Crispy fried chicken, sweet and savory barbecue and fries covered in cheese and bacon bits are just a few foods that represent the spirit of American comfort food.
They are also just a few of the possibilities at the Martin’s Side Street Deli Food Truck that brings the taste of Martin’s Supermarket delicatessens to the streets of the greater South Bend area. From Elkhart and Mishawaka, to Buchanan and Middlebury, Side Street has made the rounds in Michiana food truck hotspots and secured itself as a must have for South Bend festivities.
A food truck was a new idea for Martin’s in 2017, thought of by Roxanne Pallo and Jane Case-Com. Like many long-established food businesses that step into the domain of mobile food, introducing a food truck was an opportunity to extend the reach of the brick and mortar by providing another channel through which the community could enjoy Martin’s locally famous tastes.
“I think it’s the atmosphere,” said Brittany Szczechowski, the catering and food truck manager for Martin’s. “Sitting at a park to hear good music is different than just going and sitting in a restaurant. People like getting out and doing stuff. If you can get great food along with it it’s even better.”
Side Street is a busy food truck. According to Brittany, the food truck can easily be going afternoons and evenings five days a week during the warmer months. In one weekend in 2018, Side Street was at Fridays by the Fountain in South Bend, catered a graduation party Saturday afternoon with a full taco spread, hit a beer festival later in the evening with Philly cheese steaks, then was serving mac and cheese at a child’s birthday party Sunday afternoon. Side Street has covered every variety of outdoor events, from annual festivals and weekly spotlights, to company picnics and weddings.
“We have the availability to be able to do that. A whole deli or store can’t change and go on a whim,” Brittany said.
The food change-ups are one of the big draws for Side Street. Where other trucks can create diversity within their designated styles, the 22-foot-long Side Street truck with four panini presses, two fryers, a stove and oven, two stand-up coolers and a sandwich prep station lends itself well to diversity and menu changes.
But like most food trucks, Side Street keeps its center on the always welcome tastes of the sweet and salty, crunchy and melted, grill seared and fryer kissed foods.
“We tend to do elevated comfort food. Everybody feels comfortable with fried chicken and mashed potatoes, or fries. We just like to add sour cream, chives and bacon bits to ours. We think everything is a little better with bacon,” Brittany said, referring to Martin’s famous Hoosier fries.
Side Street Deli finds the balance between providing its own specialty foods while offering Martin’s favorites. Fried chicken was a must for the food truck.
“Anybody who knows Martin’s knows we have the best chicken around,” Brittany said. “We embrace what we do best, it would be silly not to have some of that stuff.”
Brittany’s pride in Martin’s fried chicken cannot be mistaken for condescension or dislike. She believes Side Street is complemented by the presence of other food trucks. The diversity of options is not only for the benefit of people buying from the trucks, but it’s also to the benefit of the trucks themselves.
“It broadens people’s horizons in cuisines. You can have all this different stuff within one block of each other. It opens them to try things they might not have ever tried before,” she said. “We learned very fast that food trucks are not all for one. We work together and it benefits us, especially in South Bend. We work together and see each other at same events. It’s like building food truck family.”
The Side Street Deli Food Truck will get the rubber back to the road in mid-March. Its first event of April is Thursday the 11th at Bayer in Edison Lakes, and it will be found throughout greater South Bend and St. Joseph County, Indiana throughout the summer.