The idea struck Rachel Black during lunch at a restaurant’s buffet.
The restaurant was serving waffles, and the crowd loved them. Black had three or four waffles in one sitting, sparking her interest in the versatility of the crisp, fluffy food.
“Who doesn’t love brunch?” she said. “I was like, ‘Why can’t I just do this every day?’”
Now, she can. Black has opened a food truck business known as The Waffle Wagon, which debuted last weekend at the East Side Social Club, serving sandwiches and desserts on waffles.
It’s the first culinary venture for Black after an 11-year career in an information technology job with the Navy that moved her 12 times. And it’s one of a growing number of food trucks operating at the East Side Social Club, a bar that has a steady stream of trucks visiting at night to feed patrons.
Black decided in August to leave her job as a systems administrator, where she had worked as a civilian once her military contract was over, and move to Denton to open a food truck. She has family here and considers Denton home.
“It took a lot of courage. I came to the point in my IT job where I would just sit in the car for 30 minutes because I could not go in there another day,” she said. “I think so many people will sit at those jobs — and I did it for 10 years and I didn’t want to anymore. I felt like I was running out of time and that I had to go and do something else.”
The decision to leave her job, which most recently took her to a military base in Japan, was an easy one. She spent years trying to start saving or planning, and over the summer decided it was time to start the process.
“This summer I decided to just do it tomorrow,” she said. “That was it. I just went for it.”
Black was already something of a brunch guru before she had a waffle epiphany over the summer and was known in her group of friends for hosting large brunches on Sundays for up to 15 people a week.
Once she decided to start a waffle truck, her friends and family became the official taste-testers for her venture while the food truck’s kitchen was being built and assembled in Houston.
The ones that made the cut have done well so far, she said. Most popular on her first weekend was a hot turkey, ham and Swiss cheese sandwich on a waffle with a side of raspberry preserves, inspired by the Monte Cristo sandwich, and a dessert waffle topped with peanut butter, bacon and bananas.
Now, the challenge is making the time in the kitchen as efficient as possible and working on defining a schedule, Black said.
She thinks the schedule could stabilize more in the spring when an expected food truck park opens next door to the East Side Social Club. John Williams, one of the owners of the bar, said he anticipates the park will be open by March 1 with about a dozen tables and five to seven trucks rotating through on the evenings and weekends.
Black’s truck, he said, fits right into the existing food truck scene in Denton while offering something special.
“It’s totally different than everyone else, everyone is pretty excited about it,” he said. “On Saturday [Jan. 11], she was open 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m., and did fairly well.”
Black said she hopes the food truck park will draw more people to invest in starting businesses on wheels, despite some tough permitting and regulations.
The largest hurdle that might discourage potential entrepreneurs, Black said, is going to get the truck cleaned and stocked at an approved commissary, which she has to drive 40 miles away to do.
While some minor food truck regulations could change next month, this isn’t one of them, said Kurt Hanson, a building official with the city.
“The commissary is always the big struggle here in Denton, but we have trucks that are doing it,” he said.
Keeping up the truck and working in the small kitchen is difficult, Black said, but she hopes the truck can serve as a jumping-off point for a brick and mortar business in about three years.
For now, the truck has helped foster a sense of community for Black, who said she has had encouragement from the other local food trucks and businesses to help promote her. Once she got the truck ready a few weeks ago, she began sending messages on Twitter, and the Denton Food Trucks account sent her message out, garnishing invitations to East Side and Mulberry Street Cantina for the following weekend.
Williams and Black both said the weekend went well, and noted customers enjoyed the dishes so much, many had to go back for seconds.
“A lot of people had a sandwich or savory dish and came back for a dessert, so I think that was a good sign, and the bar owners gave us really positive feedback,” Black said. “It’s been great.”
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.