It's three hours into the lunch rush at a recent Walnut Wednesday, and options are quickly disappearing from Hodge Podge's dry-erase menu; soon, only the popular tater tots will remain.
The food truck's allure could have something to do with its second-place finish on the Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. On the other hand, it could just be the eats — a playful assemblage that ranges from deep-fried hot dogs to Southern-style shrimp and grits.
Chef-owner Chris Hodgson's plate has filled up considerably since the 2011 Race, thanks in large part to this spring's launch of his eponymous Hodge's restaurant. As a result, he's turned the Hodge Podge wheel over to his longtime friend and colleague Jesse Tyner. "Chris'll come to parties here and there, and every once in a while he'll jump on because he misses it," Tyner says.
A Cleveland native, Tyner claims more than 20 years in the industry. "But I had five sisters growing up, so I pretty much started out cooking."
While the menu is built mainly around a Southern theme, Tyner says it's seasoned with plenty of contemporary creativity. His personal fave is the shrimp and grits, enlivened with smoked Gouda and jalapeños. Other menu frequent flyers include the colossal Hodgedog covered in tots, BBQ sauce, and slaw ($6), and the Crabby Patty sandwich topped with arugula, sriracha, and fresh tomato ($10).
To go with, sweet potato tots are $4 and regular tots are $3; add an imported soda for $2.
"Working in the truck is pretty much like flying by the seat of your pants," says Tyner. "It's a constant rush, but once it stops, it stops, and you get to drive off." — Justine Stump