Olympia, WA: Today A Food Truck, Tomorrow A Restaurant

Jacob David prepares a lunch request as his sister Lisa and employee Johnny Atlas work on incoming orders at the Nineveh Assyrian food truck in Olympia.

By Rolf Boone  |  The Olympian

Jacob David prepares a lunch request as his sister Lisa and employee Johnny Atlas work on incoming orders at the Nineveh Assyrian food truck in Olympia.
Jacob David prepares a lunch request as his sister Lisa and employee Johnny Atlas work on incoming orders at the Nineveh Assyrian food truck in Olympia.

Lisa David’s longtime goal is to one day open her own storefront restaurant, but for now she’ll continue to focus on running Nineveh Assyrian, a popular food truck in downtown Olympia that is parked near the corner of Fourth Avenue East and Plum Street.

David, plus her brother, Jacob, and now three employees, have run the business for about two years, serving up Middle Eastern food with an Assyrian touch, including falafel — a fried chickpea patty — shawarma and fried cauliflower, three of the food truck’s best-selling items, Lisa David said.

Shawarma is similar to a gyro or doner kebab, a pita sandwich served with spit-roasted chicken, lamb or beef.

David is Assyrian, part of an ethnic minority indigenous to parts of Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. She grew up in Toledo, Ohio, but her father is from Baghdad, she said.

David, 34, eventually came west to attend The Evergreen State College, then, following graduation, she taught ceramics and tended bar at Quality Burrito — two things she continues to do today.

She also had a goal of running her own business.

David got grounded in the business basics at Enterprise for Equity, the Olympia nonprofit that helps those with low-income backgrounds achieve their business dreams.

And she graduated the program with a key concept in mind — the value of controlling overhead costs. Rather than borrow money and invest in an expensive storefront, there was less risk, she decided, in buying a truck.

The truck was purchased in Michigan and then driven to Olympia by her brother and his best friend.

“It’s been great,” David said about the business, particularly the past two months as she does more and more catering.

Mobile food vending, too, is beginning to catch on in Olympia.

Other trucks, or “carts,” dot various locations in Olympia, and the city has issued 12 temporary use permits to mobile food vendors, planning permit specialist Paula Smith said. That might not sound like a lot, but she’s also getting calls almost daily from people inquiring about the guidelines to be a mobile food vendor, Smith said.

David also caters, including a recent meeting of the Thurston County Board of Health.

County Commissioner Karen Valenzuela, board chairwoman, praised David’s food, especially the baklava, grape leaves and hummus.

But she also said Nineveh and David’s catering is a good example of the local food movement, a business that sources local ingredients and yet still can produce food with a “decidedly Middle Eastern flavor.”

She also said David’s lemonade, made with rosewater, was a revelation.

“It’s quite wonderful,” she said. “You really have to taste it.”

Nineveh Assyrian Food Truck

Location: The 20-foot food truck is near the corner of Fourth Avenue East and Plum Street, Olympia.

Owner: Lisa David; her brother, Jacob David, also helps run the business.

Years in business: About two years.

Service: Retailer of Middle Eastern food, such as falafel, shawarma and fried cauliflower. David also caters events.

Employees: Three.

Online: nineveholympia.com.

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon-7 p.m. Sundays.

Did you know? The business name — Nineveh — is the name of the ancient capital of Assyria. David also is a longtime ceramics teacher and bartender at Quality Burrito.

http://www.theolympian.com/2013/07/14/2621172/today-a-food-truck-tomorrow-a.html