You might have noticed a new restaurant-on-wheels hanging around our small Lafayette town. If you haven’t, you must not have been on College Street lately.
That’s where you’ll find Mike’s Munchies most days of the week (Tuesday-Saturday). In the parking lot of Bray’s tire store, Michael Holland parks his food truck every morning and starts cooking.
Holland stays open from about 11 to 5 on weekdays, and tries to stay open until closer to 8 on Friday and Saturday, but he often runs out of food before then. “I’m kind of limited in how much food I can have,” said Holland. “I’m not a bricks-and-mortar restaurant. It’s not like I have a walk-in freezer and fridge, so I’m working out of limited space.”
The MCHS graduate, who went to TN Tech and worked in food services in Cookeville, had trouble choosing a career initially. “Couldn’t find my niche, I guess,” he said. “So I just created my own.
“After Tech, I kind of got into food. After working there for so long, I started seeing food more creatively. I always wanted to have my own business. I didn’t care what it was. I wanted to do my own thing. I had trouble working for other people—always gave my opinion to managers. I got onto other servers when they didn’t dress the food nicely. I feel like the extra time you spend making that food look way it’s supposed to in the picture is important; they’re going to enjoy their food that much more… little things go the furthest to me.”
Holland’s dad, who is approaching retirement, eventually went in with him in this new endeavor. They started in June of 2013, purchasing a camper trailer that was already outfitted with a kitchen but needed a lot of work. They did all the work themselves. His dad, who is an expert handyman, helped with everything, said Holland: “Plumbing, electric—stuff I wouldn’t have a clue how to do.”
Finally, the thing was snappily painted on the outside, decked out with logo and other decals, and the interior was standing ready with stainless-steel countertops, industrial cabinets and storage, fryers, Panini grills, and much more. They finished it up at the end of the summer in 2013, and Holland set to work creating his menu.
And what a menu it is.
Famous burgers, which he makes by hand and which always sell out. He uses ground chuck so that the 1/2 pound burger is still a 1/2 pound when you eat it. Fried banana pudding. Loaded sweet potato fries with caramel, cinnamon, and marshmallows, all torched to a light crisp. Iced coffee. A chicken melt on Texas toast. A pulled pork sandwich that is topped with French fried onions, bacon, cheddar cheese, and barbecue sauce.
Holland makes it easy to for customers to create their own meal, with lots of cheap add-ons. “I don’t make a whole lot of money on add-ons, but it allows people to make it THEIR food,” he said. “You can change it up. And I love it—people have gotten so creative. They can do that.”
What’s the best on the menu? According to Holland, this is the premium item: a special thin-cut steak sandwich. “We grill it, and then we thin slice it. It literally melts in your mouth. You could eat it with no teeth. It amazes me sometimes. That’s the thing I always hated about a steak sandwich, is you’re trying to tear into it, rip that meat apart, and everything comes off. It comes with sautéed peppers and onions, pepper jack and mozzarella/provolone mix.”
He clearly gets excited about cooking, and the excitement is infectious. Listening to him is enough to make your mouth water.
“I like to get a lot of things locally,” said Holland. “I get my meat from Hometown Foods. I don’t have anything against Walmart, but I would rather go to a locally owned store. I do go to Walmart for my lettuce; it’s the only place I can get it fresh enough. I like crisp, fresh lettuce. If it doesn’t look good, I don’t want it on my sandwich.”
Although he’s been parked pretty consistently in the Brays’ parking lot since November of 2013, he plans to start using his wheels soon and going to some of the local summer events. For instance, he plans to be at the 2014 Folk Medicine Festival. Maybe the Wilson County Fair. Eventually, perhaps, he’ll park himself at some music festivals in Nashville. He’s already been in the city, scoping out the competition (he’s cheaper, he says, and his food is better).
Mike’s Munchies is located at 418 College Street in Lafayette, TN. It is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mike’s accepts cash and all major credit cards. Check them out on Facebook to see daily menu updates.