At first, Mike Smith and Keagan Tumey worried that no one would know their food truck existed. 

Then, they logged onto Facebook.

A lot of people wanted to know where the food truck would be, what's on the menu or what time to show up. 

When they opened Flavor Train in early July, the flood of Facebook messages rushed in about their Cuban-infused restaurant-on-wheels. Texts and calls from hungry friends and coworkers came afterward.

"Are you open today? How about tomorrow? Can you set up outside my business? You should check out this parking lot downtown. Will you drop by here for lunch?" 

"It's nonstop questions like that," said Smith, 29. "I need a secretary." 

The worst part is Tumey and Smith don't always have the answers. Flavor Train doesn't have a set schedule, and often opens on a whim with four or five hours' notice for their online followers. 

The truck sometimes sets up outside Price Busters Mattress, 3514 Brady St., Davenport. Other locations are in the works. If Smith and Tumey decide to take a few last-minute days off, they'll announce it on Facebook. 

"We're so new that we don't have a routine and it's usually being decided day of or something," Tumey said. "I think that's the point of a food truck — there's some mystery to it."

"We're not tied down to anything," he said. "If we wanted to change the menu completely tomorrow, we could."

But, some of the 1,848 people who like Flavor Train's Facebook page ask for details anyway. 

For one of the Quad-City's newest mobile eateries, all of the questions are a good, if not tiring, sign.

"My nerves were going crazy at first," Smith said. "You wonder if enough people will actually go out of their way to try something new."

By the time the truck rolled in on their first day, a crowd of 20 or so people were waiting.

"The next day, it felt like we'd been doing it for five years," Smith said. "And people keep showing up."

The pair, who are both full-time chefs at Cobham Mission Systems in Davenport, have talked and joked about opening a food truck for the last several years. 

They've both worked kitchen jobs since their early teens, studied culinary arts at Scott Community College and graduated from washing dishes to chopping vegetables and creating original recipes. 

"We've both been cooking for basically our whole lives," Smith said. "And we both thought, 'Maybe one day we'll be our own bosses.'" 

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A few months ago, that lofty idea stopped being funny.

They saved up, bought a purple shuttle and outfitted the back with a grill, deep fryer, refrigerator and counter space. They landed on a menu of burgers, pulled pork, a Cuban sandwich, chicken wings, ribs and french fries.

"I didn't want to do boring food like tacos," Smith said. "We didn't want to be the normal food truck, because that's not us."

After shifts at Cobham, they prep food at the Andalusia Family Cafe commissary kitchen and offer cook-to-order cured meats, slow-cooked ribs (slathered with homemade barbecue sauce) and specialty-seasoned french fries on-site. 

"Everything starts from a raw product," Tumey said. "We like flavorful food from the best source, so that's what we make — even though it's more work than just slabbing something on a plate."

"Right now, everybody is trying to do Cuban food, but we executed it," Smith added. "I look at this like a nice gastro pub you'd find in Chicago."

They call Flavor Train "a dream come true," even though the generator sometimes breaks, the pilot light sometimes goes out and they can't last more than a few minutes in the kitchen without dripping in sweat. 

"It's all worth it," Tumey said. "This was our dream, and now we get to see where it goes."


Amanda Hancock is a reporter covering food, arts and entertainment in the Quad-Cities (and beyond).