Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Honesty is the Best Gastronomy

This morning Stu Franks and I ventured to Drexel University's campus to meet and interview Tom McCusker, owner of the ubiquitous Honest Tom's Taco Shop. Two Sundays ago, Tom's truck fed famished foodies at the Headhouse. The Sunday after that, he provided punks provisions at the Punk Rock Flea Market at 9th and Callowhill. The rest of the week he was and still can be found at Drexel, the Parkway, Clark Park in West Philadelphia and soon - permanent business (one without wheels) back in West Philly. I wasn't trying to flex my perspicacity when I said ubiquitous; this guy is everywhere.
Alas, this is a typical day in the life of the food truck vendor in the days of vendorchic. A trend that originated on the West Coast, the food trucks have rolled their way east and are now a fixture in most major metropolitan areas. What used to be known, albeit not so affectionately as a "roach coach", the food truck has gained an aura of legitimacy thanks in no small part to offerings like the one pictured to the right. Thanks to fresh local ingredients and a committed local entrepreneur, some lucky residents of Philadelphia are tasting tacos for breakfast. And after enjoying more than a couple ourselves, it's easy to understand how the The National Restaurant Association proclaims that the food truck category is projected to top $630 million in nationwide revenue in 2011, up 3.6 percent from 2010, which would outstrip the 2.5 percent growth estimate for the entire restaurant business. When we told Honest Tom about these figures, he couldn't believe it, although the facts belie his disbelief. Case in point - he has been so successful with his truck that he will be opening up his first "brick and mortar" establishment this August.   
Tom McCusker, 29, has been in the food truck game since 2009. A native of Delaware County, he graduated from Drexel University with a degree in Hospitality Management and discovered the breakfast taco (see above) while in Austin Texas. He came back to Philly and started up Honest Tom's with his brother Matt, although per Tom, his brother Matt "has left the business to pursue wedded bliss with his lovely fiancee'..." McCusker isn't short on help though, he recently hired Phil, whose interests Include (per the Honest Tom's Facebook page),  cold beer, hot legs, and Aerosmith. Funny guy this Honest Tom...Speaking of Facebook, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the role of social networking in the rise of the mobile vendor, and McCusker acknowledges the value of sites like Facebook and Twitter, especially when it comes to sharing his schedule with the Honest Tom's faithful. For instance, I wasn't sure if he would be at Clark Park the Saturday before Memorial Day. I checked his Facebook and boom - closed Friday, Clark Park on Saturday - Real time updates for free for a mobile eating establishment! I keep hearing that the rules have changed and in the "new economy" you need to become innovative to survive; by utilizing social networking and offering a product that is considered gourmet fare, the food truck vendor can navigate through the pitfalls of the recession and bypass the normal start-up costs of a sit-in eatery as well as the cost of marketing said eatery. Heck, even this blog post, one of the cornerstones of social networking, is a commercial for Honest Tom. While we are on the subject of commercials, I mentioned I came to see Tom with Stu Franks, whom you may recognize from his groundbreaking interview with Three Springs Fruit Farm's Ben Wenk two weeks ago. He has put together a video about Honest Tom that continues to glorify the Taco Truck King...enjoy

Here is Tom's schedule. If you first heard about him here, let him know. Word of mouth, social networking...there seems to be a theme here. 
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays - 20th and Race 11-2
Tuesdays and Thursdays - 33rd and Arch 
Saturdays - Clark Park - 43rd and Baltimore 10 - 2
Sundays - Various for Breakfast. 
His new location will be at 261 South 44th St., between Spruce and Locust. 

Special thanks to Stu Franks (video production) and Rachel Playe (photography) who both contributed to this post. 


  1. I love this place! Thanks for doing an article.

  2. It was our pleasure. Tom's one of the best!


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