At the corner of Paseo de Peralta and Old Santa Fe Trail, just across the street from Kaune’s Neighborhood Market, something delicious is afoot. In the dirt lot formerly occupied by the Bang Bite Filling Station food truck (which can now be found at 505 Cerrillos Road near the Luna retail complex), veteran Santa Fe chef David Sellers and his crew have moved one of the Street Food Institute’s food trucks onto the property.
For those unfamiliar with chef Sellers and the nonprofit Street Food Institute's entrepreneur-based culinary-training program, a little background: Its mission in part is to help budding culinary leaders throughout the state get some solid footing in the biz. The goals stated on its website include everyone's favorite buzzwords, "SFI supports the development of small business by growing the state's local food economy and developing strong future business leaders."
SFI's accredited culinary program has its roots firmly planted at Central New Mexico Community College (CNM) in Albuquerque, but in March 2015, one of SFI's food trucks started popping up in Santa Fe—more specifically, on the campus of Santa Fe Community College. Chef Sellers, who is best known in local restaurant circles for his work as the former chef of Santacafé and the former chef/owner of the now-closed Amavi restaurant, seems to have found his true calling with the Street Food Institute. His passion for the business and its mission is clear. And local lovers of delicious and sustainably minded food once again get to reap the benefits of that passion.
The SFI food truck picked up stakes in Santa Fe in December 2015 and only recently returned. "We spent the winter concentrating on the culinary program at CNM and looking for the right place to land in Santa Fe in the spring," Sellers says. Business has been vibrant since the program started, seeing a 100 percent boost to revenue over the past year alone. Most of the food prep for daily operations in Santa Fe takes place in Santa Fe Community College's Culinary Program kitchens, although some last-minute work is done on the truck before it opens for business.
So what about the food?
It's amazing. Get yourself over to the SFI food truck, which is open 11 am-2 pm Tuesday-Friday. Every item on the menu is currently priced at $10, but for the quality and quantity of food you get, it's a good deal. The menu is eclectic and ever-changing, serving up items like Korean-barbecued short-rib tacos; ramen; a Provençal vegetable sandwich; an oyster po'boy sandwich with Old Bay Seasoning-kissed remoulade; and Burmese-style red-curry pork with sticky rice. But if you eat beef, love sandwiches and skip trying the SFI's hot Reuben, you're doing it wrong.
Tucked between two pieces of house-baked marble rye sits a glorious heap of house-smoked (at SFCC) pastrami, Russian dressing, sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese. Served with housemade salt-and-vinegar potato chips, it's a thing of beauty—and bursting with flavor. "The rye bread is baked locally by Sam Taub, who used to work at The Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley, Calif.," Sellers says, proudly holding up a loaf of Sam's rye. "We're in the process of brining our own sauerkraut, too." But wait. There's more. Much more.
In conjunction with SFCC's plentiful on-campus gardens, the SFI truck in Santa Fe will benefit from a steady supply of fresh produce from the college's raised beds throughout the peak growing season. This means more local, organic, sustainable food on your plate, and more menu inspiration for Sellers and his truck's current co-chef, Jason Gleichman (formerly of Second Street Brewery). There are also plans to open for breakfast, and to hear Sellers tell it, the housemade bagels, courtesy of bread whisperer Taub, are New York-style and off-the-chain. "We're going to be doing our own bagels, making our own cream cheese and curing our own salmon for lox too," Sellers says.
There is picnic-table seating at the truck location, built by hand by Sellers and his crew, and sunshade umbrellas are coming soon. "We're looking at a lot of possibilities for this location," Sellers says. "Maybe a pop-up dinner now and then, a food truck festival and maybe partnering with someone with a beer-and-wine license for a picnic license for special occasions." In the meantime, hit the Street Food Institute's Facebook page and Twitter feed for updates.
Street Food Institute Food Truck
Open: 11:00 am-2:00 pm Tuesday-Friday
Best Bet: Korean Short-rib BBQ Tacos
Don't Miss: Pastrami Reuben, or any sandwich, really