You may have already seen it around New Haven or at local events, and pretty soon "the little red truck" will be serving up seafood in Shelton as well. A roving restaurant is Danny Szabo's latest venture in addition to on Howe Avenue and the catering business he has run for the past 40 years.
The truck has been on the road since December, hitting the Yale area Monday through Friday and sporting events, fairs and carnivals throughout Fairfield County on the weekends. If all permits and food vending licenses are processed as planned, they should be approved to sell in Shelton by next month. Szabo said a food truck wasn't in his plans until a friend, upon moving to Florida, gave him the vehicle.
"At first I was like, what am I gonna do with this thing? Then I started thinking and that night I watched a show called 'The Great Food Truck Race' on the Food Network," he said.
On the reality television show, specialty food trucks compete to rake in the most sales while facing cooking challenges on a cross-country road trip. Drawing from that inspiration, Szabo did what he's always done: gathered the family and went to work.
"I got together with my cousin and nephew. My cousin is a fabricator of metal, so he cut a hole on the side of the truck and we put a kitchen inside," Szabo said. "We built this from an empty box truck. It was a process."
Szabo's wife, Cathy, said the little red truck "has been a great success" and that residents can expect to see it at upcoming city events like the car show on June 9, Shelton Day, the Fourth of July fireworks and the Huntington Green summer concert series.
Of course, because "the truck can only handle so much," Szabo said it offers "five or six basic things that are from the menu and we switch it up with one or two different specials every couple days." On any given day, customers can get lobster rolls, fish and chips, fish tacos, a salmon or swordfish burger, soups and salads. All cole slaw, tartar sauce, crab cakes, stuffed clams and chowders are homemade.
"It's very unique," Szabo said. "No one else is doing what I'm doing. We line 'em up in New Haven, they love it."
Though rewarding, operating the little red truck does not come without challenges.
"It’s very trying," Szabo said of balancing his time between the truck, restaurant and catering. "You wanna believe that today you're gonna have the morning off--and then a challenge comes my way, so you’ve gotta really roll with punches some days for sure."
Fortunately, family is always there to help out. Szabo started working in the seafood business at just eight years old on his father's lobster boat, and now his own son "jumps in and helps with the store when need be."
Szabo said he is grateful to be expanding, especially in an economy where many small business owners are suffering.
"The key is low overhead, and giving a great service and a great product," he said. "It's affordable and I'm very hands-on. There’s days when I'm doing the buying, days I'm doing the books, days I jump right in and cook; I’m watching all facets of the business to make sure we have consistency for the customer."
To find out where Szabo's little red seafood truck is headed next, follow their Twitter account! The truck is also available for private parties and welcomes the opportunity to help local organizations fundraise.
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