Where to find them
The Swanky Stop is primarily located across the road from the Red Cross building, next to the cricket field. Look for the orange trailer (it can be seen from a distance). Typically it is open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. In the near future, the Swanky Stop will be moving to a location at Godfrey Nixon Way, so keep an eye out for the orange truck there.
The Rolling Stove sets up Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the cricket pitch across from the Red Cross and beside the Swanky Stop, and then 3 to 8 p.m. along Crewe Road before the Hurley’s roundabout. Weekends vary depending on whether they have events booked; otherwise they stand from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the cricket pitch and from 4:30 to 8 p.m. along Crewe Road.
Al La KeVroom is parked Monday to Friday across from the Government Building in George Town from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.; Walkers Road by the Eden Centre from 3 to 4 p.m., and on the corner of Selkirk and Shamrock in Red Bay from 5 p.m. to midnight and later. On Saturdays they run from 5 p.m. until 1 a.m. in Red Bay. In addition, in Red Bay from Wednesday to Saturday they also offer a roadside barbecue adjacent to the truck.
Gone are the days when purchasing food from the side of the road was a dodgy challenge, possibly portending food poisoning from a half-cooked hamburger served up with grease on the side. Nowadays, food trucks are the biggest culinary “thing” to hit cities around the world, and they’ve made a colorful splash in Grand Cayman as well.
Al La KeVroom, The Rolling Stove and the Swanky Stop can be seen parked around the island on any given day, a welcome pit stop for hungry customers, who can get anything from breakfast all the way through to a midnight snack.
According to a variety of sources, the food truck phenomenon really began to explode around 2008, just as the global economy was beginning to take a serious nose dive. Developed from the need for accessible, fast, straightforward food that tasted good and was reasonably priced, food trucks have evolved as exciting culinary destinations in their own right, found in volume in major American cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, and more recently in the U.K., predominantly in London. Their culinary offerings are broad and diverse, from Asian delights to speciality desserts and pastries.
You don’t have to travel very far down an “A” road in the U.K. without seeing a Bab’s Burger Bar or similar at the side of the road, wafting the scent of fried onions and feeding hungry lorry drivers. But the greasy spoon type of setup has thankfully been replaced with a far more exciting and innovative style of food truck, one that offers food of much higher quality and which enjoys a following similar to that developed by customers loyal to any good restaurant.
In cash-strapped times, restaurants are expensive to set up; food trucks far less so and give owners the luxury of portability. If sales aren’t so great in one part of town, it’s no bother to move to a more lucrative spot.
The Rolling Stove
The O’Keefes recognized the advantage of mobility. The husband and wife team, Mark and Sarah, own The Rolling Stove, a recent addition to Cayman’s culinary offering, serving up British “pub grub” style food, such as fish and chips with mushy peas, chicken curry, chip butties and breakfast baps, as well as lighter options, such as wraps and salads.
The couple says they had always dreamed of having a small business in the hospitality industry. After a good deal of planning, an opportunity came about with a food truck that was for sale, and the couple thought they should give it a try.
“Food trucks are all the rage in Europe, the U.S., and so on, so perhaps the idea could take off here in Cayman also,” Sarah says.
“Mark has had many years’ experience in a pub-style environment, so we thought, why not offer everyone’s favorites from a mobile restaurant on a convenient location that can be easily moved?” Sarah says. “As they say, location is key, so if it’s a slow afternoon, then it’s no problem to move our entire business to a busier spot. Or in some cases, have the mobile restaurant be brought to the customer for events and parties.”
A La KeVroom
Alan Silverman, a stalwart of the hospitality industry, is the owner of Al La Kebab, Cayman’s much-loved kebab house at the Marquee Plaza that serves up Middle Eastern favorites, such as pita wraps stuffed with flavorsome beef and lamb with creamy, garlicky tzatziki sauce or chicken schwarma with tahini sauce.
He explains his motivation to establish Al La KeVroom, his brightly colored food truck that is now so familiar to diners around the island: “We were often asked to do off-site events like at the rugby club, concerts, birthday parties, and so on. Al La Kebab does require a lot of equipment and fiddly bits, so we started to dream of a truck about seven years ago. The food truck boom in the U.S. helped inspire us, and the Guzman truck for sale on island helped to make it a reality.”
After a year of fitting out the truck, Silverman says, they were able to take their cuisine on the road, yet the business itself was new to the island, necessitating specific licenses from government.
“The rules just got amended as we were ready to launch, as government was cracking down on unlicensed mobile vendors,” Silverman recalls. “We have an excellent relationship and track record with the Department of Environmental Health, which is in part due to the commissary kitchen we built several years earlier to service our location at the Marquee.”
The Rolling Stove’s Sarah O’Keefe agrees that as this was a fairly new “industry” in Cayman, there was a little bit of extra work involved to ensure that they were doing everything properly.
“But with help from the appropriate departments, we were able to have everything we needed to operate a professional business,” she says.
The Swanky Stop
Farmer Geoffrey Dixon got the idea for his food truck with the locally appealing name about a year ago, focusing on what might be termed “farm-to-food truck” – close to the farm-to-table movement.
“I often had issues selling my produce to some supermarkets,” he says. “I didn’t have the larger quantity of produce they required. I also didn’t have it in the frequency they required. Crops are ready to be harvested when nature make them ready and many crops are seasonal. We have no control over that. My motivation has been the need to sell what I grew.”
Swanky Stop sells any fruits and vegetables that are grown locally, he says, adding that they also sell smoothies made from the freshest fruits.
“The public loves what we do,” he notes. “Once you’ve tried a smoothie, you will be scraping the sides and bottom of the cup to get the last drop. It’s that good. Our team have many years’ experience in making smoothies.”
Further, he notes, “Our customers love the local produce we sell. They have said that our local produce tastes different and better, lasts longer and is more nutritious.”
Friends on the move
Sarah O’Keefe says she and her husband buy as much local produce as they can from the Swanky Stop, and the two trucks can often be seen side by side near the cricket pitch.
“As a small business ourselves, we like to support other small businesses,” she says, adding that the response to The Rolling Stove has been excellent.
“We have regulars that come by the truck several times per week, some trying different items and some stick with their favorites. We have customers which we have got to know well by name, and such a welcome response from all segments of the market.
“As a new business, it will take time to grow, and will take time to earn the trust of others who are still not quite sure what to make of the ‘new red truck roadside vendor,’ but we are hopeful that with time this will improve. Positive word of mouth indeed helps!”
She says they are excited and proud to be a part of this trending industry in Cayman.
“It is great fun. However, like any small business, it can be very hard work,” she says. “The perks are lower overheads and outgoing expenses. However, higher risk factors such as a breakdown of equipment or the physical truck can cause extreme damage to your day to day running. Plus, it gets very hot in there!
“But it is all worthwhile when we introduce a new customer to their first fish and chips or breakfast bap, and have a bit of a laugh – and then we see them return the following day for another one.”
Silverman of Al La KeVroom is just as optimistic.
“This has been a great launch and we are happy to be able to provide Southern barbecue with a Caribbean flair to our loyal customers,” Silverman says.
Not confined by the constrains of the truck itself as to what they can offer, Al La KeVroom was kitted out to be able to offer the entire Al La Kebab menu, including salads, skewers, soups and fries.
Silverman says the response has been excellent.
“Al La KeVroom got a great reception as our brand is already recognized and trusted in the community,” he says.