeze it open and put in some butter and a little salt and pepper. Then it’s piled high with pulled pork or pulled chicken, salsa, jalapeños, sour cream, cabbage, cheese, black beans, Texas Pete, and cilantro. At the Boat Show the Baked Potato was the biggest hit and we sold out of every potato we had on the truck for 3 days.
13. Are your portions as large as they look in your pictures?
Yes, they’re enormous. When you run a restaurant, or any business, you need to watch your costs but it’s important that you use your costs as effectively as you can to ensure that people are fed. We’ve been to take-out places where we’ve spent $9 or $10 for something and were still hungry afterwards. We wanted people to get a meal from our truck and think “holy smokes, how am I ever going to finish this?” There will be nobody who walks away from our truck hungry. It’s not going to happen.
14. Is your menu pretty set now or is it still evolving?
The menu we have is our base menu and we’ll supplement with specials most days. We want to give people a variety of tastes. We have people messaging us every day on Facebook to ask about our special. It keeps things fresh and interesting.
15. Where do you get your audience from?
We have a lot of retail traffic going through the Fish Camp. Blount Island is also about a mile north of us. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of daily workers at Jaxport and those workers have to eat every day.
Rachel: I was born and raised on Heckscher Drive for 37 years. There’s not a lot of choice for what to eat out here. Compared to downtown there aren’t a lot of other food trucks around - the nearest truck is 5 or 10 miles from us. A lot of people are excited to have a fresh option to choose from.
16. Will your truck move around or will you stay parked at Browns Creek Fish Camp?
We’ll do lunch at Browns Creek from 11am - 3pm Monday through Friday. On the weekends we’ll be open from 10am - 5pm and we’ll selectively go to events as they come up.
We’ve developed a network with other food trucks so when we’re out at an event we’ll always try to have another truck fill in at Browns Creek, so there’s always a good place to get something to eat. That’s one of the great things about the food truck community here - everyone is helping each other and not competing in a negative way. We were at the Boat Show earlier and when we ran out of propane the guys at What’s The Catch? gave us a tank of propane we could use until we refilled ours. Another day someone ran out of water and we gave them some of ours.
17. What’s next for South In Your Mouth?
Our 10 year plan is to have a waterfront restaurant that’s part of the Fish Camp. We want a bait shop, gift shop, kid’s play area, and a bunch of docks for boats to pull up. We’ve had that goal for over 10 years but it will still take us a while to get where we want to be. We’re looking forward to having a lot of fun along the way.