One of the things I love about living in Jacksonville is this city’s ability to embrace change. When food trucks first started arriving in our city, they seemed to explode overnight in popularity. What started as ten trucks quickly became a hundred, and at this point, you can’t find an event in this city without a line of food trucks offering up something delicious. What we love in particular about our food truck community is the unique brands and concepts that have developed in addition to the great food. Cue Joyshtick Food Truck, which is approaching it’s one year anniversary, and is arguably one of the most unique brands on the street right now.
Evan Werthman, the owner of Joyshtick, moved to Jacksonville from Minnesota in May of 2015. He’s a humble guy who has two real passions in life: food and video games. He had worked as a server for Taco Lu for about a year and a half, when one day he was out on a catering in the Taco Lu food truck for a golf tournament in St Augustine. Evan told us, “So that day was big. I got to see Bill Murray, which was really cool. I did a magic trick for him, which was really awesome. I was so proud of myself. But I also made some tacos on the truck, which was monumental for me because I was a server and didn’t have a lot of kitchen experience. I dabbled previously but never really enjoyed it. I loved how laid back the food truck experience was that day. A friend of mine in the kitchen at Taco Lu said later that starting a food truck was a profitable idea with low overhead. That stuck with me. He playfully tossed around the idea, so I went and did a lot of research. I pulled up numbers that trucks made, thought about concepts, and started to figure out how much it would cost to start one.” The concept of Joyshtick formed soon after. Evan explained, “Where Joyshtick originated was when I stopped in Atlanta at Battle and Brew. It’s a new concept called a barcade. You have PCs and consoles and they’ll wait on you and serve you food while you’re playing. I thought that was the thing of the future. I was trying to figure out how to get that into a food truck. It’s an awkward wait at a food truck because there is nothing to do after you order, people are just on their phones. So I thought that the barcade and the food truck could intersect, establish a brand, and create a community of people who bought into the truck. A lot of food trucks are centered around food themes, but I wanted to do something unique that was an experience. That’s where the concept originated.”
For those of you who haven’t been to JoyShtick yet, this food truck is truly unique because it is equipped with video games to play while you wait, such as Super Mario Brothers All-Stars. In continuing the video game theme, the food names and ingredients feature names like The Angry Birds, The Mario, the beloved and elusive Pokeballs, and primary ingredients such as Doritos and Mountain Dew. To get to where Joyshtick is today though is the best part of Evan’s story, and “nothing short of a miracle” according to Evan.
“When we tried to find a truck, we set our budget super high and the banks said no for a loan. We were 23 and 26 years old and they laughed in our faces. The bank was out of the question. We had a novel idea to do a Kickstarter and had high hopes for that. The Kickstarter didn’t even go through. So, we scraped up the bare minimum to think about the idea and I pitched an offer to someone who was selling a food truck on Craigslist. I can’t believe she accepted it, but it allowed us to start barely within the budget we’d come up with. After we drove the truck back, we realized that we should have done a thorough inspection. The truck wasn’t up to code and the quote to upgrade it was seven grand. We went into a panic, but we managed to find another investor who put up enough money to get the repairs done and the upgrades done. I had a grand plan for a grand opening, so we were in a race to get open. When we did finally open it was absolutely crazy. We had tons of people come out to support us on opening night and we thought we were going to be rolling in it. Then reality hit and the hype was short lived, which is fairly normal,” said Evan.
As they continued to work to build their brand, the truck itself went on a bit of a rampage mechanically. Evan laughed and told us, “So none of us at Joyshtick are proficient mechanics. I thought for the longest time our dipstick was acting up but it turns out that isn’t a thing. Long story short, our engine blew up and shot a piece of metal through itself and became unusable. The hardest part was at the time we didn’t have much money. We were short and we had to make more phone calls. The first thing I did during that actually was call my Dad and tell him Joyshtick was done. My dad told me no. I eventually worked it out with an investor and secured some more money to pay for it all, but as a result we were out for a week. After that, we had the power steering belt come off, the brakes basically stopped working at that point so that was fun. For awhile, I had to drive without a power steering belt. The power steering pump went for a bit. We had a leak in the brake line and made the brakes start smoking. That was scary, actually. Then we blew a tire on 95 and I almost died. I had my friend from Minnesota on the truck helping me and then he never wanted to go near the truck again. I recently had two wheels fall off the truck on JTB. I’m not sure how that happened to be honest. There are so many things on a food truck you have to deal with that don’t involve food that people don’t realize. You have to learn to be socially saavy, mechanically saavy, and culinarily saavy to make it in this industry.”
Those dramatic incidents, which while not completely uncommon aren’t exactly every day occurrences either, did nothing but strengthen Evan as a business owner and Joyshtick as a brand. Evan’s background in engineering and business management led him to truly believe in the concept of “work smarter, not harder” and to never allow himself to become complacent. Instead, he is always working to solve any problems he faces.
Fast forward to today, and Joyshtick is growing faster than ever and building loyal customers who come for the food and stay for the video games. In addition to adding entertainment value to the the food truck experience, Evan wanted to focus on two other primary goals: price and portability. Evan had heard feedback from food truck customers about there only being full meal options around the $10 price point and the need for smaller portions. He also observed at many locations that there isn’t always a table around, which can make eating some foods difficult. Evan’s solution was one simple idea: sliders. You see, JoyShtick food truck recently switched their focus on three categories of food: burger sliders, chicken sliders, and sides. By offering sliders, Evan is able to set his prices between $3 and $5, and it made his food easy to be eaten on the go. Evan explained his decision, “I have seen a lot lately with any business, you want people to remember you. To do that, you have to GIVE people a reason to remember you. As far as branding, if you brand yourself well, they’ll remember their experience with you based on who you are and who you choose to be. If you’re a truck that serves burger sliders, if they taste super good they will remember that. But you want the whole experience to stick out. There have been people who don’t even order, they just come up and take pictures of my truck. When you have a brand, people will communicate that to other people. That helped us grow.”
As far as the new menu, the sliders range from basic comfort food to unique combinations that will leave you craving more. The first burger slider I was able to sample on my visit was called “The Face Invader” ($4). This beef slider featured pepper jelly, arugula, and mozzarella sticks. The beef was nicely seasoned and juicy (as were all of the burger sliders). This burger was a big win for me, especially because I LOVE pepper jelly. The sweet kick of the pepper jelly and the fresh, peppery taste of the arugula combined well with the crunchy and creamy texture of the mozzarella sticks.
The Bowser Breakfast Burger ($5) features American cheese, bacon, an over-easy egg, arugula, sriracha, and maple syrup. Because this slider features maple syrup, it almost reminded me of eating a better quality McGriddle from McDonalds. Although it is topped with sriracha, it wasn’t spicy. The sriracha actually balanced the sweetness from the maple syrup and the natural salt flavor from the bacon. This burger is perfect for someone with a sweet tooth. Although I like my eggs runny, I do recommend eating this one with some extra napkins handy – the yolk porn is real.
The Spicy Meme-Burger ($4) features pickled jalapenos, bacon, pepper jack cheese, and sriracha mayo. This was my personal favorite of all the items I sampled. It doesn’t hurt that I love spicy food. The vinegar from the pickled jalapenos, the creaminess of the sriracha mayo, and the crispy bacon provided a nice balance between varying textures on the sandwich and helped to blend some of the spiciness of the sandwich. It’s spicy, but it won’t kill your taste buds either.
The Hadouken! ($4) is the only chicken slider I sampled. It features lettuce, ranch dressing, cheddar jack cheese and your choice of buffalo, BBQ, or Honey mustard on top. For my sample, I chose buffalo sauce. This fried chicken slider is unique because it features crushed cool ranch Doritos mixed into the chicken batter. The lettuce added a nice freshness to the creamy cheese and sauce. I also enjoyed the Doritos in the batter; it added a different kind of crunch and flavor to the batter. It’s important to note to ALWAYS grab the AvocaDEW Ranch when it’s available–Evan blends a Mountain Dew Ranch base and adds Avocado to create this crazy creamy and sweet sauce that I would drink by the gallon if it was socially acceptable. The Angry Birds or Hadouken make a perfect vessel for it.
As far as sides go, I was able to sample three different sides…
The first two sides were Senpai Fries, and Onion Rings ($4 each). Not even the fries are standard, as Joyshtick uses a battered extra crispy fry whose destiny is to be loaded with toppings. The Senpai Fries were topped with sriracha mayo and sushi rice seasoning (Furikake). The sauce added a nice creamy factor, but it’s the sushi rice seasoning that really sets them apart. It really added an umami pop that most fries do not have.
Next, I tried the onion rings. These were a special that aren’t normally offered. They were beer battered using a Jacksonville local brew, had a crunchy texture, and were full of flavor. I would order these every time if they were added to the regular menu. What would really be the kicker though, is if the food truck offered Senpai onion rings. THAT, I would really like to try!
Finally, I was able to sample the Fire Flower ($5). The Fire Flower is fried cauliflower with buffalo sauce and ranch dressing. It’s kind of like chicken wings, but for a vegetarian. These were delicious with a great flavor, great crunch, and the sauce combination of ranch and buffalo was a classic. I was actually informed by Evan that these are his best seller, which isn’t too surprising.
As I mentioned before, Evan loves food. He finds himself at Taco Lu, GLHF Game Bar, Shack Maui, Pie95 Pizza, The Happy Grilled Cheese, Catullo’s Italian, and The Bearded Pig most often for himself personally. When I asked him where his passion for food came from, he said aside from supporting his friends in their businesses, at the end of the day he just wants to make food that he loves to eat.
After sampling many items on his menu, I can safely say that his passion is evident in the recipes for the sliders and I will definitely be returning soon. As far as recommendations for ordering from Joyshtick, Evan told us, “ Our most popular menu items depend on where we’re at. The Angry Birds are well liked. Most of the time, we do an ‘around the world’ where we end up selling one of everything on the menu. That’s the sign of a balanced menu. I like that I can’t think of a definitive most popular item. We have people who will legit vouch for anything on the menu. That’s a really good feeling to know that it’s all valued in someone’s eyes. My personal favorite item is the Face Invader because it has jalapeno pepper jelly, arugula, and mozzarella sticks. The flavors just work.”
Joyshtick now from Joyshtick a year ago has come literal and metaphorical miles on a journey that has taught Evan more than he could have imagined. Part of that journey was debuting at the same time as several other strong brands, which led to a camaraderie that was essential in success for them all. Evan explained, “Pie95 is one of my best food truck friends. He’s been a strong encouragement to me. A lot of the trucks that came out with me had a great game plan going and knew what they were doing in the kitchen. When my partner left, who was supposed to do the cooking, I got an endless supply of advice, tips, and a bank of knowledge to help me acclimate. At the end of the day, in this industry, you get what you put into it. If you form relationships and utilize the resources that our community offers, you’ll see a lot of benefits. I think it’s made the industry more enjoyable to have people I can share my experiences with. A lot of people have told me within our community that they’ve seen me working really hard and they respect my effort. At the end of the day, my success has been God providing for me in tough situations. I try to capitalize on those opportunities, but I have to attribute where I’m at to God’s provision and blessing on the work I’ve put in.”
So, now that you’re ready to find Joyshtick and eat a million sliders, the food truck is constantly moving and being featured in different locations all around town. The best place to find their schedule is on social media via their Facebook or Instagram.
Joyshtick and Pie95 are celebrating their food truck 1 Year Anniversaries jointly on Tuesday, October 24, with dinner service from 5-8 at Aardwolf Brewery.
Note: From time to time we’re invited out to try a restaurant or to taste new menu items. This meal is usually comped, as this one was. We’re under no obligation to write a positive review or any review at all when we’re invited out to try a place. Every review you see on our site will be an honest review of the place whether or not the restaurant provided us with the meal at their cost.