Street Food with Attitude
On A Roll
Earlier this year, IgniteMGM held a pitch competition to award $12,000 to entrepreneurs who contributed to Montgomery in several different ways. The grants were divided into three concepts: a digital/social concept, a community impact art concept, and finally a food truck concept. On a Roll, operated by Nick and Davena Jernigan, was one of the three finalists, along with Fire Meats Wood and NYC Gyro, in the food truck competition. On a Roll, who describes themselves as “Good Grub in the Heart of the South,” went on to win IgniteMGM’s food truck competition. Nick Jernigan said, “It was a great event! What really made it awesome was a group of business leaders coming together to support the dream of entrepreneurs. We really appreciate the folks who stepped up to support these groundbreaking ventures that are taking place in Montgomery.”
On a Roll had been serving fresh dishes out of a Bullet Airstream on the corner of Tallapoosa and Commerce for a couple of years, but recently moved from that area. According to Jernigan, they like to take their food to “wherever the hungry people are.” Their menu includes items like noodles, salads, tacos, tuna, antipasto, pimento cheese, tenderloin, and gulf shrimp, and all their dishes are around $8-$12. Jernigan said, “We offer a variety of deliciousness! It’s a hybrid of the place we live, places we’ve lived, traveled to, and places that we hope to travel to. It’s flavorful, healthy-leaning food made with local ingredients and with a local and global flair.”
The Jernigans are driven by the connection they make with their customers over a love and passion for good food. They treat everyone like family. “Few things compare to breaking bread with folks. We love to see the looks on people’s faces when they start eating something they thought they wouldn’t like,” said Jernigan. “What gives us the most joy are the new and returning customers enjoying our food and warm atmosphere. We are so thankful to each and every one who comes by, refers someone, or gives us a honk and a wave as they drive by.” It’s obvious their customers love them, too, with the number of five-star reviews on the On a Roll Facebook page. Words like, “fabulous,” “incredible,” “delicious” and “amazing” are just a few of the compliments from their fans.
Besides the food truck, the Jernigans also operate Montgomery Super Suppers in the Peppertree Shopping Center on Vaughn Road, where you can stop by and pick up homemade entrees, sides and desserts, as well as individual meals. They also offer a variety of fun cooking classes and catering services. Jernigan said, “We cater! We do everything from boxed lunches to wedding receptions—from 20 people to our largest event for 300—from casual to formal.” Montgomery Super Suppers also participates in the Pepper Place Market, an Alabama Farmer’s Market that operates in downtown Birmingham. According to the Pepper Place Market website, Super Suppers “has been providing the Montgomery area’s busy families with healthy, take home meals for over three years. Customers can order online, by phone or stopping by the Peppertree Shopping Center. The Super Suppers team brings their signature house-made pimento cheese and their organic berry lemonade to The Market each visit!”
The Jernigan’s passion for food and love for their customers shine through in all that they do. When asked what they think the future holds for them, they could only say they are “taking it day by day.” Book them for your private events or find them on Facebook for updates and locations of their food truck.
On a Roll
Nick and Davena Jernigan
Find them on social media as: @onarollmgm
Fire Meats Wood
If two men are willing to take a leap of faith, leaving behind state jobs at a juvenile detention center to pursue a passion, then you know it must be good. That’s just what Josh Lord and Lomar Benson did when they started their business, Fire Meats Wood, a food truck they operate in downtown Montgomery. Their menu changes daily, but no matter what day it is, you will find an incredible selection of wood smoked meats creatively showcased in a variety of dishes. Lord said, “Wood smoked meat is our motto. We don’t want to be identified as just plain barbecue, though. We’ve created a wide range of menu items, like pulled pork nachos, brisket quesadillas, pork fried rice, tacos, Cuban sandwiches and even gourmet salads. One goal we have is serving quality food. If we wouldn’t feed it to our families, why would we sell it at all?”
Both Lord and Benson have had a passion for food that stretches back over many years. Benson said, “I started in the food industry by admiring my uncle’s barbecue catering business and learning what it took to smoke meat about 15 years ago. As I began to follow in his pit master footsteps, practicing on friends and family, I fell in love with the art of smoking meat. Josh and I realized that we both loved food, so we put our heads together and created our company.” Lord has his own history with food as well. He said, “I have always enjoyed cooking and dreamed of owning my own restaurant since I was 13, watching Great Chefs Great Cities on television after school. I’ve always enjoyed watching people prepare food on TV, like Jeff Smith with The Frugal Gourmet, as well as Justin Wilson. I never actually worked in a nice restaurant, only fast food and a bakery. The food truck idea kind of started as a joke. Lomar and I were working together and found out that we had a passion for food. He was into smoking meat, and I was really bent on preparing food in the home as opposed to eating out all the time.”
You can find Fire Meats Wood on Tuesdays-Fridays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Madison Mini Mart/Gas Station located at the corner of Madison Avenue and North McDonough Street. Benson and Lord currently only have one truck, but they produce some amazing food from it. “Our food truck is actually a trailer we pull with a truck, but we like to call it our mobile kitchen. It’s a big box on wheels. I am proud to say I designed all the graphics and artwork on our trailer BUT only with the help from my partner, Lomar, along with critique from family and friends,” said Lord. Fire Meats Wood also offers catering services, a la carte and on-site cooking. Lord said, “We love to cater events. Not only that, but we want to offer people the opportunity to have us bring our mobile kitchen to their event. How cool would it be to have a wedding, have us park on the property, have all the food paid for, and people just come to our window and tell us what they want. It makes for a unique experience.”
Being in the food industry can create some great memories. Benson said, “My memorable moment has been when our smoked chicken breast sandwich was created by one of our favorite customers, and they named it “The Big Willie.” Lord’s favorite memory goes back a bit further. He said, “When Lomar and I first jumped on this idea, we bought an old 1970’s RV that we were going to convert into a food truck. I remember cutting out the shower with an electric saw, covered in fiberglass, and thinking, ‘Is this a good reason to leave a state job and quit school?’”
Neither men know what the years ahead look like, but they love what they do and love serving their customers. They say they’re “driven by the smile on a customer’s face when they enjoy our food.” Lord said, “Only God knows what the future holds. Preparation is our only control. I’m excited!”
Fire Meats Wood
Syed Nawaz, one of the owners of NYC Gyro, the Montgomery-based food truck and restaurant, once worked in pharmaceuticals in New York City; however, he always had a love for food. To feed that passion, he began working in a bakery that supplied fresh bagels and bread to various locations throughout New York City. From there, he worked in his brother’s restaurant, which is where he gained much of his knowledge and experience in the food industry.
Nawaz moved to Montgomery from lower Manhattan in December 2015 for, in his words, “family and a fresh start at life and business.” When he moved here, he brought the authentic Greek and Middle Eastern food he loved with him. His brother, Ali, and Ali’s wife, Ruquayah, already lived here and had all the restaurant savvy needed to run a successful business. The three teamed up to open a small storefront at 15 Commerce Street in downtown Montgomery.
NYC Gyro specializes in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine. Nawaz said, “We have a lot of different delicious foods to choose from, such as Greek-style chicken, lamb gyros, hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, tabouli salad, and Greek salad. We also have American food, such as burgers, wings and Philly cheesesteaks, as well as our chef special Pakistani food twice a week.” They also offer organic salads and shakes as well as vegetarian dishes. “We serve a lot of vegetarian options here at our location. Everything is made from scratch, and we make each and every order fresh, just the way our customers like it. We have some items that we have added to our menu named after some of our customers who requested it,” said Nawaz. They also cater and will deliver orders with a $20 minimum.
Their storefront is convenient for customers who work downtown, but they plan to park their NYC Gyro food truck on the East side to cater to customers who can’t make it downtown during lunch hours. At a spacious 24 feet, the food truck, equipped with a rotisserie, grill and fryer, will be hard to miss in that part of town. Although this will be Nawaz’s first experience in the food truck business, it is sure to be a success, following in the footsteps of their brick and mortar store. Check their Facebook page to stay in the know!
Something new for NYC Gyro is their late night hours, which allows them to serve the bar crowds and also bartenders when they get off work. They are now open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from 9 a.m. to 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
When asked what drives him to do what he does, Nawaz shared, “It’s the passion to make great quality-tasting food for the satisfaction and pleasure of people in the South…to have them try different kinds of food which are not very common in the South, like lamb gyros and falafel, and also meeting some awesome people that are just like family now.”
With their present success, Nawaz and his family are looking to future expansion. He said, “We definitely plan to expand our business and to branch out to different locations upon the many requests from customers who want us to open a spot closer to them as well.” Looking at their Facebook reviews, it’s obvious why the customers would want a convenient location. With comments like “the food is always great” and “the best lamb gyro,” the customers love the deliciously authentic food from NYC Gyro as much as Nawaz and his family love their customers.