Chicago was recently hit with the 5th largest snowstorm in the city’s history. While residents were shoveling themselves out of 19 inches of snow, Chicago Lunchbox still managed to serve up the “Best Banh-Mi”, a title given to the truck by Chicago’s Best TV Show.
Being featured on the show was a dream come true for truck owner, John Nguyen, whose inspiration for the truck came from his childhood and memories of his mothers’ and aunts’ cooking. His Asian-Fusion dishes are simple, but full of complex flavors that he creates himself from all fresh ingredients. According to Nguyen, all of the condiments that go into the sandwiches are complimentary with any type of meat, from Korean beef to Filipino sausage and Thai chicken, the pickled onion, cucumber and cilantro all enhance the flavor of the meat.
John started his Lunchbox journey at a Food Truck Social event in September of 2013 with his wife, Tanya. Without as much as even a soft open behind their belt to gauge the logistics of operating a meal service, the event went well and the truck has been operating successfully ever since.
The truck’s Yelp reviews can contest to such success, with a rating of 4.5 stars and the only negative comment coming from a customer who’s menu selection had sold out [Korean Beef marinated for a whopping 3-days], the reviews simply don’t lie. Nguyen states, “We’re not a restaurant and once it sells out, there isn’t much we can do about it.”
Chicago Lunchbox always ensures that the meat is marinated for a full 3 days, well before service and as Nguyen states,” It’s always the first thing to go”. Anyone who is able to get their hands on the Chicago Lunchbox beef should consider themselves lucky.
The concept Chicago Lunchbox utilizes for customers to place orders is similar to that of Chipotle and Chophouse, where the process is broken down into steps.
Step 1: Choose your protein. If the beef is sold out, there is also the choice of grilled marinated pork with house sauce, ground basil chicken or a Filipino longinisa sweet sausage, that is made with a casing similar to bratwurst and has a snap that, when bitten into, is comparable to chorizo.
Step 2: Select how you want it. Depending on your mood that day, enjoy your meat on top of tacos, a bowl of white rice or on the highly acclaimed Banh-Mi sandwich.
Most food truck operators have a goal of someday opening a brick-and-mortar but Nguyen is looking to build a brand. He opened the truck to avoid the restrictions of a brick-and-mortar, expand his business and for overall more freedom. “That’s the beauty of owning a mobile food business. My wife is a teacher and I was able to take off for two weeks during her break. It doesn’t hurt us even though we’re not out making money, we’re not spending money either,” said Nguyen.
Chicago Lunchbox has set the bar for other Asian food trucks in the city and within the next five years he plans to open an entire fleet all over the world in order to create jobs and opportunity for people to take ownership of.
John Nguyen clearly loves the business he’s in and doesn’t believe people’s lives should be like the movie Office Space where you’re stuck in a cubicle hating your boss.
It is possible to have freedom in a job and he encourages everyone to follow their dreams.
– Chicago Guest Contributor, Dana Lee