By Kevin Sims | NewsChannel9.com
Chattanooga’s newest restaurant just opened up in Downtown. And in Brainerd. And on the Southside. In fact it can be just about anywhere. That’s because the new Southern Burger Company is part of a growing national trend of food trucks.
At the corner of 6th Avenue and Georgia downtown, you’ll find Farrow’s Service Station on one side and the Firefighter’s Fountain on the other. And sandwiched in between, at least for one day, is the Southern Burger Company. “What can I get for you today?” asks owner Christian Siler as he greets customers.
A few months ago, Siler cut a hole in the side of an old Fed-Ex truck, installed a commercial kitchen and opened his dream. Just a few years ago he was working in politics in Nashville but growing tired of the career. He now serves gourmet burgers on the go. “We really do have a professional chef in there,” he says.
Every day, Siler and three employees look for a different location then send out messages on facebook and twitter. It’s sort of like encouraging a food flash mob. Hungry customers can even suggest a stop. “It’s all about location, location, location” Siler says, “but if a spot doesn’t work, we just move it.”
Facebooker Cate Lee found them not long after leaving an online message. Her favorite burger comes with jalepenos. At least so far. “I’m doing the bleu cheese today,” Lee says. Not to take away from the casual customers, like people who see them out their office window and appreciate a fresh face for lunch. “It’s constant well, ‘where do you want to go today?’,” says downtown employee Leah Stansell. “Well, we just went there yesterday. You know it gets old.”
That’s also part of the appeal for executive chef Grant Freeman, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu School. Despite the tight space, he’s not stuck in a kitchen. “From a cook’s point of view,” says Freeman, “you find yourself tired of doing the same thing everyday. With a food truck you have the ability to do something different.”
No doubt this is something different. And if it works Siler believes it can only help established, more traditional restaurants. A rising tide, he says, raises all ships. Or in this case, all trucks.
The Southern Burger Company serves lunch from 11:30am to 2:30pm. Dinner often runs for about three hours starting around 4 pm. And they’re even positioning the truck near late-night hot spots until 2:30am.
Siler says the start-up costs of the food truck were about one-fifth of a restaurant in a building. And he has to follow the same permits and pass all health inspections just like any other restaurant. You can find them on on facebook under Southern Burger Company or follow them on twitter @SBurgerCo.