Brian Etienne slaps the American Deluxe sandwich on a food scale. It weighs nearly two pounds and is filled with pulled pork, fried chicken, honey baked ham, bacon and cheese. This is the sort of sandwich Homer Simpson dreams about, and it’s so big that even with my Steven Tyler-sized mouth, I can’t take a full bite.
This is the sort of magic that comes out of Tucky’s food cart in Springfield. Etienne co-owns the cart with Celena Hoerauf, and together they have developed creative, dense sandwiches and other menu items — whether it’s lunchtime or a Saturday brunch.
“Our food truck prides itself on creative sandwiches,” Hoerauf says.
In November 2020, Tucky’s moved to Springfield from Monmouth, Etienne says. Although Springfield has a food cart pod on Main Street near 5th, Hoerauf says there aren’t many carts in town, so there was a lot of opportunity in bringing the cart near Coburg Pizza Company at Mohawk and Centennial.
The cart has regular sandwiches, like the Ragin’ Cajun, which is pepper jack cheese, Andouille sausage and an eight-ounce slab of fried chicken with kimchi greens. But it also has special menus, one of which is Tucky’s Saturday brunch.
“People often see food carts like this and expect a static restaurant,” Etienne says. “People don’t realize that food cart menus sometimes change, so we have that day on Saturday where we can be creative and bring back a lot of stuff that people like.”
The Saturday brunch menu often brings in regular weekday customers, he adds. And one sandwich some go “ape shit” about, he says, is the Sweet Fancy Moses, a collaboration with the locally owned Master Donuts on Mohawk Boulevard.
“We wanted to find a way to not just support another local business, but how to do another one of our fun, signature sandwiches that you can’t get anywhere,” Hoerauf says.
The sandwich has two maple bar doughnuts for buns. Inside is slow braised pulled pork, honey baked ham, pepper jack cheese, grilled and served with blueberry jam for spreading.
“Brunch to us should be a fun experience,” Etienne says. “If you’re willing to get up early — I don’t care if you want to come up in your pajamas or if you get dressed — I want you to be saying, ‘This was so worth coming here.’”
Etienne says people who aren’t familiar with Southern cooking often have a narrow perspective of what it is, so he keeps the menu accessible. For example, he adds, they used collard greens in sandwiches but decided to use kale because it’s more familiar for the Northwest region, he adds.
“We try to embrace those cultural standards, like the fried chicken, mac and cheese,” he says. “But using those twists depending on the ingredient from the Pacific Northwest but relating it to the South.”
The food cart doesn’t limit itself to sandwiches. Tucky’s lunch and brunch menu includes other twists on Southern staples, such as fried chicken and waffles. And on Fridays, the cart has a fish focus, sometimes selling prawns and grits or blackened salmon.
But whenever a customer orders a sandwich at Tucky’s, Hoerauf says the average weight is about one and a half pounds. And that’s why she calls their sandwiches a commitment — because with something so large, you have to be dedicated to finish it.
I thought of those words as I took the final bites of the American Deluxe, and how I practiced the sort of commitment necessary to finish a Tucky’s sandwich. And that’s when my food-comatose brain recalled a Homer Simpson quote: “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”
Tucky’s is at 1650 Centennial Boulevard in Springfield. Hours are 11 am to 5 pm Wednesday through Friday, noon to 5 pm Saturday. For more information visit TuckysKitchen.com or find on Facebook for an up-to-date menu.