BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Add Birmingham chefs Mac Russell and Chad Schofield to the list of galloping gourmets who’ve hopped on board the food truck bandwagon.
The two friends, who studied together at Culinard and worked alongside each other at Hot and Hot Fish Club, cranked up their new Shindings Catering Truck and set up shop last week at 20th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues South near UAB.
And judging from the steady stream of customers lined up outside their cafe-a-go-go, Shindigs is already a hit with the lunchtime crowd.
“We ended up selling out of almost everything,” Russell says following a particularly hectic lunch rush. “So we need to bring more.”
The food truck is a natural extension of Russell and Schofield’s catering business, which they started about six months ago.
“The combination a food truck gives you is that we can do lunch during the day and then have a really cool party at night,” Russell says. “We call it Shindigs just because we feel like we can turn your regular dinner party into a shindig.”
The Shindigs slogan is “Local Food Fast,” and the menu emphasizes farm-fresh meats, vegetables and dairy products from such Alabama purveyors as Jones Valley Urban Farm, Owls Hollow Farm, McEwen & Sons and Fudge Family Farms.
The clever logo features a fork with roots growing out of its handle and a pod of okra speared on its prongs.
“The first Shindigs logo we had was a fork . . . and it just evolved into having the roots growing out of it, saying that we are ‘farm to fork,’ Schofield says. “And the okra on top is kind of a symbol that we are Southern, and we love to keep our Southern roots.”
The accent is on healthy choices, even down to the fries.
“We might be frying some, but it’s in rice bran oil, which is one of the best you can fry in,” Russell says. “We’re just trying to take the healthy road on everything.”
Burgers, served on custom-made sweet potato buns from Continental Bakery in English Village, are the main attraction.
The choices include:
Delizioso, an organic salmon patty with crispy proscuitto, smoked mozzarella, balsamic onions, arugula and pesto yogurt ($6.50).
Bueno, an open-range bison burger with chorizo, manchego, fried yard egg, cilantro crema and romesco sauce ($7).
MacDaddy, a grass-fed beef burger with barbecue bacon, hoop cheese and spicy Selma slaw ($6).
Chadillac, free-range ground chicken with country ham, cambozola and caramelized onion and fig mostarda ($6).
Asian steamed buns — slider-sized servings of light, fluffy bread filled with pork and other ingredients — are a Shindigs specialty.
The buns are $2.50 each, and choices include pork belly with hoisin sauce and blackberries, and short rib with sweet soy jus and ramps.
“Honestly, we will probably grow into just having a bun truck one day, just because those things are so much fun,” Russell says. “You can load them with anything, and they’re good.
“I like the size of them,” he adds. “They’re good for women at lunch. You can get one and a side, or two of them. A guy might get three. You can build your own plate.”
Sides ($3) include fries with truffle salt, “good” slaw with vinaigrette and yogurt, farro salad with grilled summer vegetables and lemon vinaigrette, and melon and tomato salad with marinated mozzarella, pickled shallots and opal basil.
Salads are $6, and the choices are a full serving of the farro salad or a Cobb salad with hydroponic bibb lettuce, barbecue bacon, cambozola, cherry tomatoes, boiled yard eggs and green goddess dressing. Add beef, chicken, salmon or a veggie patty for $2.50.
For all of their dishes, Russell and Schofield pickle their own vegetables and make their own sauces and dressings.
And while they’ve tried to be healthy, dessert is the exception.
The decadent Elvis Bread Pudding ($2.50) is a hunka-hunka sweet and gooey love filled with chocolate and peanut-butter chips and drizzled with banana cream and caramel.
“It just comes from everything Elvis loved,” Schofield says. “That’s how the idea spawned.”
Although a handful of mobile food wagons — including Spoonfed Grill, the Cantina taco truck and the Dreamcakes cupcake truck — are already roaming the streets of Birmingham, Schofield and Russell believe there is room for more.
“I think it’s great for Birmingham, and something that is going to help build downtown Birmingham,” Schofield says.
The Shindigs Catering Truck has been parked at the same spot on 20th Street South for its first few days in business, but Russell and Schofield do plan to move around the city.
The truck is open for lunch, usually between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.