Often, a would-be restaurant owner starts out by opening a food truck first to test food and limit the initial investment. If it’s successful, the owner could then open a stationary location, but Mayan Cafe is doing things a bit backward.
After a decade operating a brick-and-mortar restaurant, the co-owners, Anne Shadle and Bruce Ucán, are starting a food truck called Mayan Street Food.
“It’s really getting to the core of what Mayan food is,” Shadle told Insider about the food truck. “Mayan food is peasant food; it is street food. It’s quick and easy, and you eat it with your hands. We have kind of elevated that at Mayan Cafe.”
The restaurant at 813 E. Market St. will remain, but the pair have decided to exclusively partner with Gravely Brewing Co., a new brewery opening at 514 Baxter Ave.
“We’re super pumped about the partnership with Gravely because I think there is a lot of synergy between the two businesses,” Shadle said.
Although admittedly, she said, she didn’t feel that way when Gravely Brewing’s co-owners, Corey Buenning and Nathaniel Gravely, first approached Mayan Cafe with the idea.
“I kind of blew him off for a little bit,” she said of Gravely. “But, we sat down to have lunch I thought, ‘You know, actually, this is a pretty unique opportunity.’ ”
Gravely told Insider that Mayan Cafe was his first choice of a food partner.
“It becomes a partnership where they get to showcase their talents and also dip into the pocketbooks of people who want to drink beer and eat food,” he said. “I went after them because I love Mayan Cafe. …Bruce’s creations are amazing and simple.”
He added that having no experience, they didn’t want to try to manage their own kitchen and preferred to “partner with somebody who is already a rock star.”
Shadle and Ucán thought about opening a food truck in the past, but they didn’t want to be beholden to the seasonality of the industry, Shadle said.
“We’ll always be right around the brewery, so it’s a guaranteed market for us,” she said.
The truck, which Mayan Cafe bought used from Pennsylvania, is being outfitted to their needs. The exterior of the food truck and its logo was designed by Louisville-based Via Studio to fit both the aesthetic of Mayan Cafe and to tie it into Gravely Brewing.
The logo for the Mayan Cafe food truck is a hieroglyph that means drinking vessel, Shadle said.
The two businesses will share a single point-of-sale system, which will allow customers to order food from a Gravely Brewing server instead of having to stand in a line at the food truck. The truck will employ a manager, a counter attendant and a couple of cooks.
“From the guest experience, it is totally integrated,” Shadle said.
The truck’s menu will include chips and dips, Mexican street corn, tacos and salbutes, which are a Mayan taco. Prices will range from $4 to $10.
The truck won’t serve up Mayan Cafe’s famous Lima beans, however. “We still have to give people a reason to come to the Mayan Cafe,” Shadle said with a laugh.
The Mayan Cafe food truck is expected to take its first orders in mid-August around the same time that Gravely Brewing opens. The food truck’s hours of operation will be 4 p.m. to either 11 p.m. or midnight, Monday through Saturday.