This article is the third in a series of three on the Central Coast food truck scene that highlights a different local food truck and some background on its chef(s) and cuisine. Hopefully, these stories will inspire you to get out and explore some of what our local dining scene has to offer.
Meet Sarah Price and Robert Flores, owners/operators of Big Truck Foods and Sassafras Mobile Food Truck and Restaurant in Lompoc — a true dynamic duo. Their story is about a family with perseverance, passion, commitment and an “ain’t nobody gonna stop us” attitude with an extra serving of talent and creativity.
Price and Flores purchased their first food truck in September of 2017. I remember it well. It was big, it was purple and kind of artsy. It had tremendous pop. Flores served up these incredibly juicy, monster-sized sandwiches dripping with goodness that had "comfort food" written all over them. He was inspired to venture into the mobile food truck scene after frequenting the Los Angeles food truck events. His desire to grow his cooking skills and serve others came from his experience working for various caterers in Santa Barbara.
Price grew up cooking as a child, learning from her father who was an esteemed chef in the state of Washington. Her dad was a key influencer for Nordstrom cafes, creating the menus and overseeing the development of the food program. Her dad, she said, has been an inspiration and has helped to support menu development for their mobile food businesses.
After having been in business for a short time with their first food truck, Big Truck Foods, in May 2018, the big purple truck literally caught fire and blew up. It was rendered inoperable and could not be salvaged. The horrific event did not completely shut down this aspiring couple's dream, as they had a backup white truck ready to go within days.
It wasn’t as flashy, yet the humble white knight of a truck checked all the boxes to get back on the road to serving up monster sammies. As luck would have it, the white knight began having mechanical problems, which created another setback. In the meantime, Price and Flores both had medical careers to fall back on to continue supporting themselves and their five children.
Price and Flores could be named the comeback kids. They continued to make a return to the mobile food scene with not one truck but two! Another anecdote to their success is the involvement of their children — even the youngest, Xochilt, who was a very entertaining part of the interview. (Shout-out to local Sissy’s Uptown Café, as she was enjoying her penne pasta as we chatted.) The children’s participation in the business helped to make Big Truck Foods and Sassafras mobile cuisine a thriving business. Each truck employs one employee, in addition to the kiddos. The average meals served from the two trucks during the week at their various sites is approximately 1,000.
One cannot overlook the generosity and support this couple offers to a large portion of the local mobile food community and community at large.
In 2018, they purchased a bricks and mortar restaurant at 129 N. V Street in Lompoc, naming it Sassafras. Shortly thereafter, Price and Flores started Food Truck Fridays in their parking lot on V Street, generating bustling business for all of the food trucks that joined in. After renovation of the restaurant, they opened up the doors in early 2020 and a few months later the pandemic caused them to shut down. Being community-minded, generous and empathetic to the needs of those unable to get out for meals — many being older adults — the dynamic and philanthropic duo prepared and delivered meals (many at no charge) wherever necessary from the start of the pandemic.
Alex's A/R Catering can be found at Lompoc's weekly “Food Truck Fridays” — located for the summer at The Old Theater parking lot at 112 N. H Street — offering up a specialty barbeque menu.
As Price said, “We had a stocked commercial refrigerator full of food that we could not use for our business, so we needed to share it and help out where we could. We love Lompoc and it’s been an honor to help where we can.”
Their restaurant site is now being used to support several local mobile food truck businesses as their registered commercial kitchen preparation site. These businesses all support one another to be successful, sharing positive anecdotes about the other and referring business to one another. Competition? Of course. Yet, it is a friendly competition that is generating a substantially positive vibe in the Lompoc community and beyond.
A most-often-asked question is: Will they be opening up Sassafras as an actual dine-in restaurant? Price and Flores certainly hope so. One day. Once they know they are clear of a shutdown, they will consider its reopening. Until then, mobile food it is. When they do reopen, I am all about their delicious "cloud cakes." Pure heaven on a plate, you’ll see.
Both trucks deliver over-the-top comfort food. As described on their social media “elevated comfort food,” is spot on. Anything you order is bursting with flavor and, yep, some definite calories. Yet, the upside is you are getting a walloping portion of protein, comfort and a guaranteed happy dance (you know you have one).
One bite of the Tennessee hot chicken sandwich from Sassafras and you will be besties. Really. It’s an extra humongous tender chicken breast, coated with spicy batter, deep friend and served on a luscious burger bun with a generous dollop of oozy coleslaw and a smattering of siracha aioli. I savored it over three days. You can also get the Tennessee hot chicken nuggets, giving up the whole bun thing. You still get all of that same fantastic spiciness.
And, do not miss the smoky, tender tri-tip prepared to buttery perfection. It is first barbecued, then smoked. There are so many layers of flavor and extra comfort with this sandwich. Do try.
Big Truck Foods and Flores do not disappoint with anything on the menu. The Monster burger is incredible, with thick-cut bacon, cheddar and grilled onions. The Noah special is a super serious grilled cheese, with several cheeses and that thick-cut bacon again on sourdough. The asada fries also are a win.
Check out Sassafras and Big Truck Foods Facebook and Instagram pages to help prepare you for when you step up to the order window.
I hope to see you out and about supporting our local food truck events, and experiencing some of the best food that the Central Coast has to offer.
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