Best Food Trucks in New York City 2012: Grab Some Fancy Hot Dogs at "The Fisherman's Dog," a Surf-and-Turf Food Truck on Rockaway Beach

September 18, 2012 1:34 PM EDT | By Anthony Smith
Fisherman's Dog
When it comes to our Food Kickstarter of the Day, sometimes a project is as worthy as it is informative. Terrence McNicholas of "The Fisherman's Dog," a deceptively ramshackle food truck on Rockaway Beach that serves up extraordinary surf-and-turf eats, is an expert on cutting through the red tape. Here, he dishes about beautiful Jamaica Bay, the joys of greasily perfect cooking, and (best of all) gives our readers an insider loophole on how to get your food truck fast-tracked. (Photo: Kickstarter)

It's 2012, and we're doing our best to alert you to not just the best food trucks in New York City, but also the finest Kickstarters around. Both scenes are becoming overpopulated, and we're hoping we can curate the experience for you just a touch.

When it comes to our Food Kickstarter of the Day, sometimes a project is as worthy as it is informative. Terence McNicholas of "The Fisherman's Dog," a deceptively ramshackle food truck on Rockaway Beach that serves up extraordinary surf-and-turf eats, is an expert on cutting through the red tape. Here, he dishes about beautiful Jamaica Bay, the joys of greasily perfect cooking, and (best of all) gives our readers an insider loophole on how to get your food truck fast-tracked.

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(If a food truck on Rockaway Beach sounds like your kind of thing, skip our article and head straight to the Kickstarter here!)

FoodNRecipe's Anthony Smith: Most people don't realize how difficult it is to get a food truck up and running in New York City. Can you give our readers some insight into the process from the entrepreneur's point of view?

The Fisherman's Dog's Terence McNicholas: Getting a food truck off the ground in NYC isn't the most difficult thing in the world but it sure takes more time from inception to reality than we imagined it would.

Terrence McNigholas's schematics for his dream food truck design. We love the color scheme, don't you?
Terrence McNigholas's schematics for his dream food truck design. We love the color scheme, don't you?

We started in February of this year and it took us about 6 months from incorporation to passing our health inspection and selling our first Fish Dog. There are a bunch of hoops you need to jump through to make it happen in New York State and about 10X more in New York City where the costs are also much higher.

To open a Mobile Food Business in NYC you will have to spend a lot of time waiting in lines, listening to busy signals and being put on hold. You will eventually discover that the phone is a useless tool in getting anything done with city departments and that showing up and not leaving until someone gives you a straight answer is the best technique. In retrospect though it is a good thing that the barriers to entry are so high because it allows for a more balanced marketplace.

The most difficult part in the process was either finding the right truck or cart that met NYC Department of Health regulations or getting permit approval as the waiting lists for permits are extremely long and you will likely have to buy a permit off the "black market" or settle for a "Restricted Area Permit" which is what we have. Basically you show the city a lease with a landlord in a parking lot with a commercial overlay and they can't stop you or put you on any more waiting lists that way.

The view from Rockaway Beach.
The view from Rockaway Beach.

We were lucky enough to find a parking lot with a breath taking view and solid traffic. The NYC food truck market is a pretty crowded one and structured so that there are a limited number of trucks or carts on the road. Most entrepreneurs interested in planting their flag in the industry these days will have to either be very well funded or willing to take an innovative approach to the traditional model.

AS: Why are you naming your truck "The Fisherman's Dog?"

T.M: The Fisherman's Dog was a strong brand name we really liked the sound of and that spoke to both our menu and the atmosphere we intend to offer. When most trucks names sounded the same to us and their brands started to run together after while, we felt we were taking a different approach and that our brand name should fit that position. To us, The Fisherman's Dog sounds like the name of an old clam shack, the same type of clam shacks that used to dot the coast of Rockaway in the mid 1800's.

A fancy hot dog at Fisherman's Dog, grilled to perfection and slathered with the ever-popular, always-haute aioli.
A fancy hot dog at Fisherman's Dog, grilled to perfection and slathered with the ever-popular, always-haute aioli.

AS: Can you talk a little bit about the food you'll be serving?

T.M: Our menu is broken down into Surf and Turf. We offer traditional seasonal favorites like Deep Fried Hot Dogs, Grilled Hamburgers, Cheesesteaks, Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Buffalo Wings but where we really intend to shine is with Sea Food. We're only using the best cuts of whole white meat fish for our "Fish Dog" and Fluke sandwich which are our highest volume seafood items. Rockaway and the food truck business in general is inherently seasonal so we're appealing to the flavors that people crave in the summer. Things like clam strips, shrimp and lobster rolls, cioppino, chowders and broiled catch of the day in flavorful marinades. Our menu will change with the season and we are excited to offer some cool new items this winter.

AS: Why is Beach Channel Drive in Rockaway Beach the perfect spot for your food truck?

T.M: Beach Channel Drive in Rockaway beach is the areas most trafficked thoroughfare as it leads to both bridges that connect to mainland Queens and Brooklyn. We're situated right on the water with incredible views of the NYC skyline and Jamaica Bay. We hope that our location will serve both customers interested in convenience and those interested in sitting down, hanging out and taking in the views.

AS: Why should more people venture out to Rockaway Beach?

T.M: Rockaway is an incredible place with miles of white sand beaches less than 40 minutes from Manhattan and accesible by subway. At one point in history Rockaway was the most visited beach resort in the world and the word's largest hotel once stood there although it never opened. The area is now going through a cultural renaissance and it is an amazing thing to witness. Every summer new businesses are being started there by young entrepreneurs and creative types looking to be a part of the change. More people should venture out to Rockaway because if they don't they'll be missing out on a ton of fun to be had, and who doesn't like the beach?

AS: You're so close to being funded! How have you been advertising your Kickstarter?

T.M: We've stuck to social media and good old fashioned word of mouth. I'm 24 so I'm definitely part of the Facebook generation. It helps when you have a strong online network that you communicate with regularly. Some social media and PR geeks call it your "tribe" but I just call them my friends. We simply asked people who didn't have the funds to pledge just to use their voice and help promote our video through their networks. I don't think there is much strategy behind our success, I do think our idea clicked with a lot of people and they wanted us to succeed. I can't really take credit, I feel pretty lucky right now.

AS: To what do you attribute your Kickstarter's success?

T.M: I attribute our Kickstarter's success to timing and to quality video production. It helped us a ton that we had already done all of the legwork before reaching out for help and that it showed in the video. We owe a huge thanks to our friends McGraw Wolfman and Kurt Pierce who really took charge with the video and made something that was high quality but not too flashy, promotional but still transparent and not overtly preachy which I think is what we all want to see in a Kickstarter. We also updated people regularly so they could see we weren't sitting on our hands waiting for the money to roll in.

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Want to help their dreams come true? Learn more and help them out by clicking through to their Kickstarter here!



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