Thursday is National Mac & Cheese Day! What better way to celebrate than by flagging down a macaroni and cheese truck (after watching the mouthwatering video below)?
FAIRFIELD, Ohio – Macaroni and cheese may be the cushiest of comfort foods and local restaurateurs Jarod Maier and Casey Thiemann are bringing it directly to your doorstep, your office or a festival near you.
The duo closed their J. Gumbo’s restaurant June 3 to drive into the Tri-State food truck scene with Chicken Mac Truck, specializing in heaping bowls of mac and cheese (just like Maier’s grandma makes) smothered with your choice of a half-dozen varieties of slow-simmered chicken.
They’ll be hitting Cincinnati streets for a city tour June 30 to July 4.
- June 30 – Rhinegeist Brewery in Over-the-Rhine – 6 to 9 p.m.
- July 1 – Food Truck Friday in West Chester (9075 Centre Pointe Dr.) – 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- July 2 – Fourth of July Jam in Washington Park (OTR) – 3 to 10 p.m.
- July 3 – Red Rhythm and Boom at the Mason Municipal Campus – 4 to 10 p.m.
- July 4 – Concert and fireworks at RiversEdge in Hamilton – 3 to 10 p.m.
One-quarter of the tour proceeds will benefit Fall Feast, a free Thanksgiving meal that feeds thousands of Greater Cincinnati residents. They'll also be collecting coats and toiletries to donate to Cincinnati’s homeless population.
Many of Chicken Mac Truck's chicken dishes are renamed holdovers from their Cajun and creole fare at J. Gumbo’s, including bourbon chicken, honey Sriracha chicken and buffalo chicken, which “flew off the truck” at Bunbury Music Festival earlier this month. They also have rice available as a gluten-free option.
Bowls cost anywhere from $7 to $10, depending on the venue and event. Check here for their latest schedule.
The pair has known each other for 20 years, and after five years at J. Gumbo’s, Thiemann said it was time to make a switch.
“We could have kept going with (J. Gumbo’s), but when you have a passion for something else, you just have to put all your time and effort into that,” Thiemann said.
“We wanted to branch out and get our food to more people,” Maier added. “You know, kind of spread the food and the happiness to everyone.”
Maier and his father poured their energy into fitting a postal truck with solar panels to power the lights and menu screen and rehabilitating it to meet industry standards for food safety.
“Keeping a whole big kitchen like (J. Gumbo’s) clean, it was very challenging. We’ve got this truck – it’s a lot smaller of a kitchen to keep clean and sanitary,” Maier said. “Some people think that food trucks aren’t as clean as a restaurant, but I think the other way. I think that food trucks are probably cleaner than restaurants.”
Thiemann added that perceptions of food trucks have been on the move. He predicts that more Cincinnatians will start choosing them for their convenience and variety.
If the customers who showed up to the truck one rainy Friday at the old J. Gumbo’s location are any indication, Thiemann could be right.
The constant drizzle didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of husband and wife Jake Ledbetter and Elizabeth Blythe, who ordered J. Gumbo’s for their wedding rehearsal dinner.
“He’ll order it into work and everyone likes it,” Blythe said.
“It’s the right price; it’s a lot of food; it’s really good,” Ledbetter added. “And since it’s a food truck and they’ll travel around and go to different places, I’ll see if I can get them to come to our business as well so they can park outside and get everyone there to come to it.”
Chicken Mac Truck has brought its cheesy, starchy goodness directly to a handful of local businesses for lunchtime and hopes to build on this, even though Maier said his “wallet doesn’t like this truck” because of rising gas prices.
“We’ll go anywhere,” Thiemann said. “Being that we already have a footprint here in Fairfield from having the restaurant, obviously we’ll continue to do a lot of business out here and go to the same places … in the end, you got to go where the people are.”