Got a taste for Paraguay? Just wait for the Lomito Truck
It's kind of startling just how much Pittsburgh's food scene has changed in just the past few years.
For instance, somebody thought it would be a good idea to sell Paraguayan street food out of a truck in Pittsburgh — and it was. Imagine that 10 years ago, or even five.
Entrepreneur/restaurateur Hoon Kim had the idea for the Lomito Truck after a trip to Paraguay.
“Lomito is traditional street food in South American cuisine,” he says. “A Lomito is a sirloin steak sandwich, with ham on top, melted cheese, lettuce and tomato, chimichurri sauce, made with parsley and garlic and olive oil. On top of that is a runny egg, and a toasted Kaiser bun.
“Ours is from Paraguay. My business partner and brother-in-law, Damon (Dlubak), is married to a Paraguayan, Rocio (Martinez Dlubak). She and the cuisine have been the inspiration. When Damon got married five or six years ago, we all went to Paraguay.”
Kim, a Harvard-educated former teacher, owns a test-preparation company (Pittsburgh Prep) and an adventurous, acclaimed Japanese restaurant in Bloomfield, Fukuda. He's learned to trust his business instincts, as well as his taste buds.
“In America, you go out partying and get drunk and usually have a pizza,” Kim says. “In Paraguay, their street foods are unparalleled. They serve the best cuts of meat. It's relatively inexpensive and high-quality. They had these street-food stands, serving Lomito Completo, with the runny egg. Guys and girls eat it like it's the last thing they're ever going to devour. I fell in love with the sandwich, the cuisine and culture.
“I approached Damon with the idea to do a food truck He comes from a more traditional culinary background — the New England Culinary Institute, a Level 3 Master of Wine, cooked at Cafe Gray in New York City. He's the head chef.”
Paraguayan food is different, but not so different that Americans wouldn't recognize it.
“It's meat-based,” Kim says. “Very simple, hearty and very good. Very clean — not a lot of sauces. They grill a lot. Their meat gets a nice, natural smoked flavor, with salt and pepper.”
The Lomito Truck has a small, but well-tested menu, with a few other South American and Caribbean street-food specialties.
There's the Lomito Completo ($8), and the Feijoada ($6), which is Brazilian vegetarian black beans and rice topped with tomatoes. Chori Panne ($7) is Argentine sausage with tomato and vinaigrette on an Italian roll. Corn on the cob is served “Havana-style, with cheese and sour cream and a dash of chili pepper,” Kim says.
“All our meats are organic, 100 percent grass-fed,” he says. “We use local sources, like DJ's Butcher's Block in Bloomfield.”
The truck can be found at all kinds of public events, from Light Up Night to the “Weather Permitting” outdoor concerts at Shadyside Nursery. On Friday and Saturday nights, the Lomito Truck is usually in the parking lot of Shadyside Detail on Ellsworth Avenue, from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., to serve the bar-hopping crowd.
Running a business, a restaurant and a food truck doesn't leave Kim with a lot of down time.
“You don't really sleep much,” he explains. “It's less of a talent and more of a management of imbalance.”
For the Lomito Truck locations, go www.facebook.com/LomitoTruck, or search LomitoTruck on Twitter. Details: 412-555-5555
Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.