By Vickie Lewis
Filipino Inspired Gourmet, Served up the Good Ol’ American Way!
People who work in a profession about which they are passionate are among the luckiest in the world. They are motivated, they are eager, they are driven, and their energy and enthusiasm are contagious! These attributes perfectly describe brothers and co-partners of the Curbside Kitchen Gourmet Mobile Food Truck, Raynard and Russell Lozano, who are living out their desire to create and spread their love for Filipino food. Based out of San Pablo, these two young men are making their mark throughout Contra Costa County, offering Filipino-inspired foods served American style, as a tribute to their culture and background.
Ray and Russell have always been fascinated by food (translation: they have an avid interest in eating!) Born and raised in San Pablo into a traditional Filipino family, their mother worked at Nation’s Restaurants for many years. They spent many afternoons at Nations waiting for their mom to get off work, happily enjoying burgers, fries and shakes while doing their homework. Russell loved to watch his mother cook at home from a very early age. When he was only seven years old, he expressed interest in learning to cook, and began serving as his mother’s “kitchen assistant.” As a teen, he expanded his love of cooking by working at local restaurants, and eventually enrolled in the Contra Costa College Culinary Arts Program, from which he graduated in 2012. Prior to the launch of Curbside Kitchen, Russell continued to hone his skills in the restaurant industry, and worked as a Sous Chef for Tina’s Place (Pinole), a Head Chef for the former Sala Restaurant (Hercules), and as a lead cook for Nordstrom’s in San Francisco, among other venues. For Curbside Kitchen, Russell is the primary cook and food preparation artist, and loves the flexibility and creativity that comes with owning his own business.
Raynard’s love of eating did not lead him to study Culinary Arts; instead his educational pursuits were in the areas of Socio-Economics and Urban Planning. These fields of study have proven to be invaluable to the brothers as they planned, launched, and continue to expand their gourmet food truck business. Ray works alongside Russell when Curbside Kitchen is on site, cooking and serving customers; however, his primary focus is on handling the many responsibilities and complexities of owning and operating the business. He handles most of the marketing and promotion of the Curbside Kitchen, and helps ensure that they are booked frequently at various locations throughout the local community and greater Contra Costa County.
The Lozano brothers both graduated from college in the spring of 2012. Driven by their desire to create and spread their love for food, “unbounded by the interests and influences of distanced restaurant owners and corporations”, they formed a partnership and a plan that would lead to their current endeavor . In 2012, they purchased what used to be a gourmet Hot Dog Truck, and spent the next four years investing in upgrades and repairs that were essential to ensure reliable operation, as well as to promote their brand. The name “Curbside Kitchen” can be partially attributed to the four years that the truck sat “on the curb” while it was being refurbished! But Russell said the name was also selected because it describes the flexibility of their mobile business.
Curbside Kitchen officially celebrates its one year anniversary this month, having first launched in April 2016 outside of Barney McBears Beer Garden in El Cerrito (formerly Sky Lounge.) Their Grand Opening was well-attended by friends, family and supporters who had long looked forward to their launch. Since that first day, Curbside Kitchen has debuted at many other locations throughout Contra Costa County, and has amassed loyal customers who seek out their location when they want to partake of gourmet Filipino cuisine at a reasonable price. Each week, a calendar of events/locations is posted on their website to make it easy to find the Curbside Kitchen. Sometimes the truck is in two different locations on the same day, serving lunch until 2:00 and then serving dinner starting in the afternoons. They have standing bookings at select locations, such as year-round “Off the Grid” food truck events, and at the Certified Farmer’s Market at the Richmond Civic Center every Friday from 11 – 2. Local employers such as Kaiser (Richmond) and East Brother Brewing Company in Point Richmond often request Curbside Kitchen to park on-site for the convenience (and culinary delight) of their employees and customers. Finally, Curbside Kitchen is often present at local celebrations and festivals, such as the recent Hercules Bayfront Celebration. The Lozano brothers are certainly always on the go, and every day for them is a new experience!
Curbside Kitchen offers a selection of delicious menu items which are all affordably priced at $10 and under. The standard menu includes favorites inspired by the recipes of their mother, but Russell also enjoys creating new recipes, which are often featured as “Specials”. The Curbside Burger is one of the most popular items with Curbside Kitchen customers, billed as their signature Filipino inspired burger. The sandwich is comprised of an Angus beef patty (ground chuck) blanketed with tocino (Filipino bacon), melted Monterey Jack cheese, marinated onions, served on a bed of arugula, achara slaw (carrots and daikon), sliced tomato, and house aioli on a toasted bun. When we visited Curbside Kitchen for dinner at “Off the Grid” in El Cerrito, my guest ordered the Curbside Burger and was thoroughly delighted with the taste! The meat was tender and juicy and had a delicious flavor, and the bun was fresh and soft. The sandwich was piled high with the accompaniments, and my guest loved the freshness of the combined flavors. When asked about the wonderful flavor of the burger meat, Ray informed me that it is marinated in garlic and soy sauce before cooking. No wonder it is a customer favorite!
I tried the “Curb-bahn mi” sandwich, made with traditional Filipino adobo, which is slow-cooked, pulled pork shoulder meat. This $9 sandwich includes melted Monterey Jack cheese, bean sprouts and cilantro, served on a bed of achara slaw, cucumber, and house aioli on a toasted bun. Once again, the sandwich was stacked high with ingredients, including a generous portion of adobo, which is the national Filipino meat dish. The flavor of the meat was excellent, and the combination of flavors of the other items really enhanced the sandwich. So often, pulled pork sandwiches are made with just the meat and the bun, which can be rather boring. But this sandwich, with the sprouts and other condiments, not to mention the savory flavor of the pork, was a real treat.
My guest and I also shared another of the Curbside Kitchen’s best-selling menu items – the Sidewalk Fries. The fries are sold separately for $7 and are well worth every penny! These are not your standard French Fries; these are crispy, shoestring fries tossed in a spicy tamarind seasoning, topped with generous amounts of tocino (Filipino bacon), Monterey Jack cheese, house aioli, green onions, and cilantro. The fries are reminiscent of McDonald’s fries (but better!) and one order is enough for at least two people to share. Ray and Russell are very liberal with the toppings for the fries, which make this side dish substantial enough to be a meal in itself! My guest and I eagerly consumed the fries which, like the sandwiches, had a wonderful blended flavor. Suffice to say that the Sidewalk Fries are a must when you visit Curbside Kitchen.
What would a Filipino food truck be without Lumpia? I have never met a person who has tried lumpia and didn’t like it. For those who aren’t familiar, lumpia are crisply fried Filipino egg rolls. But the lumpia sold by the Curbside Kitchen is not just any lumpia—these are “Mom’s Lumpia”! Yes, Mom still personally makes these hand-filled and hand-rolled eggrolls for her sons’ business. Russell said that he just hasn’t been successful in replicating his mother’s lumpia recipe. He also said that she is much faster at rolling the eggrolls than he is, and she is happy to be able to contribute to the success of Curbside Kitchen. Lumpia are made with various combinations of vegetable and meat fillings; but I must say that these lumpia are among the best I have ever eaten! Made with ground pork and shrimp, the eggrolls also include minced carrots, water chestnuts, and green onions. An order of lumpia is $5 and consists of four pieces, served with a delicious sweet chili dipping sauce. My guest and I shared an order of lumpia, in addition to the Sidewalk Fries and our sandwiches. We both agreed that our meals were extremely filling and satisfying!
There are two other sandwiches on the standard Curbside Kitchen menu—the Curbside Chicken sandwich, and the Mushroom Melt, a vegetarian option made with Portobello mushroom and tofu. The evening we visited, there was also a featured special—Filipino Street Tacos (2 for $5.00). A variety of bottled waters, sodas and juices are also available, including a Peruvian and a Salvadoran soda selection. They hope to offer traditional Filipino beverages in the future.
Please change this to read “Russell and Raynard prepare most of the food for Curbside Kitchen at a local commercial kitchen. Although most items are cooked to order on the truck, certain items, like the Filipino adobo, require cooking offsite so that it can simmer for hours to achieve the desired flavor and tenderness. Curbside Kitchen is also available to cater events, and recently catered a local roundtable meeting for Richmond Mayor, Tom Butt. A separate catering menu available, but the brothers are willing to work with clients to customize menu offerings for their events. Catering can be done directly from the truck which can be brought onsite for an event; alternatively, large batches of food can be prepared and set up buffet style on location. Those interested in exploring catering options with Curbside Kitchen should contact Raynard at 628-400-3840.
These two young brothers are a dynamic duo who have wonderful business acumen and a keen desire to serve the community where they were raised and which they love. They are among a group of community leaders and associations that have joined together to introduce “The Food Emporium,” Richmond’s very own version of “Off the Grid,” where food trucks, musicians, and artists come together to create a family-friendly community event. Spearheaded by community leader, Cesar Zepeda, the first Food Emporium launched in October 2016, and the next event will be held April 30th at Hilltop Lake Park. This will be a great opportunity to go and check out Curbside Kitchen and enjoy an afternoon of fun, enjoyment, and most importantly, good food!
You’re sure to see more of these young businessmen as Curbside Kitchen continues to gain more exposure and grows in popularity. And within the next few years, Russell and Raymond may launch a second food truck, offering a different, but equally enticing, type of menu. Their long term (5 year) plan includes opening a brick and mortar restaurant within the local area. Raynard’s and Russell’s drive and enthusiasm, and willingness to work hard to make their dreams a reality, are admirable qualities that are rare in today’s world. I encourage you to seek out Curbside Kitchen to try some great Filipino-inspired gourmet food, and to support this local small business. Don’t forget to check out Curbsidekitchen.us to find upcoming locations near you.
3300 Giant Road, San Pablo | (628) 400-3840 | curbsidekitchen.us
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