Have Cart, Will Travel

Justin Hier
Porky’s Cart

Please tell us about your business. Porky’s Cart is a mobile food business that offers an island twist on an American favorite: the hot dog.

Where are you located? On Tuesdays, I’m at Kauai Veterans Center in Lihue from about 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I’m in Waimea town during the same hours. And Friday nights, I’m in Hanapepe across the street from Bad Hats from 5 to 9 p.m. I’m also available for parties Saturdays and Sundays.

Why did you start this business? I went to college in Utah at Brigham Young University, and there was a hot dog guy there who now owns four restaurants. His hot dogs were very simple: just the bun, a hot dog, onions, pickles and a sauce. He motivated me because he was so successful, and there is a market for hot dogs anywhere.

I was living in Phoenix at the time, when I made the decision to start my own business because I didn’t like my corporate job anymore. Before I moved to Kauai, I noticed that kalua pork was put on everything: nachos, tacos, french fries and hamburgers, but I hadn’t seen it done on hot dogs. So, when I moved out here, I bought the cart in Phoenix and had it shipped, and opened the business in August 2013.

What is your background, as far as cooking is concerned? I’ve always been the one to do the cooking. Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’d always help my mom cook while all the other kids were off playing.

What sets your business apart from others? The kalua pork and sauce — everyone knows how to make kalua pork, but I add one extra secret ingredient that most people wouldn’t think to add. So it’s delicious yet different at the same time. It’s also not greasy and fatty, but it’s not dry either. And then the sauce is really what sets it apart — it’s a sweet, tangy barbecue sauce that I make from six ingredients. I have either sweet, or sweet with a little bit of spice.

What are the menu options? There are three options: You can do a 100 percent beef hot dog, or a pork sausage with onions, pineapple relish, kalua pork on top and the sauce. The third option is a kalua sandwich, which is everything minus the hot dog on a toasted French roll.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job? Being able to talk and meet with a lot of people, both locals and tourists. I like hearing kamaainas’ perspective of everything, and getting to know them and becoming friends. I also enjoy meeting tourists because you get to hear their stories as well as why they’re here — maybe they just got engaged or had an anniversary. Also, most people I meet are on vacation or they are on their lunch break, so they’re always really happy, and so I get to meet and talk with a lot of happy people.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job? Finding new and busy spots to set up.

What do you think about the food truck revolution? I love it. I wish there were more on the island, because not everyone wants to sit down in a restaurant. With a food truck, you can walk up in your board shorts, no shoes, all sandy from the beach and order. And the prices also are much less expensive because there isn’t as much overhead, and you know your money is going to stay local.

What are your future aspirations for this business? In the near future, I’m hoping to get either a food truck or a bigger trailer so that I can serve other types of food — all themed around pork. My ultimate goal is to have a Porky’s on every island and keep it a mobile business.

What makes you get up every day and go to work? I like to be the thing that someone looks forward to when going to work. For example, Tuesdays they get excited because they know I’ll be there at lunchtime. I like to be the one who gives someone hope for the day.

Find out where Porky’s Cart will be each day by following @porkyscart on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

—Coco Zickos cocomidweek@gmail.com